REPUBLIC OF GUINEA-BISSAU
National name: Républica da Guind-Bissau
Area: 13,948 sq. ml. (36,120 sq. km)
Population (1999 est.): 1,234,555 (average annual rate of natural increase: 2.31%); birth rate: 38.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 109.5/1000; density per sq. ml.: 89
Capital and largest city (1991 est.): Bissau, 200,000. Monetary unit: Guinea-Bissau peso. Languages: Portuguese Cr1010, African languages. Ethnicity/race: African 99% (Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%), European and mulatto less than 1%. Religions: traditional, 65%; Islam, 30%; Christian, 5%. Literacy rate: 37% (1991 eat.)
Economic summary: GDPIPPP (1997 eat.): $1.15 billion; $975 per capita. Real growth rate: 5%. Inflation: 65% (1996). Unemployment: na. Labor force: 480,000 Arable land: 11%. Agriculture: rice, corn, beans, cassava (tapioca), cashew nuts, peanuts, palm kernels, cotton, fishing and forest potential not fully exploited. Industry: agricultural products processing, beer, soft drinks. Natural resources: fish, timber, phosphates, bauxite, unexploited deposits of petroleum. Exports: $25.8 million (fob., 1996 est.): cashews, fish, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber. Imports: $63 million (fob., 1996 est.): foodstuffs, transport equipment, petroleum products, machinery and equipment. Major trading partners: Spain, India, Thailand, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Cote d’Ivoire.
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 miles (48 km) out to sea.
History The land now known as Guinea-Bissau was once the kingdom of Gabu, which was part of the larger Mali Empire. After 1546 Gabu became more autonomous, and at least portions of the kingdom existed until 1867. The first European to encounter Guinea-Bissau was the Portuguese explorer Nuflo 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 Aug. the Lisbon government signed an agreement granting independence to the province. The new republic took the name Guinea-Bissau.
In Nov. 1980, Premier Joäo 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 move. The rebels managed to gain control of most of the country and part of the capital in 1998 before a Nov. peace deal halted the fighting. But in May 1999, after the presidential guard refused to disarm, the rebels deposed Vieira.
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