Guinea-Bissau

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GUINEA-BISSAU

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS GUINEANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Guinea-Bissau

República da Guiné-Bissau

CAPITAL: Bissau

FLAG: The flag has equal horizontal stripes of yellow over green, with a red vertical stripe at the hoist bearing a black star.

ANTHEM: Esta é a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada (This Is Our Well-Beloved Land).

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr) replaced the Guinean peso (pg)as official currency in May 1997. The CFA franc, which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Death of Amilcar Cabral, 20 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Killing of Pidjiguiti, 3 August; National Day, 24 September; Anniversary of the Movement of Readjustment, 14 November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Korité (end of Ramadan) and Tabaski (Feast of the Sacrifice).

TIME: 11 am = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Situated on the west coast of Africa, Guinea-Bissau, formerly Portuguese Guinea, has a total area of 36,120 sq km (13,946 sq mi), about 10% of which is periodically submerged by tidal waters. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guinea-Bissau is slightly less than three times the size of the state of Connecticut. Besides its mainland territory, it includes the Bijagós Archipelago and various coastal islandsJeta, Pecixe, Bolama, and Melo, among others. Extending 336 km (209 mi) ns and 203 km (126 mi) ew, Guinea-Bissau is bordered on the n by Senegal, on the e and se by Guinea, and on the sw and w by the Atlantic Ocean, with a total boundary length of 1,074 km (667 mi).

Guinea-Bissau's capital city, Bissau, is located on the country's Atlantic coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

The country is swampy at the coast and low-lying inland, except in the northeast. At high tide, approximately 10% of the land in the coastal region is submerged. There are no significant mountains but there is a central plateau rising to a couple hundred feet in elevation. Where the plateau stretches to the eastern frontier, it is called the Planalto de Gabú. This region has the nation's highest point, an unnamed point at 300 meters (984 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Atlantic Ocean). The most important rivers include the Cacheu, Mansoa, Geba, and Corubal.

CLIMATE

Guinea-Bissau has a hot, humid, typically tropical climate, with a rainy season that lasts from mid-May to mid-November and a cooler dry season occupying the rest of the year. The average temperature in the rainy season ranges from 2628°c (7982°f). Rainfall generally exceeds 198 cm (78 in), but droughts occurred in 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1983. The rainiest months are July and August. During the dry season, when the harmattan (dust-laden wind) blows from the Sahara, average temperatures do not exceed 24°c (75°f). The coldest months are December and January.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Guinea-Bissau has a variety of vegetation, with thick jungle in the interior plains, rice and mangrove fields along the coastal plains and swamps, and savanna in the north. Parts of Guinea-Bissau are rich in game, big and small. Several species of antelope, buffalo, monkeys, and snakes are found. As of 2002, there were at least 108 species of mammals, 235 species of birds, and over 1,000 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

One of the most significant environmental problems in Guinea-Bissau is fire, which destroys 40,000 ha of land per year and accelerates the loss of the nation's forests at a yearly rate of about 220 sq mi. In addition, Guinea-Bissau had lost over 75% of its original mangrove areas by the mid-1980s, with the remaining swamps covering about 236,000 hectares. Only about 79% of city dwellers and 49% of the people living in rural areas have access to pure drinking water. The nation has 16 cu km of renewable water resources, with 36% used for farming activity. Only 46% of the population have adequate sanitation.

Another environmental issue is soil damage, caused by drought and erosion, as well as acidification and salinization. The Ministry of Natural Resources, created in January 1979, is responsible for making and enforcing environmental policy.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 1 species of birds, 1 type of reptiles, 10 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrates, and 4 species of plants. Threatened species included the Pygmy hippopotamus and the West African manatee.

POPULATION

The population of Guinea-Bissau in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 1,586,000, which placed it at number 145 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 46% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 3.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Only an estimated 6% of women use contraception and the fertility rate was seven births per woman. The projected population for the year 2025 was 2,875,000. The population density was 44 per sq km (114 per sq mi).

The majority of the population lives in small farming communities or fishing towns. The UN estimated that 32% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 5%. The capital city, Bissau, had a population of 336,000 in that year.

MIGRATION

Centuries ago, the largely Muslim pastoral tribesmen to the east tended to migrate toward coastal regions, but this movement was inhibited to some degree by Portuguese colonization. In 1975, after the settlement of the guerrilla war against the Portuguese colonial administration, approximately 100,000 refugees returned from neighboring Senegal and Guinea.

In 1998, a civil war erupted in Guinea-Bissau, prompting tens of thousands to flee the capital for the surrounding countryside and several thousands to cross into neighboring countries. By June, some 300,000 people in the capital had been displaced. In July, several thousand local inhabitants and other nationalities left the country. Most refugees fled to Senegal and Guinea; others went as far as The Gambia and Cape Verde. By the end of 2004, there were 7,536 refugees, almost all of whom were from Senegal, and 141 asylum seekers. Populations of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the end of 2004 numbered 7,677, mainly in border regions. In that same year 284 Guineans sought asylum in France and Spain.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -1.54 per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as satisfactory, but the emigration level as too high.

ETHNIC GROUPS

About 99% of the population is African; the largest ethnic groups are the Balante (an estimated 30% of the African population), living mainly in the central region; the Fulani (20%), in the north; the Manjaca (14%); the Mandinga (13%); and the Pepel (7%), in the coastal areas. The remaining 1% of the population are primarily European or mulatto.

Of the nonindigenous people, the Cape Verdean mulatto community, which originated in the Cape Verde Islands, is the largest group, accounting for about 2% of the total population of Guinea-Bissau. Resentment over the disproportionate political and commercial influence held by this group played a role in the 1980 coup. There is also a small foreign community, consisting mainly of Portuguese and of Lebanese and Syrian merchants.

LANGUAGES

Wide differences prevail in languages, since each tribe has its own vernacular, subdivided into numerous dialects. A Guinean "crioulo," or Africanized Portuguese patois, is the lingua franca, while Portuguese is the official language.

RELIGIONS

About 49% of the population has retained traditional religious beliefs or animism. An estimated 38% of the population adhere to the Islamic faith. The Fulani and Mandinka ethic groups are Muslim for the most part. Between 5% and 13% of the population are Christians with a majority being Roman Catholic. Freedom of religion is provided for in the constitution and this right is generally respected in practice.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation facilities remain undeveloped, a factor that has hampered economic development as a whole, especially the exploitation of mineral deposits in the interior. There is no rail line in Guinea-Bissau. In 2002, the country had an estimated 4,400 km (2,735 mi) of roads, of which 453 km (282 mi) were tarred. These, however, consisted mostly of military penetration roads unfit for regular passenger and commercial traffic.

Bissau is the main port. Expansion and modernization projects costing at least $48 million were undertaken there in the early 1980s. Secondary ports and harbors include Buba, Cacheu, and Farim. As of 2004, the country's four largest rivers are navigable for some distance, with shallow water access possible to much of the interior via creeks and inlets. Bissau is also the site of a modern international airport, while several aerodromes and landing strips serve the interior. In 2004 there were an estimated 28 airports, of which only 3 had paved runways (as of 2005). Linhas Aéreas da Guiné-Bissau (LIA), the national airline, also has service to Dakar, Senegal. Transportes Aéreos Portuguéses (TAP), Air Guinée, Aeroflot, Air Senegal, Cape Verde Airlines, and Air Algérie provide international service. In 1997 (the latest year for which data is available) it carried 21,000 passengers on domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

The earliest inhabitants had been hunters and fishermen who were replaced by the Baga and other peoples who came from the east. The Portuguese explorer Nuno Tristão arrived in the region in June 1446 and established the first trading posts. The slave trade developed during the 17th century; at its center was the port of Bissau, from which thousands of captive Africans were sent across the Atlantic to Latin America. Portugal retained at least nominal control of the area, and British claims to coastal regions were dismissed by arbitration in 1870. Nine years later, the area became a separate Portuguese dependency, administratively subordinate to the Cape Verde Islands. Portuguese Guinea's boundaries with neighboring French possessions were delimited in an 1886 treaty, and formal borders were demarcated by a joint commission in 1905. However, the interior was not effectively occupied until about 1920; nor did the Portuguese settle in the colony in large numbers. In 1951, together with other Portuguese holdings in Africa, Guinea was named a Portuguese overseas province.

In September 1956, a group of dissatisfied Cape Verdeans founded an underground movement to work for independence from Portugal. It was named the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano de Independência da Guiné e Cabo VerdePAIGC), and Amilcar Cabral became its secretary-general. On 19 September 1959, after more than 50 Africans had been killed during a dock strike that turned into a violent clash with police, Cabral called for an all-out struggle "by all possible means, including war." By 1963, large-scale guerrilla warfare had broken out in the territory.

During the ensuing years, PAIGC guerrillas, fighting a Portuguese force of about 30,000, increased their hold on the countryside. When Cabral was assassinated on 20 January 1973, reportedly by a PAIGC naval officer, Aristides Pereira took over the leadership of the movement, which on 24 September 1973 unilaterally proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

A PAIGC victory became near certain after 25 April 1974, when the Lisbon government was overthrown in a coup. The leader of the new regime, Gen. António de Spínola, was a former governor-general and military commander in Portuguese Guinea, and had become an advocate of peaceful settlement of the war. On 26 August 1974, the Portuguese government and the PAIGC signed an agreement in Algiers under which Guinea-Bissau was to attain independence from 10 September. The same agreement also provided for the removal of all Portuguese troops by 31 October as well as a referendum to determine the future status of the Cape Verde Islands.

The new government, under President Luis de Almeida Cabral, brother to Amilcar Cabral, had to deal with extensive economic dislocations brought about by the war. On 27 September 1974, the government announced its intention to control all foreign trade, and in May 1975, the legislature approved a program to nationalize all land and to confiscate property belonging to persons who had "collaborated with the enemy" during the war.

In the first postindependence elections held in December 1976January 1977, 80% of the population approved the PAIGC list of candidates for Regional Council membership. The 150-member National Assembly, selected by these representatives, convened on 13 March 1977. Luis Cabral was reelected president of Guinea-Bissau and of the 15-member Council of State, and Major João Bernardo Vieira was confirmed as the nation's vice president and as president of the National Assembly.

On 14 November 1980, President Cabral, a mestiço with close ties to Cape Verde, was overthrown by a group of Guinean blacks under Vieira's command. Severe food shortages and tensions in the alliance between Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde had precipitated the bloody military coup, which led to the dissolution of the National Assembly and Executive Council, suspension of the constitution, arrest of the president, and temporary abandonment of the goal of unification with Cape Verde. A Revolutionary Council composed of nine military officers and four civilian advisers was named on 19 November, and a provisional government was appointed the following day. Diplomatic relations with Cape Verde, suspended at the time of the coup, were resumed in June 1982.

The National People's Assembly, reestablished in April 1984, adopted a new constitution in May. It also elected a 15-member Council of State to serve as the nation's executive body. As president of this council, Vieira served as both head of state and head of government. An abortive military coup took place in November 1985; in the aftermath, six persons were executed in July 1986 while another five died in detention. After ruling Guinea-Bissau as a one-party state for ten years, Vieira denounced single-party rule as elitist, inherently undemocratic, and repressive. In April 1991, Guinea-Bissau formally embraced multipartyism and adopted a new constitution. Four major opposition parties formed the Democratic Forum in January 1992 and sought to unseat PAIGC.

