Guinea-Bissau, or Republic of Guinea-Bissau, a country in West Africa, between Guinea and Senegal. It covers 13,948 square miles (36,125 km2) and consists of inland savannas and a broad coastal plain, much of which is swampy and forest-covered. Numerous islands are offshore. The climate is tropical and hot; rain falls mainly from June to November.
|Facts in brief about Guinea-Bissau|
|Official language: Portuguese.|
|Official name: Republic of Guinea-Bissau.|
|Area: 13,948 mi2 (36,125 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 120 mi (193 km); east-west, 200 mi (322 km). Coastline—247 mi (398 km).|
|Elevation:Highest—in the south-central part of the country, 403 ft (123 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level.|
|Population:Current estimate—1,454,000; density, 104 per mi2 (40 per km2); distribution, 64 percent rural, 36 percent urban. 2004 official government estimate—1,295,841.|
|Chief products: Palm kernels, peanuts, rice.|
|Flag: Guinea-Bissau's flag has a black star centered on a red vertical stripe to the left of two horizontal stripes. The top horizontal stripe is yellow, and the bottom one is green.|
|Money:Basic unit—CFA franc. CFA stands for Communaute Financiere Africaine (African Financial Community).|
Guinea-Bissau has a socialist economic system, although some private ownership is permitted. Most of its people live at the subsistence level by farming, herding, or fishing. Rice and corn are the chief crops. Peanuts, palm kernels, cashews, fish, and timber are exported. Except for the processing of farm products, there is virtually no industry. Transportation is mainly by river and dirt road. Bissau, the capital, is the chief port and only international airport. The basic currency unit is the Guinea peso.
About 85 per cent of the people are from one of five Negroid groups—Balante, Fulani, Malinké (Mandingo), Mandyako, and Pepel. Some 70 per cent of the people are animists; most of the rest are Muslims. Portuguese is the official language, but indigenous tongues predominate. Primary schooling lasts six years, secondary schooling seven years. The literacy rate is less than 40 per cent.
Under the constitution of 1984, Guinea-Bissau is a republic. It is headed by a president, who serves a five-year term. The National Assembly is the legislature; its members are popularly elected for terms lasting no more than four years. The president and cabinet are chosen by the National Assembly.
The area was mapped by a Portuguese explorer in 1446. It was colonized by the Portuguese in the 19th century and called Portuguese Guinea. Black nationalists began an anticolonial guerrilla war in the early 1960's. Independence was gained in 1974. A one-party Marxist-Leninist regime headed by President Luiz Cabral was established and most businesses were nationalized.
In 1980, in a coup led by Prime Minister João Vieira, Cabral was deposed. Vieira, who declared himself president, at first continued to maintain one-party Marxist-Leninist rule. In the mid-1980's, however, he reestablished a private enterprise system, and in the early 1990's he permitted other political parties to be formed. In 1999 Vieira was ousted in a coup.