Guinea

Republic of Guinea

President: Alpha Condé (2010)

Prime Minister: Mohamed Said Fofana (2010)

Total area: 94,927 sq mi (245,861 sq km)

Population (2013 est.): 11,176,026 (growth rate: 2.64%); birth rate: 36.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 57.11/1000; life expectancy: 59

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Conakry, 1.597 million

Monetary unit: Guinean franc

National name: République de Guinée

Current government officials

Languages: French (official), native tongues (Malinké, Susu, Fulani)

Ethnicity/race: Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, smaller ethnic groups 10%

Religions: Islam 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous 7%

National Holiday: Independence Day, October 2

Literacy rate: 41% (2010 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2012 est.): $12.37 billion; per capita $1,100. Real growth rate: 3.9%. Inflation: 15.2%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 11.59%. Agriculture: rice, coffee, pineapples, palm kernels, cassava (tapioca), bananas, sweet potatoes; cattle, sheep, goats; timber. Labor force: 4.7 million (2012); agriculture 76%, industry and services 24% (2006 est.). Industries: bauxite, gold, diamonds; alumina refining; light manufacturing and agricultural processing industries. Natural resources: bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish. Exports: $1.348 billion (2012 est.): bauxite, alumina, gold, diamonds, coffee, fish, agricultural products. Imports: $2.606 billion (2012 est.): petroleum products, metals, machinery, transport equipment, textiles, grain and other foodstuffs. Major trading partners: India, Russia, Spain, France, US, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Ukraine, China, Netherlands (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 18,000 (201); mobile cellular: 4.5 million (2011). Broadcast media: government maintains marginal control over broadcast media; single state-run TV station; state-run radio broadcast station also operates several stations in rural areas; a steadily increasing number of privately-owned radio stations, nearly all in Conakry, and about a dozen community radio stations; foreign TV programming available via satellite and cable subscription services (2011). Internet hosts: 15 (2012). Internet users: 95,000 (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,185 km (2008). Roadways: total: 44,348 km; paved: 4,342 km; unpaved: 40,006 km (2003). Waterways: 1,300 km (navigable by shallow-draft native craft) (2011). Ports and harbors: Kamsar. Airports: 16 (2012).

International disputes: conflicts among rebel groups, warlords, and youth gangs in neighboring states has spilled over into Guinea, resulting in domestic instability; Sierra Leone pressures Guinea to remove its forces from the town of Yenga occupied since 1998.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Guinea

Geography

Guinea, in West Africa on the Atlantic, is also bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Slightly smaller than Oregon, the country consists of a coastal plain, a mountainous region, a savanna interior, and a forest area in the Guinea Highlands. The highest peak is Mount Nimba at 5,748 ft (1,752 m).

Government

Republic.

History

Beginning in 900, the Susu migrated from the north and began settling in the area that is now Guinea. The Susu civilization reached its height in the 13th century. Today the Susu make up about 20% of Guinea's population. From the 16th to the 19th century, the Fulani empire dominated the region. In 1849, the French claimed it as a protectorate. First called Rivières du Sud, the protectorate was rechristened French Guinea; finally, in 1895, it became part of French West Africa.

Guinea achieved independence on Oct. 2, 1958, and became an independent state with Sékou Touré as president. Under Touré, the country was the first avowedly Marxist state in Africa. Diplomatic relations with France were suspended in 1965, with the Soviet Union replacing France as the country's chief source of economic and technical assistance.

Guinea's Presidents Elected to Several Terms

Prosperity came in 1960 after the start of exploitation of bauxite deposits. Touré was reelected to a seven-year term in 1974 and again in 1981. He died after 26 years as president in March 1984. A week later, a military regime headed by Col. Lansana Conté took power.

In 1989, President Conté announced that Guinea would move to a multiparty democracy, and in 1991, voters approved a new constitution. In Dec. 1993 elections, the president's Unity and Progress Party took almost 51% of the vote. In 2001, a government referendum was passed that eliminated presidential term limits, thus allowing Conté to run for a third term in 2003. Despite the trappings of multiparty rule, Conté has ruled the country with an iron fist.

Liberia's Civil War Takes a Toll on Guinea

Guinea has had ongoing difficulties with its neighbor Liberia, which was embroiled in a long civil war during the 1990s and again in 2000–2003. Guinea had taken sides against rebel leader Charles Taylor in Liberia's civil war and was part of the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces that intervened in the crisis. As a consequence, President Conté's relations with Taylor remained sour after Taylor became Liberia's president in 1997. The fighting in Liberia spilled over the border into Guinea on several occasions. Sierra Leone's recent civil war also caused problems for neighboring Guinea. Already burdened by an inadequate infrastructure and a weak economy, an influx of nearly 300,000 refugees from Sierra Leone has overwhelmed the country.

Conté's Leadership Is Challenged

In Dec. 2003 President Conté was reelected to a third term. In April 2004, after two months on the job, Prime Minister Lonseny Fall resigned and went into exile, claiming that the president would not allow him to govern effectively. President Conté is in poor health, and many fear a power struggle should he die or be deposed. Anti-government demonstrators took to the streets in January and February 2007, demanding that Conté step down. In addition, labor unions went on strike, paralyzing the country. Conté, who has been criticized as being corrupt, responded by declaring martial law. The strike ended in late February when President Conté agreed to name diplomat Lansana Kouyaté as prime minister. More than 100 people died in battles with security officials during the strike.

Kouyaté was sacked in May 2008 and replaced by Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, a member of President Conté's Party of Unity and Progress. Conte died in December 2008 after 24 years in power. Junior army leaders launched a bloodless coup shortly after his death. Many citizens, fed up with years of authoritarian rule, backed the coup. Army captain Moussa Camara took over as "president of the republic." The junta established a 32-member National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) that replaced the government. The council said its priorities would be to wipe out corruption and improve the quality of life in Guinea. In August 2009, Camara called for presidential elections to be held in January 2010, with parliamentary elections to follow in March, thus fulfilling a pledge to call elections within two years of assuming power.

A month later, security forces opened fire at a pro-democracy demonstration at a Conakry stadium, killing nearly 160 people. The victims were among thousands protesting reports that Camara planned to run in the upcoming presidential election. The African Union, European Union, and the U.S. imposed sanctions on Guinea following the massacre, and Humans Rights Watch issued a report that said the crackdown was intended to stifle opposition to military rule. Camara survived an assassination attempt by an aide in December and sought treatment outside of Guinea. He later said he would remain in voluntary exile in Burkina Faso. General Sekouba Konaté took over as head of the military junta and eased the country toward civilian rule. He named pro-democracy opposition leader Jean-Marie Doré, who was one of the protesters beaten at the protest in September, interim prime minister in January 2010, and declared that military leaders would not run in the country's presidential race—the first democratic elections since Guinea gained independence from France in 1958.

Presidential and General Elections Open to Doubt

Konaté kept his word in the June 2010 race. The first round of the election was inconclusive, and former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo faced opposition leader Alpha Condé in the run-off vote. Condé, a professor and opposition leader who has spent much of his life in exile in France, prevailed in the November run-off, taking 52.5% of the vote.

Originally supposed to take place within six months of the presidential election, Guinea's first general election since 2002 finally took place in Oct. 2013—three years late. President Alpha Conde's Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party won 53 out of 114 seats in the national assembly, which is a slim working majority. International observers reported "breaches and irregularities" in the vote.

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


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