Elections scheduled for November 1992 were postponed until March 1993, giving the 11 opposition parties time to campaign and the multiparty electoral commission time to work out electoral procedures. They were again postponed until March 1994. On 17 March 1993, João da Costa, the leader of the Party for Renovation and Development (PRD), was implicated in an attempted coup. On 4 February 1994, the supreme military court acquitted him.

In July 1994, Guinea-Bissau held its first multiparty legislative and presidential elections. João Bernardo Vieira was elected president, narrowly defeating Koumba Yala with 52% to 48% of the vote. The PAIGC led decisively in the Assembly elections with 46% of the vote. In October, Vieira appointed Manuel Saturnino da Costa prime minister. In 1995, a coalition of opposition parties reformed the Democratic Forum, appointing da Costa as its leader.

The PAIGC reelected Vieira as party leader in May 1998, but he was nearly overthrown in June when army mutineers staged an unsuccessful coup. The coup attempt triggered a brief but devastating civil war. Upon Vieira's request, Senegal and Guinea sent 3,000 troops to restore order. Bombardments destroyed the main hospital, damaged schools and markets, and displaced thousands. The World Food Program and the Red Cross provided emergency services to an estimated 130,000 of these victims. Under a peace agreement signed in Abuja in November, presidential and legislative elections were to be held before March 1999.

In May 1999, following the dismissal of General Ansumane Mané, troops loyal to the general stormed the presidential palace. Some 70 people died in the assault. Vieira took refuge at the French Cultural Center, and later sought asylum at the Portuguese Embassy. He was allowed to leave for Lisbon after renouncing the presidency and promising to return for trial. Malam Bacai Sanha presided over the interim government, which ended the 11-month civil war.

In November 1999, National Assembly elections took place, and in January 2000, Sanha lost to Koumba Yala in presidential elections judged free and fair. On 24 January, President Yala appointed his close friend, Caetano N'tchama, prime minister. Despite the elections, the country had a parallel government in the form of the military junta. In November 2000, Mané revoked Yala's military appointments and fighting erupted between forces loyal to the government and supporters of the junta. After regaining control, loyalist forces announced on 30 November that Mané had been killed.

Yet another crisis ensued in January 2001 when the Guinea-Bissau Resistance (or RGB/MB) withdrew from the government, charging that it had not been consulted over a cabinet reshuffle and calling for N'tchama's dismissal. N'tchama was fired in March, leaving a number of issues for his successor including the detention of about 130 members of the military accused of supporting Mané, and the alleged involvement of Guinea-Bissau in the Casamance conflict in neighboring Senegal. Health, education, and other social sectors were seriously underfunded, and underpaid civil servants were demanding higher wages. In addition, thousands of weapons were in private hands, and newly graduated young people had few or no prospects of employment after leaving school. Yala announced in December 2001 that his government had foiled yet another coup attempt.

In November 2002, Yala dissolved the parliament and named Mario Pires prime minister. Yala arrested his defense minister on 30 April 2003 on charges of plotting a coup, and in June he held emergency talks with disgruntled military leaders and key ministers to prevent the collapse of his government. Under pressure from the UN Security Council to hold clean elections, Yala announced in June 2003 that parliamentary elections originally scheduled for 23 February and then pushed back to 20 April and then 6 July would be postponed yet again to August or September pending revision of the electoral roll. By July 2003, Yala's government owed six months in pay arrears to the army and civil service. In lieu of monetary remuneration, government workers were receiving payment in rice. In the words of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the economy and government of Guinea-Bissau were on a precarious downward course.

Relations with Senegal have been strained over issues stemming from the Casamance conflict in Senegal, and over demarcation of the Bissauan-Senegalese border established by an agreement between Portugal and France in 1960. In 1992 and 1995, Senegalese warplanes bombed suspected rebel bases in Guinea-Bissau alleged to be safe havens for Casamance rebels. In March 1996, the two governments reached an initial accord, and in 1999 through the mediation of President Jammeh of The Gambia, leaders of the two sides concluded an agreement. However, skirmishes continued into 2001 necessitating the intervention of the UN Secretary General.

The dramas of political life in Guinea-Bissau would continue however. In September 2003, agreement was reached among the military and political parties to hold presidential and legislative elections. An interim civilian administration was also established, headed by President Henrique Rosa with Antonio Artur Rosa as prime minister. Elections followed in March 2004, which the PAIGC won. In October, the head of the armed forces was killed over problems that included outstanding wages. April 2005 saw the return from exile in Portugal of ex-president Joao Vieira, who had been toppled one decade earlier. The following month another former president, Koumba Yala deposed in 2003, declared he was still president; he also occupied the presidency building albeit briefly. The run-up to presidential elections in July 2005 was as uncertain as it was tempered by high-stakes intervention by international bodies. In the event, former military ruler Vieira was elected for a five-year term; he won 52% of the vote to defeat Malam Bacai Sanha, who polled 47.6%. The next presidential election was due in 2010.

GOVERNMENT

The 1973 constitution was suspended following the 1980 coup. A constitution was ratified on 16 May 1984 by the reestablished National People's Assembly. In April 1991 a new constitution, providing for a multipary system, was adopted.

The Assembly and the regional councils are the nation's representative bodies. The popularly elected councils elect the 100-member Assembly from their own ranks, and the Assembly in turn elects a 15-member Council of State as the nation's executive body. The president of this council, whom the Assembly also elects, automatically becomes head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Before multiple parties were authorized in 1991, all Assembly members had to be members of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

The president appoints the prime minister, who presides over the Council of Ministers. In March 2000, President Yala decided to assign five cabinet portfolios to the military junta to defuse tensions. He reshuffled and enlarged the cabinet in June 2003 ostensibly to broaden his political support. In September 2003, Yala was ousted in a bloodless coup led by the military chief, who complained about worsening economic and political conditions, including increasing hostility to media houses as well as journalists perceived to be opposed to government. Legislative elections held in March 2004 left PAIGC in control. Shortly after taking power in November 2005, President Vieira sacked the government of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. Aristides Gomes became prime minister.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Prior to 1991, the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano de Independência da Guiné e Cabo VerdePAIGC) was the sole legal party in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. During the presidency of Luis Cabral, hundreds of political opponents of the regime were reportedly murdered and buried in mass graves.

The 1980 coup was condemned by Cape Verdean leaders of the PAIGC, and in January 1981 they broke with the Guinea-Bissau branch to form the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde. The following November, Guinean party officials decided to retain the name PAIGC for their branch and to expel Cape Verdean founder-members from the party.

Opposition parties were legalized by a new constitution adopted in April 1991. A dozen parties were recognized. Among them were: the Party for Renewal and Development (PRD), which was composed of educated dissidents who quit the PAIGC because of its authoritarianism; the Social Democratic Front (FDS), led by one of the founders of the PAIGC, Raphael Barbosa; the Front for the Struggle for Guinea-Bissau's National Independence, which predates PAIGC and was led by Mindy Kankoila, an early independence leader who had been in exile for 40 years; the National Convention Party (mainly Muslims and FDS dissidents); and the League for the Protection of the Ecology (LPE). The most important opposition party was Bafata, the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Bafata Movement. Many parties prior to the general elections of 1994 formed a coalition, including the PRD, the FDS, the LPE, the Movement for Unity and Democracy (MUD), and the Democratic Party for Progress (PDP).

Free and fair legislative elections on 3 July 1994 gave the PAIGC a majority of 62 seats. The Guinea-Bissau Resistance (RGB-MB)was second in balloting with 19 seats, 12 for the Social Renovation Party (PRS), 10 for the Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea-Bissau, and 6 for the Union for Change Coalition.

In the November 1999 Assembly elections, the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS), won 38 seats, the Resistencia da Guine-Bissau-Movimento Ba-Fata (RGB-MB) 28 seats, and the PAIGC 24 seats. Five parties garnered the remaining 12 seats in this election, which were part of the second consecutive set of free and fair competitive elections in Guinea-Bissau. Despite Yala's promises to form a government of national unity, the PRS and its ally, RGB-MB dominated the cabinet.

In the Assembly elections held on 28 March 2004, the PAIGC captured 31.5% of the vote, followed by PRS with 24.8%, and United Social Democratic Party with 16.1%. The Electoral Union won only 4.1% of the vote; APU got 1.3% and 13 other parties shared 22.2% between them. In terms of seats in the Assembly, PAIGC won 45, PRS got 35, and PUSD won 17. In turn, UE got 2 seats while APU won only 1 seat. The next Assembly elections were to be held in 2008.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Guinea-Bissau has 8 regions, not including the capital, and 37 sectors. Each region has a regional council, as does the capital, with membership consisting of elected representatives from the various sectors.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The civilian court system is essentially a continuation of the Portuguese colonial system. Nine Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president and serve at his pleasure. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over serious crimes and serves as an appeals court for the regional military courts. State security cases are tried by civilian courts. Military courts try only cases involving armed personnel under the code of military justice. In rural areas, persons are often tried outside the formal system by traditional law. Dispute resolution before traditional counselors avoids the costs and congestion of the official courts.

The 1991 constitution guarantees many civil rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but its functioning is hampered by a lack of training, resources and by corruption. The president has authority to grant pardons and reduce sentences.

ARMED FORCES

In 2005, the armed forces had 9,700 active personnel, including a 2,000-man gendarmerie. The Army numbered 6,800 and was equipped with 10 main battle tanks and 15 light tanks. The 350-member Navy operated three patrol/coastal vessels. The 100-member Air Force had three combat capable aircraft that consisted of three fighters. The defense budget in 2005 was $8.6 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Guinea-Bissau was admitted to the United Nations on 17 February 1974 and is a member of ECA and all the nonregional specialized agencies except IAEA. The nation is a member of the WTO and participates in the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, the African Union, ECOWAS, G-77, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The nation is part of the franc zone and belongs to the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Guinea-Bissau is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification. The country is also part of an Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is one of poorest countries in the world with 82% of the population relying on fishing and subsistence agriculture, and 88% of the population below the poverty line in 2002. The industrial sector is small, and mining is undeveloped. Offshore oil reserves that have not been exploited may be a source of income in the long term. Although firmly committed to market-style economic policies after an initial decade of socialist central planning, the government is burdened by a heavy external debt. Under the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, the net present value of Guinea-Bissau's total debt was to be reduced by 80% by 2003. By 2013, the level of debt was to be 43% lower than it would have been without help under the HIPC.

Cashews are the biggest cash crop, bringing in 95% of export revenues. The country is now the world's sixth-largest producer of cashews. Livestock produces adequate supplies of meat, and hides are among Guinea-Bissau's exports. Fishing prospects are excellent, but illegal fishing prevents a fuller realization of potential in this sector. Production and trade in forest products have been halted while implementation of reforestation policies occurs. In 1998, fighting between the government and a military junta brought chaos to the economy and halted most production: that year, GDP fell by 28%. Although the civil war had ended by 1999, in 2001 a fall in cashew prices and a decline in foreign assistance exacerbated the ailing state of the economy.

