Guinea-Bissau

Republic of Guinea-Bissau

President: Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, transition president (2012)

Prime Minister: Adiato Diallo Nandigna, acting (since 10 February 2012) (deposed via a military coup on 12 April 2012)

Land area: 10,811 sq mi (28,000 sq km); total area: 13,946 sq mi (36,120 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 1,628,603 (growth rate: 1.971%); birth rate: 34.72/1000; infant mortality rate: 94.4/1000; life expectancy: 49.11

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Bissau, 302,000

Monetary unit: CFA Franc

National name: Républica da Guiné-Bissau

Current government officials

Languages: Portuguese (official), Criolo, African languages

Ethnicity/race: African 99% (Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%), European and mulatto less than 1%

Religions: Islam 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 10%

National Holiday: Independence Day, September 24

Literacy rate: 42.4% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $1.938 billion; per capita $1,100. Real growth rate: 4.8%. Inflation: 5.2%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 8.31%. Agriculture: rice, corn, beans, cassava (tapioca), cashew nuts, peanuts, palm kernels, cotton; timber; fish. Labor force: 632,700 (2007); agriculture 82%, industry and services 18% (2000 est.). Industries: agricultural products processing, beer, soft drinks. Natural resources: fish, timber, phosphates, bauxite, clay, granite, limestone, unexploited deposits of petroleum. Exports: $142.3 million (2011): fish, cashew nuts, shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber. Imports: $239.5 million (2011): foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products. Major trading partners: Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Senegal, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba (2010).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 5,000 (2010); mobile cellular: 594,100 (2010). Broadcast media: One state-owned TV station and a second station, Radio e Televisao de Portugal (RTP) Africa, is operated by Portuguese public broadcaster (RTP); 1 state-owned radio station, several private radio stations, and some community radio stations; multiple international broadcasters are available (2007). Internet hosts: 86 (2011). Internet users: 37,100 (2009).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 3,455 km; paved: 965 km; unpaved: 2,490 km (2002). Waterways: rivers are navigable for some distance; many inlets and creeks give shallow-water access to much of interior (2009). Ports and harbors: Bissau, Buba, Cacheu, Farim. Airports: 9 (2010).

International disputes: attempts to stem refugees and cross-border raids, arms smuggling, and political instability from a separatist movement in Senegal's Casamance region.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Guinea-Bissau

Geography

A neighbor of Senegal and Guinea in West Africa, on the Atlantic coast, Guinea-Bissau is about half the size of South Carolina. The country is a low-lying coastal region of swamps, rain forests, and mangrove-covered wetlands, with about 25 islands off the coast. The Bijagos archipelago extends 30 mi (48 km) out to sea.

Government

Republic.

History

The land now known as Guinea-Bissau was once the kingdom of Gabú, which was part of the larger Mali empire. After 1546 Gabú became more autonomous, and at least portions of the kingdom existed until 1867. The first European to encounter Guinea-Bissau was the Portuguese explorer Nuño Tristão in 1446; colonists in the Cape Verde islands obtained trading rights in the territory, and it became a center of the Portuguese slave trade. In 1879, the connection with the islands was broken.

The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (another Portuguese colony) was founded in 1956, and guerrilla warfare by nationalists grew increasingly effective. By 1974 the rebels controlled most of the countryside, where they formed a government that was soon recognized by scores of countries. The military coup in Portugal in April 1974 brightened the prospects for freedom, and in August the Lisbon government signed an agreement granting independence to the province. The new republic took the name Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau Experiences a Series of Coups

In Nov. 1980, João Bernardo Vieira headed a military coup that deposed Luis Cabral, president since 1974. In his 19 years of rule, Vieira was criticized for crony capitalism and corruption and for failing to alleviate the poverty of Guinea-Bissau, one of the world's poorest countries. Vieira also brought in troops from Senegal and the Republic of Guinea to help fight against an insurgency movement, a highly unpopular act. In May 1999 rebels deposed Vieira.

Following a period of military rule, Kumba Yalá, a former teacher and popular leader of Guinea-Bissau's independence movement, was elected president in 2000. In Sept. 2003 he was deposed in a military coup. Yalá's increasingly repressive measures and refusal to hold elections were cited as causes. In 2005, former president Vieira returned from six years of exile in Portugal and won the presidency in the July 2005 elections.

Prime Minister Aristides Gomes resigned in April 2007, after Parliament voted to censure his government. Martinho Ndafa Kabi was appointed as his successor. President Vieira dissolved Parliament in August 2008, precipitating the fall of the government of Prime Minister Kabi. Former prime minister Carlos Gomes Júnior succeeded Kabi.

A Presidential Assassination, A Death, and A Coup

President Vieira was shot to death by army troops in March 2009. The assassination was said to be in retaliation for an earlier bomb attack that killed the army chief of staff, Gen. Batista Tagme Na Wai, which troops blamed on the president. The military denied a coup attempt.

In June presidential elections, former acting president Malam Bacai Sanha took 39.6% of the vote, former president Kumba Iala 29.4%, former interim president Henrique Rosa 24%, and Iaya Djalo 3.1%. Sanha prevailed over Iala in the July run-off election, winning 63% of the vote.

In Jan. 2012, Sanha died unexpectedly, leaving Guinea-Bissau leaderless. Acting president Raimundo Pereira and acting prime minister Adiato Diallo Nandigna were removed in a coup on April 12. A transition president, who may rule up to 2 years, was announced on April 20: Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who came in third place in the first round of the presidential election in March. He named Rui Duarte de Barros to be transitional prime minister. The National Transition Council, which will oversee the transition, will be headed by Braima Sori Djalo. Six weeks after the coup, the military junta returned power to the civilian government.

See also Encyclopedia: Guinea-Bissau.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Guinea-Bissau


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