General Information about Guinea
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Guinea is a small country (slightly smaller than Oregon) in SW West Africa. The capital is Conakry. It is often referred to as “Guinea-Conakry” to distinguish it from Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. Neighboring countries are Guinea-Bissau to the northwest, Senegal and Mali to the north, the Ivory Coast to the east, Sierra Leone and Liberia to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. There are four distinct regions: Lower Guinea, which is moist and coastal; the Fouta Djallon region which is cooler and hilly; Upper Guinea, mostly savannah; and the Forest Region in the southeast. The Fouta is the home of the Fulani (Pulaar) people, and Upper Guinea is primarily home to the Fulani and Malinke. The other regions are populated by a variety of ethnic groups. Two of West Africa’s major rivers, the Niger and the Senegal (Bafing) have their sources in Guinea. The Konkoure is another major river.
The people are primarily Muslim (85%). The official language is French, but most speak a tribal language. The three main tribes are Fulani, Malinke, and Soussou. Most are subsistence agriculturalists, and the Gross Domestic Product is about $500 per year. Primary products are rice, cassava, millett, corn, coffee, bananas, pineapples, livestock, and forestry products. Commercial activity has increased in recent years. Major exports are bauxite, aluminum, gold, diamonds, pineapples, bananas, palm products, and coffee.
Guinea has a tropical climate with two seasons, the wet season from April/May to October/November and a dry season from November to April. During the dry season the dust-laden Harmattan winds blow from the Sahara desert. Average temperature ranges from 72 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (22-32 degrees Celsuis). In the rainy season, it rains at least once a day. Average rainfall is 430 cm (169 in.).
How wet is Guinea?
Yeah, Guinea is wet. But only during half of the year! All that rainfall only comes from June to November. When we first got here, we wondered why the open sewers on the side of the street were 5-feet deep, it seemed so dangerous with little kids running around. Then it rained, and we found out. Last year, the streets of Conakry flooded so badly that I could see women balancing plates of fruit on their head wading through knee-deep water, and water was roaring down the hill, funnelled into one channel by numerous converging ditches, with such force you would be swept away. I’ve found that cars are able to withstand much more than we are usually willing to test them with. So are people.
Top 10 wettest cities in the world:
|Mean Annual Rainfall||Inches|
|Pago Pago, American Samoa||196.46|
|Lae, Papua New Guinea||182.87|
In the 11th century A.D. the Arabs moved from northern Africa into the regions of the Sudan. From then on, it is believed, a number of kingdoms existed in the area, such as the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Gao. At various times, the Fouta Djallon was part of these kingdoms.
The Portuguese came into the area sometime during the 14th century. However, they did not establish any lasting settlements in what is now Guinea. The French established trading posts along the Atlantic coast inland from Senegal. They developed commercial interests in Guinea in the 1850’s. As they moved inland, they came into conflict with a kingdom created by Samory Toure. Toure led a brilliant campaign, but his forces were outnumbered and had to retreat. By 1896 Toure had lost much of his kingdom within Guinea. His memory is revered. After Toure’s death, Guinea’s history followed that of the other French West African colonies.
Until the end of World War II, French policy emphasized the differences between the ethnic groups in Guinea and those in other parts of French Africa. In the years following the war, a new sense of unity began to emerge among the educated Aricans — the sense of being African. A political party arose in Guinea that emphasized the similarities between Africans rather than the differences between ethnic groups. A leader of this party was Sekou Toure. He pointed out again and again that all men are brothers and all men are equal. The Guinea Democratic Party (PDG) soon emerged and began to move the coutnry toward independence. This was achieved on October 2, 1958, after the Guinean people, following the leadership of the PDG, voted against association with France. Sekou Toure became the first president of the new Republic of Guinea.
In practice, Guinea became a one-party mobilization state. There was only opne legal political party. The government took a very active role int he economy through state agencies and long term planning.
On March 27, 1984, Toure died of a heart ailment. Only a week later the armed forces staged a coup. After parliamentary elections planned for late 1992 and presidential elections in 1993, Guinea was to return to civilian rule.
Guinea was the first French colony in Africa to opt out of French rule, and has paid the price economically. Currently, it is the 2nd poorest country in the world, following neighboring Sierra Leone. The primary activities are agricultural, and the per-capita average income is about $500. Traditional farmers make a living raising livestock, such as cattle and goats, and growing rice, cassava, millet, and a variety of crops. Cash crops include bananas, citrus, pineapples, coffee, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, and seeds, on a small scale. Bauxite, diamonds, and gold are also important national products.
Guinea has repeatedly made the top-10 list of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, due largely to its low literacy rate and short life expectancy. The infant mortality rate is at 145 per 1000 live births (compared with an average of 10 per 1000 in developed countries). Guinea is listed in the “Low Human Development” tier as #167 out of 177 in the listing of the UN Human Development Rankings based on income, health care, life expectancy and educational levels.
The educational system was nationalized in 1961. The adult literacy rate in Guinea is only 36%, most of which are male. Only 17% of boys, and 6% of girls, graduate from primary school. Infant mortality is at 133 per 1,000 births, maternal mortality at 219 per 1000 (compared to 10 in the U.S.A.). Only 40% have access to health services within 1 hour’s travel, and 56% of the rural population have access to potable water. Women have an average of 6.8 children over their lifetime. Life expectancy is 44.7 years. HIV is only at 1%, but climbing rapidly due to the increase in the permeability of the country’s borders.
The Peace Corps has been expelled from the country twice due to strained relations between Sekou Toure (president until his death in 1984) and the United States. Peace Corps returned to Guinea in 1986. President Lansana Conte has held office since 1984, though the “democratic” elections have had contested results. The government continues to abuse human rights, although much progress has been made since the rule of Sekou Toure. There is occasional civil unrest in the country. Telephones are only available in the major cities, and the road network is very underdeveloped. Bush taxis (broken down Peugeot 504s and 505s) are the main means of transport. Theft is common, and Conakry is particularly dangerous.
Health is a real issue, and vaccinations against Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitus, Rabies, and Meningitis are needed. In addition, an anti-malarial agent should be taken (such as mefloquine or chloriquine). AIDS is prevalent in all areas of Africa, and the water is usually not safe to drink without treatment. It’s also not safe to swim in freshwater due to the prevalence of Schistosomiasis and Guinea worm.