In 2002, the economy fell by -7.2%, but it bounced back in 2003, and by 2004 the GDP growth rate was 4.3%; in 2005, the economy was expected to expand by 2.3%. The inflation rate remains fairly stable and it does not pose a problem to the economy. The economic growth in recent years is largely due to emergency budgetary support funds, provided by the World Bank, the IMF, and the UNDP. In January 2005, the government announced that the country's vital cashew crop was threatened by a locust swarm.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Guinea-Bissau's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.8%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 62% of GDP, industry 12%, and services 26%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $18 million or about $12 per capita and accounted for approximately 7.5% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $145 million or about $98 per capita and accounted for approximately 63.6% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Guinea-Bissau totaled $210 million or about $141 per capita based on a GDP of $239 million, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.3%.

LABOR

Guinea-Bissau's labor force numbered 480,000 in 2002, of which an estimated 82% of workers in 2000 were engaged in agricultural activity. Primarily this consisted of subsistence farming. There was no data available on the country's unemployment rate.

The constitution grants workers the freedom to join and form trade unions, however, this affects a very small percentage of the population. Few workers outside of the public sector are organized. There were 11 registered labor unions in 2002. Workers are allowed to strike provided that they have given notice of their intention to do so. Collective bargaining is permitted but in practice does not occur.

Minimum wages are established but are not regularly enforced. The lowest legal monthly wage in 2002 was $20, and this did not support a family. The minimum age for employment is 14 years but this is not enforced outside of the small formal economy. Many children work as street vendors or on farms in rural communities. Health and safety standards set by the government are not regularly enforced.

AGRICULTURE

The agricultural sector employs 83% of the labor force and contributes 64% of the GDP. Only 12% of the total land area is under permanent or seasonal cultivation. The country is divided into three major regions according to the water requirements of the major crops. On the coast and in river estuaries is the palm-tree (coconut) zone; rice is the predominant crop of the intermediary marshy areas; and peanuts are grown in the sandy areas of the interior. Rice is the major staple crop; corn, millet, and sorghum are also produced and consumed very widely. In the 1950s, Guinea-Bissau exported about 40,000 tons of rice per year; since 1962, rice has been imported, as frequent droughts often cause crop failure. In 2004, Guinea-Bissau produced 127,000 tons of rice, 22,000 tons of millet, 20,000 tons of peanuts, 45,000 tons of coconuts, 81,000 tons of cashew nuts, and 8,000 tons of palm kernels. Palm kernels, cashew nuts, and peanuts are the most important export crops. The war that culminated with independence in 1974 left the economy in shambles, reducing crop output by over one-third. Public investment, financed heavily by external borrowing, neglected agriculture to focus on the manufacturing sector. Agricultural recovery was hampered by inappropriate pricing policies, an overvalued exchange rate, and an inefficient marketing system. This policy has now been changed through price liberalization, so that some important goods like rice are now traded informally with neighboring countries. In 2004, trade in agricultural products consisted of $40.5 million in imports and $62.3 million in exports.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Despite the damage wrought by the tsetse fly, cattle raising occupies many Guineans, especially among the Balante in the interior. In 2005, there were an estimated 530,000 head of cattle and 370,000 hogs, as well as 300,000 sheep and 335,000 goats.

FISHING

Fishing is slowly growing into a viable industry. Agreements allow the European Union countries to fish in national waters. Guinea-Bissau's own catch was an estimated 5,000 tons in 2003, with mullet accounting for 44%.

FORESTRY

Guinean forests and savanna woodland, covering about 60% of the country, primarily supply wood and timber for domestic consumption and fuel and construction material. Roundwood production was about 592,000 cu m (21,000,000 cu ft) in 2004, 71% used as fuel wood. Timber has become a feasible export, accounting for $719,000 in 2004.

MINING

Mineral production (excluding natural gas and refined petroleum products) was not significant in 2004, and was limited to small-scale production of basalt, cement, clay, gold, limestone, salt, sand, silica sand, zircon, and laterites. Bauxite, diamonds, gold, and phosphate were economically promising minerals being explored; the Farim deposit had a phosphate resource of 166 million tons. Large deposits of bauxite, amounting to 200 million tons, were discovered in the Boé area in the late 1950s; lack of capital and transportation has hindered exploitation. The bauxite and phosphate resources were of low grade. Election of a new government in 2000 was seen as a step toward ending military conflicts that followed a 1998 military coup. The 1999 Mines and Minerals Act reformed mineral exploration and mine development and production, setting sizes and terms for exploration, mining, and prospecting leases.

ENERGY AND POWER

Guinea-Bissau has no known proven reserves of oil or natural gas (as of 1 January 2003), coal, or any oil refining capacity. As a result the country must import whatever fossil fuels it consumes. In 2002, refined oil imports and consumption averaged 2,400 barrels per day. There were no imports of natural gas or coal in that year.

Guinea-Bissau's electric power is generated entirely by conventional thermal fuels. Electric generating capacity in 2002 came to 0.021 million kW, with output at 0.056 billion kWh and consumption at 0.052 billion kWh for that same year.

INDUSTRY

Industry constitutes a small part of Guinea-Bissau's economy, contributing approximately 15% a year to GDP. Industries include a sugar refinery and a rice and groundnut processing plant. Guinea-Bissau ranks sixth in the world in cashew production. Brewing and urban construction are also represented in the industrial sector.

In the late 1980s, Guinea-Bissau attempted to attract foreign interest in several enterprisesa fish-processing plant, a plywood and furniture factory, and a plastics factory. The government moved to raise producer prices and to partially privatize parastatal trading companies during the 1990s, but civil war in 1998 disturbed these plans. In 1999, production resumed with foreign aid.

Oil exploration began in the 1960s, and the oil industry presents hopeful prospects for the country. Guinea-Bissau is in the midst of a border dispute with Senegal over an offshore exploration area, and under a 1995 agreement, the area in dispute is jointly managed by the two countries. Proceeds from the area are divided between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau on an 85:15 ratio, and in the early 2000s, Guinea-Bissau was negotiating for better terms to the agreement.

In 2003, the industrial production growth rate was 4.7%, with industry contributing 12.1% to the overall GDP. Agriculture represents the largest sector in the country, with a 63.6% share in the GDP, and with an 83% share in the labor force; services come in second, with a 24.3% in the economy.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

No information is available.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Under Portuguese rule, commercial activities were significant only in the cities. The PAIGC introduced chains of all-purpose "people's stores," communally owned and managed; some of these were handed over to private traders beginning in 1985. Product distribution to inland areas is conducted by private carriers and by barge via the Geba River.

The military conflict of 19981999 caused a great deal of damage to the nation's land and infrastructure, which in turn had a severe effect on the agriculturally based economy. Normal business hours in the capital are 8 am to 12 noon and 3 to 6 pm, MondayFriday.

FOREIGN TRADE

Cashew nuts account for 70% of exports in terms of revenue, followed by fish, peanuts, palm kernels, and sawed lumber. The lumber trade shrunk in the late 1990s due to deforestation, but the fish sector was expected to grow. Imports include industrial and commercial supplies, fuels and lubricants, and transport equipment. Imported foods, beverages, and tobacco often surpass in value that of all of Guinea-Bissau's exports.

In 2004, exports reached $116 million (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $176 million (FOB). The bulk of exports went to India (52.2%), the United States (22.2%), and Nigeria (13.2%). Imports included food products, capital equipment, and petroleum products, and mainly came from Senegal (44.6%), Portugal (13.8%), and China (4.2%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Like Portuguese Guinea, Guinea-Bissau has had chronic balanceof-payments problems because of its huge annual trade deficit, which has persisted despite efforts to restructure trade by diversifying the range of commodities available for export and by establishing new trading partners and more favorable trade agreements. Foreign assistance is an essential element in meeting payments needs.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Guinea-Bissau's exports was $80 million while imports totaled $55.2 million resulting in a trade surplus of $24.8 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1997 Guinea-Bissau had exports of goods totaling $49 million and imports totaling $62 million. The services credit totaled $8 million and debit $26 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $98 million in 2004, up from $77 million in 2003. Imports grew from $104 million in 2003 to $138 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, worsening from -$10 million in 2003, to -$11 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, slightly improving from -$18 million in 2003 to -$9 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) grew to $204 million, covering almost a year and a half of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

A savings and loan bank and a postal savings bank, both domestically owned, operate in Bissau. There are no securities exchanges in Guinea-Bissau. On 2 May 1997, the Guinea-Bissau escudo was replaced by the CFA franc. A team of technical experts from the Banque central des états de l'Afrique de l'ouest (BCEAO, the regional central bank) trained senior officials from the Banco Central de Guiné-Bissau (BCGB) in the management and accounting methods required by UEMOA (the monetary union of the West African subregion of the franc zone).

The first investment bank in Guinea-Bissau, Banco Africano Ocidentale (BAO), was established in the first quarter of 1997 with joint Portuguese and Guinea-Bissau capital, and became the countries first commercial bank in 2001. In 1999, three executives at the BCGB were accused of embezzling $4.3 million since Guinea-Bissau joined the Franc Zone.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $81.2 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $82.3 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.95%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

INSURANCE

No recent information is available.

PUBLIC FINANCE

The IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program in Bissau began in 1987 and projected the achievements of a 3.5% growth rate, reforms to the economy, and public administration. Petroleum subsidies were reduced in 1988. In January 1989, customs duties and taxes on imports were lowered to reduce inflation. At the end of that year, the debt-service ratio stood at 43% of exports. The foreign debt was rescheduled by all major donors that fall. Early in the 1990s, failure to meet adjustment goals stopped payments, and progress in the mid-1990s brought the resumption of aid. Foreign aid literally supported the incumbent government of 1999. At the end of 2000, the country qualified for almost $800 million in debt relief. It will continue to receive assistance under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. The currency was devalued in May 1987. In January 1990, Guinea-Bissau agreed with Portugal to adopt the escudo. Reform of the national banking system was underway after 1989. In 1997, the escudo was replaced by the CFA franc. Bank officials siphoned off millions of dollars from reserves. External debt totaled $931 million.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that Guinea-Bissau's total external debt was $941.5 million.

Current Account -8.7
     Balance on goods -4.1
         Imports -58.5
         Exports 54.4
     Balance on services -21.0
     Balance on income -8.8
     Current transfers 25.2
Capital Account 38.9
Financial Account -21.4
     Direct investment abroad -1.0
     Direct investment in Guinea-Bissau 3.6
     Portfolio investment assets 1.2
     Portfolio investment liabilities 0.7
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -6.9
     Other investment liabilities -18.9
Net Errors and Omissions -2.9
Reserves and Related Items -5.9
() data not available or not significant.

TAXATION

Current information is unavailable.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Import licenses are freely issued for most goods. Most imports are taxed, but luxury goods are more heavily taxed, while capital goods enjoy special treatment. Duties are applied ad valorem; some common ones are rice (10%), gasoline (55%), diesel (15%), automobiles (4095%), auto parts (36%), furniture (30%), and household appliances (25%). A 1520% value-added tax (VAT) is also applied, as well as a 1% statistical tax and a 1% community solidarity tax.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

As of June 1990, the government of Guinea-Bissau took new steps to encourage additional domestic and foreign investment. While key telecommunications, electricity, and infrastructure sectors remained under state control, others were to be privatized, including the brewery, the fishing industry, and the "people's shops" for retail trade. Bilateral and multilateral investment programs continue in each of the key productive sectors.

