Guinea-Bissau, Republic of West Africa. The country borders north to Senegal, east and south to Guinea and west to the Atlantic. Off the coast are the Bijagós Islands and other islands. The country, which is slightly smaller than Nordland county, is one of the world’s poorest and has been characterized by political and military turmoil since independence. The capital is Bissau.
National anthem is ‘ Essa é a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada ‘ (‘This is our dear Fatherland’).
The name Guinea-Bissau is a derivation of ‘Ganuya’, a West African Empire in the 1300s, and ‘Bissau’, the name of a people group in the Bijagós Islands.
Geography and environment
Guinea-Bissau can be subdivided into a geographical location in a coastal plain and an outlet of the Fouta-Djallon plateau. On the plateau there are deep, eroded valleys and low hills. The country’s highest point is an unnamed point 300 meters above sea level. Through the low coastal plain flow the three rivers Cacheu, Corubal and Gêba which are emptied into the Atlantic via elongated mouths. During the rainy season, the rivers often cross their shores and transform the coastal plain into a swampy land. The coast is strongly cut and the nearest of many islands outside are connected to the mainland by the shore.
Guinea-Bissau has a tropical climate with small temperature variations and a lot of rainfall. April – May are the warmest months with an average temperature of about 27 ° C and August is the coolest month with an average temperature of about 25 ° C. On the coast, the annual rainfall is 2000–2500 millimeters and inland it decreases to about 1500 millimeters. There is rainy season June – October and drying season with warm winds from inland in December – May. Temperatures vary with distance from the coast and altitude above sea level.
Among mammals can be mentioned chimpanzees and several other monkeys, elephant, buffalo, gazelles, dwarf hippopotamus and leopard. About 450 species of birds have been observed, including storks, ibises, icebergs, beetles, sunbirds and hornbills. In the rivers there are crocodiles and at the coast senegal manate ( sea cow ) and several dolphin species.
People and society
There are several ethnic groups. The largest is Fulani (28.5 per cent of the population) living south of Mandinga (14.7 per cent) inland. In the coastal areas live balanta (22.5 percent), pepel (9.1 percent), mandjako (8.3 percent) and bijagó (2.1 percent) (CIA World Factbook, 2015).
Guinea-Bissau is relatively sparsely populated. Most live in the northwestern and eastern parts of the country. The urbanization rate is 49.3 per cent (2015).
The official language is Portuguese which is spoken by 27.1 percent of the population. Crioulo, a mixture of Portuguese and African languages, is a widespread trade and aid language spoken by 90.4 percent. Of the 19 languages in the country, balanta is the most widely used. Among other things, malink and bambara belong to the mande languages.
45.1 percent are Muslims, 22.1 are Christians (essentially Roman Catholics) and 14.9 percent are animists.
Infant mortality is high, and life expectancy at birth is among the lowest in the world: 52.31 years for women and 48.21 years for men. 39.53 per cent of the population is under 15 (2015). Dysentery and malaria are widespread diseases.
State and politics
Guinea-Bissau is a democratic and presidential republic. The President has the executive power for five years and can be re-elected without time limit. The government is appointed by a prime minister appointed by the president. The country has been without a prime minister since May 12, 2016. The National Assembly, Assembleia Nacional Popular, has 102 representatives elected in general elections for four years.
Guinea-Bissau is divided into nine regions.
The defense consists of army, navy, air force and a gendarmerie.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and most of the UN’s special organizations, the World Health Organization, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) and the Cotonou Agreement.
In the 13th to 15th centuries, Guinea-Bissau was a sound kingdom under the Mali kingdom. Portuguese came to the area in 1446 and used it as a base for colonization of the Cape Verde Islands. From the 16th century onwards, for several centuries, Guinea-Bissau was important for the supply of slaves. British and French trading stations were established and in 1687 a Portuguese trading station was founded in Bissau in an attempt to restrict French trading. It was not until 1879 that Guinea-Bissau was declared a Portuguese colony under the name of Portuguese Guinea. The claim was disputed by British and French, but was approved at the Berlin Conference 1884-85. Portugal struggled to gain control of the area. In 1915, Guinea-Bissau was administered as part of Portugal’s overseas territory.
