245,860sq km (94,927sq mi) 7,830,000
Fulani (Peul) 40%,
Muslim (mainly Sunni) 80%, Christian 10%, African traditional beliefs 5%
Guinean franc = 100 cauris
Climate and VegetationGuinea has a tropical climate. Conakry has heavy rains between May and November. During the dry season, hot, harmattan winds blow from the Sahara. Mangrove swamps grow along parts of the coast. Inland, the Fouta Djallon is largely open grassland. Northeastern Guinea is tropical savanna, with acacia and shea scattered across the grassland. Rainforests of ebony, mahogany, and teak grow in the Guinea Highlands.
History and PoliticsThe ne Guinea plains formed part of the medieval Empire of Ghana. The Malinke formed the Mali Empire, which dominated the region in the 12th century. The Songhai Empire supplanted the Malinke in the 15th century. Portuguese explorers arrived in the mid-15th century, and the slave trade began. From the 17th century, other European slave traders became active in Guinea. In the early 18th century, the Fulani embarked on a jihad (holy war) and gained control of the Fouta Djallon. Following a series of wars, France won control and made Guinea the colony of French Guinea (1891). France exploited its bauxite deposits and mining unions developed.
In 1958, Guinea voted to become an independent republic and France severed all aid. Its first president, Sékou Touré (1958–84), adopted a Marxist programme of reform and embraced Pan-Africanism. Opposition parties were banned, and dissent brutally suppressed. In 1970, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) invaded Guinea. Conakry later acted as the headquarters for independence movements in Guinea-Bissau. A military coup followed Touré's death in 1984, and Colonel Lansana Conté established the Military Committee for National Recovery (CMRN). Conté improved relations with the West and introduced free enterprise policies. Civil unrest forced the introduction of a multi-party system in 1992. Elections in 1993 confirmed Conté as president, amid claims of voting fraud. In February 1996, Conté foiled an attempted military coup. He was re-elected in 1998. By 2000, Guinea was home to c.500,000 refugees from the wars in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 2000, rebel incursions from these countries killed more than 1000 people, caused massive population displacement, and threatened to destablilize Guinea. In 2003, Conté was re-elected.