Guinea-Bissau's already low level of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows ($11 million in 1997) fell further with outbreak of civil war in 1998. FDI inflows were $4.4 million in 1998 and $8.6 million in 1999. With the return of an elected government in 2000, FDI inflows improved to $23 million in 2000 and $30 million in 2001.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

A main objective of the Guinea-Bissau government is the development of agriculture and infrastructure. Foreign aid averaged $64.3 million per year from 198285. Multilateral aid accounted for almost half this sum, chiefly from the IDA. The first development plan (198388) called for self-sufficiency in food supplies, with 25% of a $403.3 million investment going for construction and public works, 18% for rural development, and 14% for transport.

The second development plan (198891) was to be totally financed by foreign aid. Numerous countries and intergovernmental organizations have provided food aid, technical assistance, and balance-of-payments support.

In 1999, the prime minister toured Europe in search of aid. Portugal contributed $4 million, Sweden $2.3 million, and the total of the donor community's commitments reached over $200 million. Rebuilding of the capital city, replacement of one-quarter of a million refugees, investment in infrastructure, and financing of the external debt, were among the goals of foreign aid slated for economic development.

In 2000, Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt service relief under the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, geared toward reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth. That year, it negotiated a three-year $18 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF to support the government's 200003 economic reform program. Following approval of the assistance, the IMF stated the country had lost budgetary control, with large unauthorized expenditures, particularly on defense. A drop in world cashew prices and a loss of foreign program financing in 2001 resulted in a decrease in economic activity. The country in 2003 had yet to fully recover from the 199899 civil war.

Economic growth prospects for 20062007 are relatively modest, and are to a large extent dependent on the availability of international donor assistance, and on good weather for the cashew crop. Food prices, the largest component of the consumer price index, will have to be kept in check or they will negatively affect the inflation rate.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Provision of health services, including maternal and child care, nutrition programs, environmental sanitation, safe water distribution, and basic education, is a social goal of the Guinea-Bissau government. There is no formal social welfare system in place.

Although officially prohibited by law, discrimination against women persists, especially in areas where Islamic law is dominant. Women have little access to education, and are responsible for most of the work on subsistence farms. The illiteracy rate for women is 82%. Domestic abuse against women is not only widespread, but also socially acceptable as a means of settling domestic disputes. As of 2004, female genital mutilation was an increasingly common practice.

Some cases of arbitrary detention and the use of excessive force were reported, and members of the security forces were not held accountable for abuses of detainees' rights.

HEALTH

The health care system is inadequate. Aid from UNICEF and the World Health Organization has enabled Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, to strengthen its health management and decentralize the health system in the country. The emphasis is on preventive medicine, with small mobile units serving the rural areas. Children were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 95%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 74%; polio, 68%; and measles, 65%. Approximately 53% of the population had access to safe water and only 21% had adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 17 physicians, 109 nurses, 1 dentist, and 1 pharmacist per 100,000 people. The birthrate was an estimated 38.9 per 1,000 people as of 2002 and the general mortality rate was 15.1 per 1,000 people. Infant mortality was estimated at 107.15 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005. Life expectancy was 46.61 years in that year. An estimated 20% of all births are low birth weight. The fertility rate was 5.8 children for each woman during her childbearing years.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 10.00 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 17,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 1,200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

Most traditional housing units are made of adobe, mud, and/or quirinton, a combination of woven branches and straw. Most of these units use petrol lamps for lighting; they do not have a sewage system or septic tank and water is usually available from wells or springs. Though most of the population lives in rural areas, recent migration to urban areas has accounted for urban housing shortages. In 1998, civil unrest in the capital forced about 300,000 residents out of their homes and about 5,000 homes were destroyed. As of the end of 1999, 50,000 of these people were still displaced. In 2001, there were about 7,000 refugees in the country as well, mostly from Senegal. Many of these have been placed in temporary camp shelters.

EDUCATION

The 199899 civil war severely disrupted education, closing schools and keeping most of the country's children out of school for at least half a year. In 2000, UNICEF requested $5.22 million to rebuild and refurbish damaged primary schools, buy teaching materials and school supplies, train teachers, and provide other types of aid. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 13. Primary school studies cover six years, followed by five years of secondary school.

In 2001, about 3.2% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated at about 45% of age-eligible students, 53% for boys and 37% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 9% of age-eligible students, 11% for boys and 6% for girls. It is estimated that about 27.7% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 44:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1. In 2000, private schools accounted for about 19% of primary school enrollment and 12.8% of secondary enrollment.

Amilcar Cabral University, the first public university in the nation, was established in 2003. The University of Colinas de Boe. a private university, also opened in 2003. The adult literacy rate for 2003 was estimated at about 42.4%, with 58.1% for men and 27.4% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.1% of GDP, or 4.8% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Institute of Studies and Research (Instituto Nacional de Estudos e PesquisaINEP) in Bissau maintains a collection of 40,000 volumes and includes national archives and a museum. The Museum of Guinea-Bissau, also in Bissau, has a library of 14,000 volumes and maintains collections of interest in the fields of ethnography, history, natural science, and economics. There are municipal libraries in major cities. There are two museums in Bissau, the Museum of Portuguese Guinea and the National Ethnographic Museum.

MEDIA

In 2003, there were an estimated 8 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there was 1 mobile phone in use for every 1,000 people.

The main radio network is the government's Radiodifusäo Nacional de Guiné-Bissau. There are however, several independent radio stations. One national television station broadcasts from 7 pm to midnight on weekdays and 5 pm to midnight on weekends. In 2000, there were 44 radios for every 1,000 people. In 2003, there were an estimated 178 radios and 36 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, about 15 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

The government-owned daily, Voz da Guine, in Portuguese, had an estimated circulation of 6,000 in 2002. Privately owned newspapers (published once or a few times a week) include Diario de Bissau, Banobero, Gazeta de Noticias, Fraskera, and No Pintcha. These newspapers often delay publications due to financial constraints and dependence on the state-owned printing house, which often lacks supplies.

The constitution provides for free speech and free press, though journalists are said to practice self-censorship to avoid government pressures.

ORGANIZATIONS

The constitution of 1991 made freedom of association for nongovernment organizations legal for the first time. Since that time, several human rights organizations have formed, including the Center for Judicial Information and Orientation, the Guinean Association for Studies and Alternatives, and the Guinean League for Human Rights, which emphasizes women's rights. Youth organizations are coordinated by the umbrella organization of the National Network of Youth Organizations of Guinea Bissau. Sports associations are also active. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Game shooting, a major attraction for many travelers in Africa, is popular in Guinea-Bissau. Game is abundant in the open country, as well as in the more hazardous forest and jungle areas. The traditional practices of various ethnic groups also interest and attract tourists. The island of Bubaque and the town of Bolama are cited for their charm and beauty. All visitors need a valid passport and a visa secured in advance to enter Guinea-Bissau, as well as an onward/return ticket. Travelers from an infected area and most of Africa and South America are required to have evidence of a yellow fever vaccination.

FAMOUS GUINEANS

The best-known Guinean of recent years was Amilcar Cabral (192173), a founder of PAIGC, its first secretary-general, and a key figure in the war for independence until he was assassinated. Luis de Almeida Cabral (b.1931), a cofounder of the liberation movement in September 1956 and the younger brother of Amilcar Cabral, subsequently became the first president of Guinea-Bissau; after release from detention by the Revolutionary Council in December 1981, he left the country. João Bernardo Vieira (b.1939), leader of the Revolutionary Council, came to power in the 1980 coup. Vieira was deposed by rebels in 1999, but made a political comeback in 2005, winning election as president.

DEPENDENCIES

Guinea-Bissau has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adebajo, Adekeye. Building Peace in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Bowman, Joye. Ominous Transition: Commerce and Colonial Expansion in the Senegambia and Guinea, 18571919. Aldershot, England: Avebury, 1997.

D and B's Export Guide to Guinea-Bissau. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Dhada, Mustafah. Warriors at Work: How Guinea Was Really Set Free. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1993.

Lobban, Richard, and Peter Karibe Mendy. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau : 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.[computer file] Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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GUINEA-BISSAU

Republic of Guinea-Bissau
República da Guiné-Bissau

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Guinea-Bissau lies on the west coast of Africa, with Senegal to the north and Guinea to the east and south. With a total area of 36,120 square kilometers (13,946 square miles), the country is a bit less than 3 times the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. It has about 300 kilometers (186 miles) of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Guinea-Bissau also controls a set of islands, named Bolama, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) off the coast. The capital and largest city, Bissau, is located on the coast and has the only international airport in the country.

POPULATION.

The United Nations estimated that in 1997 the population stood at 1.1 million. As of July 2001, the World Factbook estimated the population to be 1,315,822. United Nations estimates put population growth at 2.7 percent in the years 1975 to 1997. By 2001, the World Factbook had estimated population growth to have dropped to 2.23 percent. The average woman in Guinea-Bissau has more than 5 children.

The population is composed of many ethnic groups, with the largest being the Balanta (30 percent), followed by the Fula (20 percent), Manjaca (14 percent), and Mandinga (13 percent). Other groups include Cape Verdean expatriates, Syrian Lebanese, and some Portuguese. Nearly half (45 percent) of the population is Muslim, and the Muslim community dominates the commercial sector and, increasingly, the government.

About 20 percent of the population was estimated to live in or near Bissau. The rest of the population lives as agriculturists in 8 mainly rural regions.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau has one of the least developed economies in the world. The economy relies mostly on agriculture. Nearly 80 percent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture; most work on small family farms and some work as laborers on cotton or cashew nut plantations. The production of cashew nuts is vital to the economy, making up 70 percent of the country's total exports. The gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4.7 percent per year in between 1995 and 1997, compared to 2.6 percent between 1993 and 1994. However, the civil war caused output to fall by 28 percent in 1998, with the industry and services GDP output falling by 40 percent. This decline was a serious setback, as Guinea-Bissau was already one of the 15 poorest countries in the world.

The economy of Guinea-Bissau has not performed well in recent years. Output has increased less rapidly than population, and average living standards have fallen. But development in its widest sense involves more than just income, and in that sense Guinea-Bissau also suffers. The United Nations (UN) includes education and health as well as income in its Human Development Index, for which Guinea-Bissau was ranked 169 out of the 174 countries listed in 1998. The gross national product (GNP) per capita (converted using the exchange rate method) was low at US$160 per year. The purchasing power parity conversion (which makes allowance for the low prices of many basic commodities in Guinea-Bissau) puts GNP per capita at US$616. The World Factbook estimated the GDP per capita (based on purchasing power parity) to be US$850 per capita in 2000. These measures place Guinea-Bissau near the bottom of the low human development and low income categories.

The reasons for such poor economic performance stem from the country's tumultuous political situation. At the end of the 1990s, Guinea-Bissau weathered corruption, a devastating civil war, a coup d'etat, near destruction of Bissau, and displacement of more than 250,000 people. The problems in the country can be traced back to the end of the colonial period in 1974. Since independence, the economy and infrastructure has been poorly managed, leading to a reliance on international aid and imports. Weak infrastructure, the lack of equipment, and unskilled labor are the major obstacles to increasing output in the country's main economic sector: agriculture. Without these resources, Guinea-Bissau is also unable to exploit its abundant fish reserves, due to its lack of a modern fleet and port facilities. Hence, fishing is contracted out to foreign fleets. Manufacturing is also small, and mining is undeveloped.