In Guinea-Bissau, the 1956 resistance struggle was led by the Liberation Independence Party of Guinea and Cape Verde ( PAIGC ) led by Amílcar Cabral. PAIGC was banned in 1956 and Cabral went into exile. PAIGC started a liberation war in 1961 and gradually gained control of increasingly large areas of Guinea-Bissau. In 1972, PAIGC controlled two-thirds of the country and elected a national assembly. Cabral was assassinated by Portuguese agents in 1973. About a hundred officers and soldiers were accused of the murder and executed. Guinea was declared an independent republic with brother Luis Cabral as president while Aristides Pereirabecame president of Cape Verde. The Portuguese authorities rejected the decision, but after the 1974 revolution in Portugal negotiations began and the colonial government was peacefully wound up.
In 1980, Cabral was overthrown by a coup carried out by younger officers, and the leader, Major João Bernardo Vieira, became president. This led to a diplomatic break with Cape Verde, but from 1982 the relationship between the two states began to normalize. In 1990, a democratization process was started in Guinea-Bissau and the constitution was amended in 1993. The following year, the first free parliamentary elections were held. PAIGC got a clean majority and Vieira won the presidential election.
A military uprising in 1998 led to a civil war in which Senegal and Guinea supported Vieira’s regime. ECOWAS sent in a peace force, and forces from Senegal and Guinea were withdrawn. Vieira was deposed at a military coup in 1999 and the time that followed was marked by political instability. In February 2000, a transitional government handed over power to opposition leader Kumba Yala after he was elected president. In 2003, the president was ousted by Army Chief Veríssimo Correia Seabra. Civil government was reinstated with PAIGC in power after the 2004 election. Correia was killed in a new coup attempt in November 2004.
In 2005, former president Vieira was re-elected. He was assassinated in March 2009. Malam Bacai Sanhá was elected president in June of that year and died after a long illness in January 2012. A military coup in April of that year prevented a new presidential election. After mediating ECOWAS, a civilian transitional government took over in 2012 and ruled until José Mário Vaz won the presidential election in 2014.
Economy and business
Guinea-Bissau’s economy is struggling with limited natural resources (but rich fishing resources), corruption and unstable political conditions, and is dependent on financial transfers from abroad. Two out of three inhabitants live below the poverty line.
Agriculture accounts for 44.7 per cent, industry 13.4 per cent and service industries for 41.9 per cent of GDP (2015).
Agriculture employs more than 80 percent of the population. Major products are rice, corn, manioc, coconuts, sugar cane, groundnuts ( peanuts ), sweet potatoes and cotton. In the coastal areas fishing is conducted, some timber is harvested in forest areas and there is fodder in the savannah areas.
The country has low utilization of petroleum and bauxite deposits. The industry is underdeveloped and mainly concentrated around Bissau. There is limited production of foodstuffs for local consumption, cotton and wood processing.
Knowledge and culture
It is free and compulsory primary school for children aged 7-14, but only 55 per cent of the children receive schooling and only 25 per cent receive two consecutive school years. Consequently, illiteracy is high (55.3 percent in 2011), especially among women. There are two universities, both in Bissau.
There is one daily newspaper and eight other newspapers / magazines.
There is one state-run radio station and some private radio stations. There is one state-run television station as well as the Portuguese-run broadcaster Rádio e Televisão de Portugal África (RTP).
The guerrilla leader Amílcar Cabral (1924–73) was also a well-known writer. Well-known authors are the poet José Carlos Schwarz (1949–77) and the novelist Abdulai Silá (1958–). His ‘Eterna Paixão’ (1994) is the first novel published in Guinea-Bissau.
Kalabass is the main instrument and is used in very fast and rhythmic dance music. The poly-rhythmic gum genre, which is a fusion of folk music traditions, is most popular. Tina, tinga, kissing sound and Angolan pop are other widespread genres. ‘Super Mama Djombo’ is an internationally known popular music band.
The art is mainly religious and traditional. Bijagós islanders cut out wooden figures for the tourist market.
Flora Gomes (1949–) is an internationally renowned film director.