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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #21 of 54: Ghana | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #23 of 54: Guinea Bissau »

May 27, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #22 of 54: Guinea

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 22. GUINEA Flag of the Republic of Guinea

Formal Name: Republic of Guinea.

Term for Citizens: Guineans.

Capital: Conakry. Population: 1, 272, 000.

Independence Achieved: October 2, 1958, from France.

Major Cities: Conakry.

Geography:

Guinea is in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean. Guinea encompasses an area of 94, 926 square miles. The coastal regions tend to be forested and that gradually gives way to savanna, and eventually to the Sahara Desert. Climatically all of Guinea has two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season (April to October) witnesses’ heavy rainfall in the coastal regions, and less rainfall in the interior, and even less rainfall in the north. Conakry on the coast receives over 170 inches of rainfall annually. Upper Guinea receives less than 60 inches of rain annually. Temperature is topical, around 82.F but generally hotter in the north of the country.

Society;

The population of Guinea is estimated at 8, 480,000.

Ethnic Groups: The main ethnic groups are: the Susu, Mandingo, Dialonke, Landoma, Bega, and Nalou.

Languages: Fulbe, Badyaranke, Basari, Coniagui, Mandingo, Dialonke, Mandinka, Kpelle, Loma, Kissi and others.

Religion: Sunni Islam is the dominant religion. Small Christian and Indigenous populations exist.

Education: There is free and universal primary education. Literacy rate is estimated at 36%.

Economy: Agriculture and some mining remain the dominant sectors of the economy. Rice, cassava, millets, sweet potatoes, corn, bananas, palm oil and kernel, coffee, groundnuts, pineapples and citrus fruits remain the chief agricultural products. Iron ore, bauxite, and diamonds are extensively mined. GDP estimate: $15.9 billion; Per Capita GDP: US $460 (World Bank, 2005). Monetary Unit: Franc (GNF)

History and Government:

France ruled Guinea. When the fifth French Republic came into being with the 1958 constitution that brought Charles De Gaulle to power, De Gaulle gave France’s African colonies the choice to remain in France or to have their independence. Guinea demanded immediate independence from France in 1958 and was granted its wishes by Charles de Gaulle. France immediately pulled all its personnel out of Guinea and dismantled the administrative infrastructure it had set up to govern Guinea. The country thus began its independence with very few trained personnel to govern it. Sekou Toure, the new African leader, embarked on a socialist cum personalistic rule. Post Toure Guinea is still not fully democratic although on the surface the framework for democratic governance seems in place: parliament, judiciary and executive branch of the government. The country is divided into 4 administrative regions and one special zone. At present, President, General Lansana Conte governs through a prime minister, the typical French pattern of presidential democracy.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

Present day Guinea was part of the three middle ages African empires of Ghana, Songhai and Mali. As part of those empires, it had substantial contact with the Arab-Moslem world and the country is largely Muslim.

The name Guinea is derived from contact with North Africans, for it is of Berber origin, meaning “land of blacks”. (Guinea Coast, as the Coast of West Africa was called, meant black folks coastal lands.)

Europeans (Portuguese) came to the Guinea coast in the fifteenth century and initiated slave trade from many outposts.

During the scramble for Africa, France took over Guinea in 1890 and established their capital at Conakry on Tombo Island.

Guinea was part of French West Africa until 1958 when its leader, Ahmed Sekou Toure, opted to separate from France rather than join the French community proposed by Charles De Gaulle. As a result of that decision for independence, France withdrew from any role it had hitherto played in aiding Guinea. It was reported that the French even took their telephones when they left in 1958, leaving Guinea to start from the scratch.

President Sekou Toure embraced socialism and joined forces with the socialist world. Naturally, the capitalist world shut Guinea out and very little economic development took place in Guinea during the 26 year rule of Sekou Toure.

Sekou Toure died in 1984 and the military took over governance. Mr. Lansana Conte, the military strong man, took over and is still in power. He made an about turn and embraced capitalism and turned towards the West for help.

Unfortunately, Mr. Conte is an autocrat and permits no opposition to his rule. He continued the stifling of the people, particularly the Press. Very little criticism of the government is permitted. In this atmosphere of repression, very little economic development takes place.

Guinea is divided into seven administrative regions, which in turn are subdivided into thirty three prefectures.

Guinea’s economy remains stymied in underdevelopment although the country has many natural resources that were they well managed would make the country prosperous. Guinea has the largest reserve of bauxite in the world and produces 30% of the world’s bauxite. If the government could become well managed, it is probable that Guinea could become industrialized and prosperous. As it is, the population is so grossly illiterate and suppressed by a brutal autocrat that very little creative thinking goes into improving anything. People are too afraid for their lives and devote their energies trying to survive to have any energy and time left to put to productive ends.

Many well meaning observers believe that unless Guinea mends its way that it risks becoming another failed third world country. Mr. Conte appears bent on becoming president for life. In a recent referendum, he intimidated the population into removing the two term limits his earlier constitution had stipulated and is now free to rule for however long he wants to.

Mr. Conte manages to accomplish his self serving goals despite being a recluse who is seldom seen in the public. Apparently, his agents, including his hand picked Prime Minister, Mr. Cellou Dalein Diallo, are able to control things for him.

Needless to say that Guinea is a fragile state that could explode at any moment. This political instability makes it difficult for her to attract foreign investors and the cumulative effect is that the country remains grossly underdeveloped and is one of the poorest in Africa, with a per capita income of only US $460 (World Bank, 2005).

ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 27, 2006 11:57 AM

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