After the decline caused by the centrally planned economy that was introduced after independence in 1974, the government began liberalizing the economy in the late 1980s. Since 1987, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have had almost complete control of Guinea-Bissau's economic policy, and structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have aimed at removing price controls , increasing private enterprise, and reforming the public sector . However, the programs have been suspended periodically due to the government's inability to meet fiscal targets, and only after 1994 did the situation start to improve, mainly due to a $15 million 3-year IMF loan. The GDP growth was restored, inflation fell, and the trade deficit was reduced. The civil war also disrupted the plans, but by 2000 the programs were getting started again, and Guinea-Bissau was aided by the receipt of US$790 million in debt relief .

Guinea-Bissau's 1997 entry into the Franc Zone meant that the country adopted the CFA franc as its official currency and required the membership of the regional central bank, the Union Economique et Monetaire Ouest-Africaine (West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA). UEMOA demanded expenditure cuts and higher tax collection. A comprehensive tax reform in 1997 involved the introduction of a generalized sales tax, streamlined custom tariffs , and reformed excise tax . The government also began eliminating 4,000 civil service posts. However, government expenditure rose due to reform costs and the re-capitalization of Banco Central de Guinea-Bissau. In addition, the rise in prices following Guinea-Bissau's entry into the Franc Zone led to a 50 percent pay raise for civil servants in late 1997. Inflation, which ran at 107 percent per year (1992-96), was chronically high before Guinea-Bissau entered the Franc Zone due to a rise in credit to the economy and the depreciation of the peso (the country's old currency). With the adoption of the CFA franc the government was able to reduce inflation to 17 percent at the end of the year, and, despite the civil war, it fell to 8 percent in 1998 and is estimated to have been 6 percent in 1999 and 3 percent in 2000.

The outbreak of civil war in June 1998 created turmoil in the reform program and put an end to US$10 million of the IMF loan. During the civil war, most economic activities were disrupted, especially in urban areas where most of the fighting took place. The government requested US$138 million in post-war assistance in May 1999. However, only in September 1999 did the IMF give US$3 million, which was designed to help prepare Guinea-Bissau for another 3-year loan program to support economic reforms. At the same time, the IMF urged Guinea-Bissau to increase tax revenue, control expenditure, restructure public enterprise, and re-capitalize the financial sector. This action led to a US$25 million Economic Rehabilitation and Recovery Credit (ERRC) loan in November, and in conjunction with other loans, this should help with the rebuilding of Guinea-Bissau.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Guinea-Bissau was first colonized by Portugal in the 15th century, but later incursions met with resistance which culminated in a series of wars (1878-1936). However, during the colonial period Guinea-Bissau remained undeveloped. After a 10-year guerrilla war, Guinea-Bissau unilaterally declared independence in 1973, and Guinea-Bissau's independence was recognized by Portugal in 1974, following a military coup. A new government was formed by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which wished to unite Guinea-Bissau with Cape Verde. In 1980, Commander Joao Vieira overthrew the government and severed Guinea-Bissau's link with Cape Verde. The political situation remained unstable in the 1980s, with many attempted coups and much civil unrest.

Since 1991, the country has been a multi-party republic. The president is elected to a 5-year term by popular vote and appoints a prime minister after consultation with the leaders of the unicameral National Assembly, the country's legislature. Legislators are elected to 4-year terms. The court system ranges from a Supreme Court, whose members serve at the pleasure of the president to 9 regional and 24 sectoral courts.

Although Vieira forcibly took control of the government in 1980, he had agreed in principle to the implementation of a multi-party democracy in the early 1990s. Predominantly due to a fragmented opposition, PAIGC won the first election, but Vieira won a disputed presidential election in the second round in 1994. The change in government did not erase its economic ineptitude, however. The bad handling of the country's entry into UEMOA in 1997 led to strikes, and although a change of prime minister restored some confidence, corruption scandals soon struck the government. In June 1998, Vieira dismissed the army chief Brigadier Ansumane Mane, for alleged involvement in supplying arms to separatists from the Senegalese region of Casamance, which sparked a civil war. Despite a peace accord, tensions continued until Vieira was ousted in May 1999.

In November 1999, in a multi-party election, PAIGC was defeated, and Kumba Iala (also spelled Yala), the head of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), was elected president in January 2000.

The country implemented a constitution in 1984, which has been amended 5 times, the latest change approved in 1996. The original constitution of 1984 allowed a 1-party state and reforms, instituted by Vieira. The document put all power in presidential hands. In 1990, reforms led to a multi-party state. A crisis was narrowly averted in 1997, when the president unconstitutionally dismissed the prime minister without consulting the Assembly, which was later revoked after referral to the Supreme Court, with Prime Minister Correira reappointed in October with the full support of the main opposition parties. Later electoral organizational problems culminated in civil war and unrest that ended with the dismissal of Vieira.

After the problems of 1997, a committee was set up to revise the constitution and reinforce the judiciary's independence. In 1999, the Assembly passed the new constitution with a two-thirds majority. The constitutional amendments specified that any president could only be elected twice, with each term lasting 5 years, it abolished the death penalty, and it specified that only nationals born in Guinea-Bissau of parents born in Guinea-Bissau may hold high offices of state. The constitution still requires President Iala's approval, but this point is problematic because several incumbents (including Fadul and Brigadier Mane) are not of local descent. Also, the military junta's future plans are uncertain, as it has announced that it would rule alongside the new government for the next 10 years.

Since 1999, 2 parties have dominated the National Assemblythe PRS and the Resistance Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-MB)and these 2 parties are likely to form a coalition. PAIGC's representation in the Assembly has dropped, despite its change from socialist ideals to those of democracy and market economics. The infighting between the new and old guard in Guinea-Bissau was responsible for the expulsion of Vieira and others and has continued. Since the civil war, for example, there has been a rift in the army between the old guard and the new professional soldiers. Because the military is underpaid and promotion is an arbitrary process, the rift could cause military problems in the long term. Some think the political situation in Guinea-Bissau remains very unstable.

Since the civil war, Guinea-Bissau has had intermittent security concerns along its border with Guinea and Senegal. Vieira had requested the assistance of Senegalese and Guinea troops to protect his administration during the civil war, which turned the coup into a regional conflict. In addition, Guinea-Bissau had also been a haven for Senegalese rebels. However, since the end of the war, the new government has sought to mend relations with Guinea and Senegal, and relations with Gambia are good.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Guinea-Bissau does not have a very developed or well-maintained infrastructure. Since the early 1980s, one of the country's main goals has been to develop its infrastructure. The 4,400 kilometers (2,734 miles) of roads in Guinea-Bissau, of which about 10 percent (453 kilometers, 281 miles) are paved, has attracted foreign aid in the form of sealing the main road to the northern border and constructing a major bridge at Joao Landin. About 85 percent of the population lives within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of a navigable waterway. Guinea-Bissau has many rivers that could be accessible to coastal shipping, but water transport needs vast improvement. Bissau is the main port, and there are plans for a European Union-sponsored deep-water port that will specialize in minerals and will be linked to Guinea by rail. (As of 2000, the country had no railways.)

Since the liquidation of the privatized national airline, Guinea-Bissau has had to rely on foreign-owned carriers. The civil war severely disrupted flights and the main airport only reopened in July 1999. In 2000, the country had about 29 airports, but only 3 had paved runways.

The government has announced its intention to liberalize the telecom industry, which is at present dominated by Portugal Telecom, which has a 51 percent stake in Guinea-Telecom. The government has also announced the extension of telecommunications to the whole country and the introduction of a cellular network, while USAID will provide Internet access. In 1997, there were 8,000 telephones in the country. By 2000, there was 1 Internet service provider and about 1,500 Internet users.

An experimental television service was started in 1989; by 1997 there were 2 television stations. The country's 3 private radio stations broadcast to nearly 49,000 radios in the country in 1997. Since 1991, a number of private newspapers and magazines have been launched, though all depend on the state printing house for publication. In 1998, there were several newspapers: 1 government biweekly, 1 private daily newspaper, and 3 private weeklies. The national printing press had difficulty maintaining enough raw material to print all the newspapers during the civil war, and publication was sporadic. By the end of the war, more regular publication had returned.

Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest electrification rates in Africa, mostly because of corruption and inefficiency. The country is completely dependent on petroleum products, despite its own high energy potential, especially in hydroelectric power. Construction of a dam at Saltinho could eventually supply the whole country and provide excess electricity for export. After the development of an offshore upstream oil industry had been delayed by border disputes with Senegal, the United Kingdom's Monument Oil and Gas company and the Chilean company, Sipetrol, agreed to acquire the 3,500 square kilometer block with Guinea-Bissau receiving 22.5 percent of the output. In 1998, the state-owned electricity company was put up for a long-term lease to a private company, but little progress has been made.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Although all economic sectors in Guinea-Bissau were damaged by the civil war, agriculture remained the most dominant economic sector. Agriculture (including forestry and fishing) contributed 62 percent of the GDP in 1998 and 83 percent of the labor force were employed in the sector in 1994. The World Factbook reported that agriculture contributed 54 percent of the GDP and employed 78 percent of the workforce in 1997. Industry (including mining, manufacturing, construction and power) employed an estimated 4 percent of the economically active population in 1994 and provided around 13 percent of the GDP in 1998, down from the

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Guinea-Bissau 5 44 N/A N/A 0 0.4 N/A 0.13 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Guinea N/A 47 41 0.0 3 0.4 2.6 0.00 5
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

15 percent reported by the World Factbook for 1997. According to World Bank figures, the industrial GDP contribution increased in real terms by an average of 2.7 percent per year from 1990 to 1997, although it rapidly decreased by 12.7 percent in 1998 during the civil war. Services employed an estimated 19 percent of the economically active population in 1994 and provided an estimated 25 percent of the GDP in 1998, down from the 31 percent reported by the World Factbook for 1997. Despite the disruptions caused by the civil war, the economic sectors were not and still are not able to sustain the country. The economy of Guinea-Bissau is truly reliant on international aid.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the most important sector in the economy, providing well over half of the GDP. Food self-sufficiency has been the target of several governments, with the main products being rice, cassava, beans, potatoes, yams, sugar-cane, and tropical fruits. Rice production covers 30 percent of the arable land. The livestock population has recovered after the war, with the number of cattle reaching 550,000 in 2001, which is high in relation to a population of just over 1 million people. The changes in the agriculture sector have sparked much debate about land tenure issues as a result of the conflict between traditional village-based farms ( Tabancas ) and the encroaching large-scale commercial sector ( Pontas ). Even though the first development plan calling for self-sufficiency in food supplies was created in 1983, by the late 1990s foodstuffs remained the largest portion of imports.

The legacy of the Portuguese colonial period lives on in Guinea-Bissau because cash crops grown on vast plantations remain the largest export products for the country. Cashew nuts are the most important cash crop (cashew nut output has quadrupled since 1988). Despite suffering setbacks during the civil war, cashew nut production is expected to reach 60,000 metric tons in 2001 from 38,000 metric tons in 1997.

Forestry resources are abundant but under-used. The 2.35 million hectares of forest could produce 100,000 metric tons per year without disturbing the ecology. Under privatization the former parastatal , Socotram, has become 4 separate private companies, with a view to increasing competition and raising timber production.

The coastline is rich in fish and shellfish, and joint fishing ventures have been set up with Russian, Algerian, and Portuguese companies (with licensing for this fishing accounting for 40 percent of government revenue [1992-96]). However, over-fishing and lax controls have led to a drop in fishing potential and the introduction of a European Union-backed modernization program, with a quota system and more maritime patrols. In 1996, Guinea-Bissau also signed agreements to cross-monitor fishing zones with 6 other West African nations. Estimated catches of 0.25 to 0.3 million metric tons are possible if illegal fishing can be eliminated.

INDUSTRY

Industry is very small, providing only 13 percent of the GDP in 1998 and 4 percent of employment in 1994. Apart from construction, output consists largely of consumer goods for the domestic market. A brewery opened in 1997 and was the only large venture with international investment. Mostly there is little investment due to the poor power supply situation, the unskilled labor force, and the small market size. What little industry existed was heavily affected by the war. The mining sector is completely undeveloped, though prospecting is under way for bauxite, petroleum, and phosphate.

SERVICES

The banking system was radically reformed in 1989 to reflect economic liberalization and again in 1997 with Guinea-Bissau's entry into UEMOA. There are 2 private commercial banks in Guinea-Bissau, and an investment bank was launched with Portuguese capital. All banks were closed during the civil war and only re-opened in July 1999. Loan repayments are difficult due to the effects of the war, and credit availability is also set to contract due to reduced savings. The central bank was replaced by the Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (Central Bank for West African States, BCEAO) when Guinea-Bissau joined UEMOA, and BCEAO has taken over part of the former central bank's assets and liabilities.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Since independence Guinea-Bissau has been internationally non-aligned, in order to solicit aid from all available quarters. While trading mostly with Western countries, it has also courted the other countries (including China and Brazil). In March 1997, Guinea-Bissau joined UEMOA as a full member and also became a full member of ECOWAS.

Since independence, trade has experienced many years of deficit. In 1999, imports were US$101 million. The World Factbook estimated that by 2000 imports had dropped to $55.2 million. Government efforts to diversify exports and to reduce export taxes have improved exports from US$27 million in 1998 to US$48 million in 1999, but this growth still left a trade deficit of US$53 million. Port closures during the war hindered exports, but the IMF expects exports to reach previous levels of

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Guinea-Bissau
Exports Imports
1975 .007 .038
1980 .011 .055
1985 .012 N/A
1990 .019 .068
1995 .044 .133
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Guinea-Bissau
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 26,373
Note: Rate for 1996 is in Guinea-Bissauan pesos per US dollar. As of May 1, 1997, Guinea-Bissau adopted the CFA franc as the national currency; since January 1, 1999, the CFA franc is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA francs per euro.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

60,000 metric tons per year from 1999 onwards. By 2000, exports had risen to US$80 million, according to the World Factbook, giving the country a small surplus. Exports go mainly to India, Singapore, Italy, and Portugal, with imports mostly coming from Portugal, France, Senegal, and the Netherlands.

MONEY

Guinea-Bissau since 1997 has been a member of the 8-member UEMOA, and the currency is the CFA franc. The BCEAO issues currency notes and regulates credit expansion throughout the region. Since 1999, the CFA franc has been tied to the euro at 655.959:1 given that France has joined the European Monetary Union.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its population suffers. According to 1991 estimates, 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The GDP per capita was estimated to be US$850 at purchasing power parity in 2000. Although the World Factbook estimated in 1991 that the poorest 10 percent of the population controlled 0.5 percent of the GDP and the richest 10 percent controlled 42.4 percent

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Guinea-Bissau 226 168 206 223 173
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Guinea N/A N/A N/A 532 594
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Guinea-Bissau
Lowest 10% 0.5
Lowest 20% 2.1
Second 20% 6.5
Third 20% 12.0
Fourth 20% 20.6
Highest 20% 58.9
Highest 10% 42.4
Survey year: 1991
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

of the wealth, there are few reliable figures for the distribution of wealth.

Economic development has been hampered by both low quality and poor coverage of education. Although education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 13, barely half of the children in that age group attend school regularly. Primary enrollment stood at 60 percent, and secondary enrollments stood at 6 percent in 1997. Most students also supplement family income and frequently miss school. Education has also been hit by strikes over reforms and was badly disrupted by the war. According to 1997 estimates, male literacy was estimated to be 67 percent and female literacy 41 percent.

Health in Guinea-Bissau is in a state of crisis. About 90 percent of the needed funding comes from abroad, though this money is often diverted through corruption and does not reach its intended recipients. There are 1,300 hospital beds in Guinea-Bissau, and Bissau Hospital was badly affected during the war. The spread of disease and endemic malnutrition with resultant high death rates have made the level of health care in Guinea-Bissau the lowest in West Africa. Infant mortality stood at 138 per 1,000 before the war, but this figure has dropped to an estimated 112 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000. Only a quarter of the population has access to clean water, sanitation, and health care, leading to frequent outbreaks of cholera and meningitis. HIV is also spreading, with an estimated 14,000 adults having been infected by the end of 1999.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The constitution of Guinea-Bissau makes little provision for workers and that which exists is not necessarily heeded. Forced labor is prohibited, and the economy is run along centralized lines, although this is changing under IMF and World Bank pressure. However, most of the population is employed in subsistence farming and the formal employment sector is small. There is no formal minimum wage. Children often work to help the household, leading to poor school attendance figures. Unions in the formal sector have been active, as was shown in strikes following the poorly handled entry into UEMOA in 1997.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1878. Portugal begins the colonization of Guinea-Bissau.

1973. Guinea-Bissau declares independence.

1974. Guinea-Bissau becomes independent from Portugal. Luis Cabral becomes president.

1980. Joao Vieira overthrows Cabral and assumes the presidency.

1997. Guinea-Bissau joins UEMOA.

1998. Civil war breaks out after Vieira dismisses the army chief.

1999. Government of national unity is installed. The Senegalese and Guinean troops who had come to aid Vieira withdraw.

1999. Vieira is ousted. Multi-party elections are held.

2000. Kumba Iala is elected president.

FUTURE TRENDS

It is very difficult to have economic progress without a platform of political stability. Given the fragile peace in Guinea-Bissau, both domestic and foreign investors hesitate to risk their resources. The damage of the civil war and the continuing role of the military have been major concerns for international donors and the business community. Until confidence is restored, Guinea-Bissau cannot expect to make progress in improving the living standards of its people.

On the positive side, the general election was held without major incident and the opposition party gained the majority. It is expected that the former ruling party will continue to be a minority in the Assembly and that the military junta will struggle to reposition itself in the new political landscape. (The political parties have refused to endorse the military junta's proposed pact, which would allow it to participate in government for 10 more years.) Internal security could be unstable as demobilization of the armed forces begins. With the resumption of aid, the economy is expected to continue to recover, but long-term progress will depend on political stability and commitment to economic reform programs.

DEPENDENCIES

Guinea-Bissau has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Economist Intelligence Unit Country Profile: Guinea-Bissau. London: EIU, 2000.

Forrest, Joshua. Guinea-Bissau: Power, Conflict, and Renewal in a West African Nation. Boulder: Westview Press, 1992.

"Guinea-Bissau." World Yearbook. London: Europa Publications,2000.

Hodd, M. "Guinea-Bissau." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/pu.html>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Guinea-Bissau, April 1994. <http://www.state.gov/>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Guinea-Bissau: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2000. <http://www.state.gov/>. Accessed October 2001.

Jack Hodd

CAPITAL:

Bissau.

MONETARY UNIT:

Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). The CFA franc is tied to the French franc at an exchange rate of CFA Fr50 to Fr1. One CFA franc equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500ÊCFA francs and notes of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000ÊCFA francs.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Cashew nuts, shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, and sawn lumber.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, and petroleum products.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$1.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$80 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$55.2 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Guinea-Bissau

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the October 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Guinea-Bissau

PROFILE

Geography

Area: (including Bijagos Archipelago) 36,125 sq. km., about the size of Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Bissau. Other cities—Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim, Cacheu. Regions: Oio, Tombali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara, Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.

Terrain: Coastal plain; savanna in the east.

Climate: Tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Bissau-Guinean(s).

Population: (2005) 1,590,000.

Population growth rate: (2005) 3%.

Ethnic groups: Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, others 16%.

Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Languages: Portuguese (official), Creole, French, many indigenous languages: Balanta-Kentohe 26%; Pulaar 18%; Mandjak 12%; Mandinka 11%; Pepel 9%; Biafada 3%; Mancanha 3%; Bidyogo 2%; Ejamat 2%; Mansoanka 1%; Bain-oukgunyuno 1%; Nalu 1%; Soninke 1%; Badjara 1%; Bayote 0,5%; Kobiana 0,04%; Cassanga 0,04%, Basary 0, 03%.

Education: Years compulsory—4. Literacy (2005)—39.6% of adults.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2005)—126 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2005)—45.2.

Work force: (480,000) Agriculture—85%; industry, services, and commerce—13%; government—2%.

Government

Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.

Independence: September 24, 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from Portugal).

Constitution: Adopted 1984. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution in 2001, but it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the President.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government) and Council of State, ministers and secretaries of state. Legislature—National Popular Assembly (ANP), 100 members directly elected in 2004. Judicial—Supreme Court and lower courts.

Political subdivisions: Autonomous sector of Bissau and eight regions.

Political parties: The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) [leader Carlos Domingos Gomes Jr.] won 45 seats in the March 2004 legislative elections. Other parties represented in the ANP include: the Party for Social Renovation (PRS) [leader Alberto Nambeia] with 35 seats, the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD) [leader Francisco Jose Fadul] with 17 seats, the Electoral Union (UE) [leader Joaquim Balde] with 2 seats, and the United Popular Alliance (APU) with one seat. Other parties include: the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-FM) [leader Salvador Tchongo], the Union for Change (UM) [leader Amin Saad], Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING) [leader Catengul Mendy], Guinean Civic Forum or (FCG) [leader Antonieta Rosa Gomes], International League for Ecological Protection (LIPE), National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) [leader Victor Mandinga], Party of National Unity (PUN) [leader Idrissa Djalo], Party of Solidarity and Employment (PST) [leader Iamcuba Indjai], Guinean Democratic Movement (MDG) [leader Silvestre Alves], Guinean Popular Party (PPG) [leader Joao Tatis Sa], Socialist Alliance (AS) [leader Fernando Gomes]. Coalitions: Platform for Unity (PU) [leader Victor Mandinga].

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP: (2006) $318.8 million.

Annual growth rate: (2006) 2.1%.

GDP per capita PPP: (2005) $735.

Natural resources: Fish and timber. Bauxite and phosphate deposits are not exploited; offshore petroleum.

Agriculture: Products—cashews, tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil. Arable land—11%. Forested—38%.

Industry: Very little industrial capacity remains following the 1998 internal conflict. The cashew processing industry is nascent.

Trade: Exports—$100.8 million (f.o.b., 2005) cashews ($84 million, 2005), fish and shrimp ($1 million, 2005). Major markets (2005)—India 67.4%, Nigeria 19%, Senegal 1.5%, Portugal 1.1%. Imports—$112 million (f.o.b., 2005) food ($49 million, 2005), fuel and energy ($20 million, 2005), capital goods ($8 million, 2005). Major suppliers (2005)—Senegal 34.6%, Italy 20.4%, Portugal 12.7%, Netherlands 3.0%.

PEOPLE

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.

HISTORY

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but few trading posts were established before 1600. In 1630, a “captaincy-general” of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the cooperation of some local tribes, the Portuguese entere the slave trade and exported large numbers of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands. Cacheu became one of the major slave centers, and a small fort still stands in the town. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, and Bissau, originally founded as a military and slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the major commercial center.

Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the interior did not begin until the latter half of the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea to French West Africa, including the center of earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the Casamance River region. A dispute with Great Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in Portugal's favor with the involvement of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.

Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.

In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.

It established civilian rule in the territory under its control and held elections for a National Assembly. Portuguese forces and civilians increasingly were confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to 1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to Portugal and led the movement that brought democracy to Portugal and independence for its colonies.

Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first President of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira.

From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held by a provisional government responsible to a Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP) was reconstituted. The single-party assembly approved a new constitution, elected President Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a Council of State, which was the executive agent of the ANP. Under this system, the president presided over the Council of State and served as head of state and government. The president also was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986, first Vice President Paulo Correia and five others were executed for treason following a lengthy trial. In 1994, the country's first multi-party legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising against the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a bloody civil war that created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and resulted in President Vieria having to request assistance from the governments of Senegal and Guinea, who provided troops to quell the uprising. The President was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.

Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance. On November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree. Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed until June and then October. On September 12, 2003, the President of the National Elections Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on October 12, 2003, as scheduled. The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on September 14, 2003. President Yala announced his “voluntary” resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and a 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established. On September 28, 2003, businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as President. He had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as Prime Minister. On March 28 and 30, 2004, Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which international observers deemed acceptably free and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior became Prime Minister.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On August 10, 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieria was declared the winner of a July 24 presidential runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an election judged by international observers to be free and fair. President Vieria was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior refused to accept Vieira's victory, and on October 28, Vieira dismissed Gomes and his government. Five days later, he installed former PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as

Prime Minister. Throughout 2006, President Vieira struggled to maintain control over the National Assembly and the general operations of the government. In early March 2007, the three main political parties, the PAIGC, the PRS, and the PUSD agreed to push for a “government of consensus”“ in the interests of parliamentary stability. President Vieira refused to accept the decision, and on March 19 the National Popular Assembly passed a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Aristide Gomes. President Vieira was then faced with the decision of dissolving the government and calling for new elections or appointing a new prime minister. Prime Minister

Gomes resigned on March 29. In early April 2007, after much resistance, President Vieira accepted the appointment of Martinho N’Dafa Cabi as the new Prime Minister. Cabi has called for a “relentless” fight against drug trafficking and vowed to instill fiscal discipline in the Government of Guinea-Bissau. Legislative elections originally scheduled for March 2008 have been postponed until November/December 2008. Though the Government of Guinea-Bissau has made public efforts to fight narcotics trafficking, government officials continue to be implicated in trafficking activities.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Joao Bernardo VIEIRA

Prime Min.: Martinho CABI

Min. of Admin. Reform: Pedro Morato MILACO

Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Daniel Suleimane EMBALO

Min. of Country Freedom Fighters: Isabel BUSCARDINE

Min. of Defense: Marciano Silva BARBEIRO

Min. of Economy & Regional Integration: Abudacar Demba DAHABA

Min. of Education: Prum Sitna NAMONE

Min. of Energy & Industry: Vensa Mendes NALUACK

Min. of Finance: Issuf SANHA

Min. of Fisheries: Daniel GOMES

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Intl. Cooperation,& Diaspora: Maria da Conceicao Nobre CABRAL

Min. of Health: Eugenia SALDANHA

Min. of Interior: Baciro DABO

Min. of Justice: Carmelita Barbosa Rodrigues PIRES

Min. of Natural Resources & Environment: Snares SAMBU

Min. of the Presidency of the Council, Ministers, & of Parliamentary Affairs: Pedro DA COSTA

Min. of Public Works & Housing: Rui Arauio GOMES

Min. of Social Solidarity, Family, & Poverty Eradication: Alfredo Antonio SILVA

Min. of Trade, Tourism & Handicraft: Harry MANE

Min. of Transportation & Communications: Jose Gaspar GOMES

Min. of Youth, Culture, & Sports: Adiatu Djalo NANDINQA

Sec. of State for Admin. Reform: Jose LOPES

Sec. of State for Agriculture & Food Security: Bacar DJASSI

Sec. of State for Education: Joagalm BADE

Sec. of State for Energy: Eurico Abdouranane DJALO

Sec. of State for Intl. Cooperation: Roberto Armando Ferreira CACHEU

Sec. of State for the Media: Joao DE BARROS

Sec. of State for Planning & Regional Integration: Francisco DA COSTA

Sec. of State for Territorial Admin.:Cristlano NABITAN

Sec. of State for Treasury, Budget, & Tax Affairs: Pedro Ucaim LIMA

Ambassador to the United States:

Permanent Rep. to the UN, New York: Alfredo Lopes CABRAL

Guinea-Bissau does not have official representation in Washington, DC.

ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least developed nations and depends mainly on agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports some fish and seafood, although most fishing in Guinea-Bissau's waters is presently not done by Bissau-Guineans and very little fish and seafood is processed in Guinea-Bissau. The country's other important product is cashews. License fees for fishing provide the government with some revenue. Rice is a major crop and staple food and, if developed, Guinea-Bissau could potentially be self-sufficient in rice. Tropical fruits such as mangos could also provide more income to the country if the sector were developed. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long run.

The military conflict that took place in Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999 caused severe damage to the country's infrastructure and widely disrupted economic activity. Agricultural production is estimated to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Cashew nut output, the main export crop, declined in 1998 by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the economic devastation caused by the conflict. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsorship. Under the government's post-conflict economic and financial program, implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December 2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt-service relief under the first phase of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. However, Guinea-Bissau's Poverty Reduction and Growth Fund program with the IMF was suspended that same month—following disbursement of the first tranche—due to off-program expenditures by the Yala regime. Thus, IMF and Paris Club internal debt relief for Guinea-Bissau was also suspended in 2001.

The year 2006 was disastrous for Guinea-Bissau's economy. Real GDP growth slowed from 2005, as did exports, which was largely the result of the government's cashew-pricing policy. The government had artificially set the price of cashews at 70 U.S. cents/kg—more than twice what traders were willing to pay. Farmers were eventually forced to sell their crops at knock-down prices, and many were pushed to the brink of starvation. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has advised the government to let market forces dictate prices in the future. In an effort to stimulate exports, the government has significantly reduced export taxes.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. The European Union, France, Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, People's Republic of China, Libya, Senegal, Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, and Russia have embassies in Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau through their embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), African Union, and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of 77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO).

The International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau is composed of France, Spain, Portugal, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, ECOWAS, the Executive Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States, and the Executive Secretariat of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. The group met in September 2007 and has pledged to assist Guinea-Bissau with the strengthening of its institutions.

U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent conflict between forces loyal to then-President Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and following the Embassy closure, the United States and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations.

The U.S. recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. Guinea-Bissau's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was one of the first the new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an Embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S. Ambassador presented credentials later that year.

U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million grant to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement of refugees returning to Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at African technical schools for Guinean students. Emergency food was a major element in U.S. assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has provided more than $65 million in grant aid and other assistance.

Since the 1998 war the U.S. has provided over $800,000 for humanitarian demining to a non-governmental organization (NGO) which has removed over 2,500 mines and 11,000 unexploded ordnance from the city of Bissau; $1.6 million in food aid; and nearly $3 million for assistance for refugees, improving the cashew industry, and promoting democracy.

The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an international military education and training (IMET) agreement in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S. provided English-language teaching facilities as well as communications and navigational equipment to support the navy's coastal surveillance program. The U.S. European Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program has assisted with $390,000 for constructing or repairing schools, health centers, and bridges.

The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in 1998 at the start of the civil war. In August 2004, sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act—which were imposed as a result of the September 2003 military coup—were lifted and Bissau once again became eligible for IMET and other direct aid.

In March 2007, the U.S. and Brazil signed a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with Guinea-Bissau highlighting a parliamentary strengthening project first implemented in 2005.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

BISSAU (BO) P.O. Box 297 Bissau Codex, Bairro de Penha, Rua Ulysses Grant, APO/FPO 2130 Dakar Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2130, 00-245-252-282, Fax 00-245-222-273, Workweek: M-F, 0800-1700, Website: http://dakar.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Debra Clark-Ware
MGT:Salvatore Piazza
GSO:Peter Anthes
RSO:John Beaudry
DAO:MAJ Mark Deets
POL:Gregory Holliday

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 12, 2007

Country Description: Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The capital is Bissau and the official language is Portuguese. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited and not up to American standards.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required. As of August 2007, the Bissau-Guinean Embassy in Washington, D.C. remains temporarily closed. The Embassy of Guinea-Bissau does not have a web site. Due to lack of consular representation in the U.S., it is difficult to obtain the required visa for entry into Guinea-Bissau. Since most flights destined for Guinea-Bissau must pass through Dakar, Senegal or Lisbon, Portugal, most travelers are able to apply for visas at the Bissau-Guinean embassies in those countries. Although it is possible to obtain a visa upon arrival in Bissau if arrangements are made in advance, there are no clear instructions for how to make those arrangements.

Safety and Security: There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in June and July 2005, travelers should be aware that political tensions persist. Sporadic politically-motivated violence has taken place in the past two years. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

In December 2004, the Government of Senegal and some factions of the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFCD), a Senegalese separatist movement, instituted an end to hostilities and agreed to negotiate with the goal of achieving a definitive end to the armed conflict in the Casamance. This conflict has not yet been resolved, however, and its effects reach into Guinea-Bissau. In the spring of 2006, Bissau-Guinean military forces conducted offensive operations near the town of Sao Domingos to expel elements of the MFDC. The fighting reportedly resulted in dozens of military and civilian casualties, mostly from landmine explosions. As of early 2007, sporadic fighting persists in Senegal's Casamance region. Although hostilities have not spilled over into Guinea-Bissau lately, the potential for conflict along the border remains.

Unexploded military ordnance and landmines remain scattered throughout the country, although the capital city of Bissau was declared “mine-free” in June 2006 by the national de-mining center (CAAMI), which is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There are two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in successfully removing mines.

To minimize the risks posed by both bandits and landmines, U.S. citizens are encouraged to limit driving outside of towns to daylight hours only and to remain on well-traveled roads at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night. The lack of reliable public electricity means that urban streets are dark at night, even in Bissau. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: While modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau and travelers should not rely on them, emergency medical care may be possible at a new hospital in Bissau operated by the Sant’Egidio Community. Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available. Malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is a risk for travelers to Guinea-Bissau.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea-Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and the availability of roadside assistance are all poor. There is no consistent public electricity in the capital, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving essential. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways. The landmines are scattered in several areas throughout Guinea-Bissau, including Bafata, Oio, Biombo, Quinara, and Tombali regions. In addition, there are reports of unexploded ordinance located near the Embassies of Russia, France, the European Union and China. While there has been significant progress in locating and removing landmines, the threat remains substantial. Speak with local authorities first and use caution if leaving a main road or highway to enter a trail network or to make other types of cross-country movement.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and-Guinea-Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea-Bissau's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bis-sau. Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a notarized copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy, so travelers should not count on using credit cards and ATMs.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bissau-Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Guinea-Bissau. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau remains closed. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal. The telephone number is (221) 823-4296 and the fax is (221) 822-2991. The e-mail address is: [email protected] The web site is: http://dakar.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

October 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: The U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal issues immigrant visas for Bissau-Guinean citizens, including adopted orphans. Please review carefully the information found later in this flyer regarding the immigrant visa procedures at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar. Failure to comply with the Embassy's requirements could result in a denial of the child's visa case.

Patterns of Immigration: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics indicate that fewer than five immigrant visas have been issued to Bissau-Guinean orphans in the last five years

Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Child Protection is responsible for intercountry adoptions in Guinea-Bissau. Adoption laws are outlined in Article 1974 of the civil code. In the adoption process, the Public Ministry will appoint a lawyer to ensure that the child's rights are protected. The Regional Tribunal in Guinea Bissau (Juiz de Direito da Seccao de Familia, Tribunal Regional de Bissau) is the court that approves intercountry adoptions.

Types Of Adoption: There are two types of adoptions in Guinea Bissau: simple adoption (adopcao restrita) and full adoption (adopcao plena). In a simple adoption, the ties of the child to his birth family cannot be definitively proven and the child may continue to have contact with his or her biological family. Simple adoptions are revocable. In contrast, full adoptions are irrevocable and are granted when one or both parents have died and any living biological parent has severed ties with the child.

In these cases, the child will take the last name of the adopting parents and be considered their legitimate child. Only full adoption is recognized for U.S. immigration purposes. Adoption lawyers and authorities in Guinea-Bissau are aware that full adoption is required. In order to adopt, the prospective adoptive parents must have a local lawyer and meet the eligibility requirements.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: According to the Civil Code, the adoption must meet four basic criteria:

  • the adoption should benefit the child;
  • the child should be under age 14 and not emancipated;
  • the adoption must be with the full consent of the child if he/she is 14 years old or older, unless he/she is mentally disabled, and;
  • the adoptive parents must be between the ages of 25 and 60, married more than five years, and not legally or voluntarily separated.

The U.S. Government is aware of cases in which a single parent has successfully adopted an orphan.

Adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate that they have adequate financial resources (through employment, tax records, home ownership, or other assets), no criminal record, and the emotional capacity to care for the child (usually described in a home study).

Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for adoptive parents.

Time Frame: The adoption process in Guinea-Bissau can take from six months to two years to complete. Once the case has been presented to the Court (Direito da Seccao de Familia), final review and the issuance of the adoption decree typically take one to two weeks.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: There are no adoption agencies in Guinea-Bissau. Two private nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate centers for orphans and abandoned children: the SOS Village and Casa Emanuel, both in Bissau. Foreign parents have adopted orphans from the Casa Emanuel orphanage in the past. A local lawyer is required to handle all of the requisite legal paperwork. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.

Adoption Fees: The fee for issuing an adoption decree is 400,000 West African Francs (CFAF) or approximately $750. This does not include additional fees that may be incurred for the lawyer's time, translation, and other expenses. The total cost to the lawyer is approximately $1,000 to $2,000 and subject to change.

Adoption Procedures: Because relatively few foreigners have adopted Bissau-Guinean orphans, the specific procedures to adopt an orphan are unclear. In general, adopting parents have identified an orphan through the help of a foreign adoption agency and the local orphanage before presenting the supporting documents to a private lawyer, who then presents the case before the Regional Tribunal.

Required Documents:

  • Certified true copies of the adopting parent(s)' birth certificates;
  • Certified true copies of the adopting parents’ marriage certificate, if applicable;
  • Police record or certification of the lack thereof;
  • Financial documents of the adopting parents (employment records, documentation of assets, retirement and social security);
  • Home study describing the social situation of the adopting parent(s);
  • Birth certificate of the orphan;
  • Death certificate(s) of the biological parents(s), if applicable, and;
  • Statement of relinquishment of the biological parent(s), if applicable.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

American Embassy Dakar
BP 49
Avenue Jean XXIII, angle Rue Kleber Dakar, Senegal
Telephone: (221) 823-4296
Fax: (221) 822-5903
Email: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Guinea-Bissau may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Dakar. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

Guinea-Bissau

Compiled from the January 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: (including Bijagos Archipelago) 36,125 sq. km., about the size of Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Bissau. Other cities—Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim, Cacheu. Regions: Oio, Tombali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara, Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.

Terrain: Coastal plain; savanna in the east.

Climate: Tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Bissau-Guinean(s).

Population: (2005) 1,590,000.

Population growth rate: (2005) 3%.

Ethnic groups: Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, others 16%.

Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Languages: Portuguese (official), Creole, French, many indigenous languages: Balanta-Kentohe 26%; Pulaar 18%; Mandjak 12%; Mandinka 11%; Pepel 9%; Biafada 3%; Mancanha 3%; Bidyogo 2%; Ejamat 2%; Mansoanka 1%; Bainoukgunyuno 1%; Nalu 1%; Soninke 1%; Badjara 1%; Bayote 0,5%; Kobiana 0,04%; Cassanga 0,04%, Basary 0, 03%.

Education: Years compulsory—4. Literacy (2005)—39.6% of adults.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2005)—126 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2005)—45.2.

Work force: (480,000) Agriculture—85%; industry, services, and commerce—13%; government—2%.

Government

Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.

Independence: September 24, 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from Portugal).

Constitution: Adopted 1984. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution in 2001, but it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the President.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government) and Council of State, ministers and secretaries of state. Legislature—People’s National Assembly (ANP), 102 members directly elected in 2004. Judicial—Supreme Court and lower courts.

Political subdivisions: Autonomous sector of Bissau and eight regions.

Political parties: The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) [leader Carlos Domingos Gomes Jr.] won the most seats (45) in the March 2004 legislative elections. Other parties represented in the ANP include: the Party for Social Renovation (PRS) [leader Alberto Nambeia] with 35 seats, the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD) [leader Francisco Jose Fadul] with 17 seats, the Electoral Union (UE) [leader Joaquim Balde] with 2 seats, and the United Popular Alliance (APU) with one seat. Other parties include: the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-FM) [leader Salvador Tchongo], the Union for Change (UM) [leader Amin Saad], Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING) [leader Catengul Mendy], Guinean Civic Forum or (FCG) [leader Antonieta Rosa Gomes], International League for Ecological Protection (LIPE), National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) [leader Victor Mandinga], Party of National Unity (PUN) [leader Idrissa Djalo], Party of Solidarity and Employment (PST) [leader Iamcuba Indjai], Guinean Democratic Movement (MDG) [leader Silvestre Alves], Guinean Popular Party (PPG) [leader Joao Tatis Sa], Socialist Alliance (AS) [leader Fernando Gomes]. Coalitions: Platform for Unity (PU) [leader Victor Mandinga].

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP: (2005) $300 million; annual growth rate: (2005) 3.5%.

GDP per capita, purchasing power parity: (2005) $735.

Natural resources: Fish and timber. Bauxite and phosphate deposits are not exploited; offshore petroleum.

Agriculture: Products—cashews, tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil. Arable land—11%. Forested—38%.

Industry: Very little industrial capacity remains following the 1998 internal conflict. The cashew processing industry is nascent.

Trade: Exports—$100.8 million (f.o.b., 2005) cashews ($84 million, 2005), fish and shrimp ($1 million, 2005). Major markets (2004)—India 54.1%, United States 23%, Nigeria 13.7%, Italy 3.5%, Senegal 1.2%. Imports—$112 million (f.o.b., 2005) food ($49million, 2005), fuel and energy ($20 million, 2005), capital goods ($8 million, 2005). Major suppliers (2004 est.)—Senegal 45.6%, Portugal 14.2%, Netherlands 4.0%, China 3.8%, Italy 3.8%.

PEOPLE

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.

HISTORY

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but few trading posts were established before 1600. In 1630, a “captaincy-general” of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the cooperation of some local tribes, the Portuguese entered the slave trade and exported large numbers of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands. Cacheu became one of the major slave centers, and a small fort still stands in the town. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, and Bissau, originally founded as a military and slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the major commercial center.

Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the interior did not begin until the latter half of the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea to French West Africa, including the center of earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the Casamance River region. A dispute with Great Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in Portugal’s favor with the involvement of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.

Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory’s borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.

In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.

It established civilian rule in the territory under its control and held elections for a National Assembly. Portuguese forces and civilians increasingly were confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to 1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to Portugal and led the movement that brought democracy to Portugal and independence for its colonies.

Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first President of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal’s April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral’s half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira.

From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held by a provisional government responsible to a Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP) was reconstituted. The single-party assembly approved a new constitution, elected President Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a Council of State, which was the executive agent of the ANP. Under this system, the president presided over the Council of State and served as head of state and government. The president also was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986, first Vice President Paulo Correia and five others were executed for treason following a lengthy trial. In 1994, the country’s first multi-party legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising against the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a bloody civil war that created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and resulted in President Vieria having to request assistance from the governments of Senegal and Guinea, who provided troops to quell the uprising. The President was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.

Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance. On November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree. Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed until June and then October. On September 12, 2003, the President of the National Elections Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on October 12, 2003, as scheduled.

The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on September 14, 2003. President Yala announced his “voluntary” resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and a 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established.

On September 28, 2003, businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as President. He had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as Prime Minister. On March 28 and 30, 2004, Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which international observers deemed

acceptably free and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior became Prime Minister.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On August 10, 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieria was declared the winner of a July 24 presidential runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an election judged by international observers to be free and fair. President Vieria was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior refused to accept Vieira’s victory, and on October 28, Vieira dismissed Gomes and his government. Five days later, he installed former PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as Prime Minister.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/4/2006

President: Joao Bernardo VIEIRA

Prime Minister: Aristides GOMES

Min. of Administrative Reform: Jose Braima DAFE

Min. of Agriculture & Agricultural Development: Sola N’Quilin NA BITCHITA

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tradecrafts: Pascoal Batica DOMINGOS

Min. of Defense: Helder PROENCA

Min. of Economy: Issufo SANHA

Min. of Energy: Augustus POQUENA

Min. of Finance: Vitor MANDINGA

Min. of Fisheries & Maritime Economy: Abdu MANE

Min. of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, & Communities: Antonio Isaac MONTEIRO

Min. of Health: Odete SEMEDO

Min. of Interior: Dionisio CABI

Min. of International Cooperation: Tibna Nawana SAMBA

Min. of Justice: Namuano Dias GOMES

Min. of National Education & Higher Education: Tcherno DJALO

Min. of Natural Resources: Aristides Ocante DA SILVA

Min. of Planning & Regional Integration: Purna BIA

Min. of Public Health: Antonia Mendes TEIXEIRA

Min. of Public Order: Baciro DABO

Min. of Public Works: Carlos COSTA

Min. of Public Works, Construction, & Urbanism: Carlitos BARAI

Min. of Social Communication: Joao DE BARROS

Min. of Social Communication & Parliamentary Affairs: Rui Dia DE SOUSA

Min. of Social Solidarity, Family, & Poverty Eradication: Eugenia Araujo SALDANHA

Min. of Territorial Administration: Braima EMBALO

Min. of Tourism & Order of the Territory: Francisco Conduto DE PINA

Min. of Transportation & Communications: Admiro Nelson BELO

Min. of Treasury: Jose DJO

Min. of Veterans: Nhasse NA MAN

Min. of Youth, Culture, & Sports: Mario MARTINS

Ambassador to the United States:

Permanent Rep. to the UN, New York: Alfredo Lopes CABRAL

Guinea-Bissau does not have official representation in Washington, DC.

ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is among the world’s least developed nations and depends mainly on agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports some fish and seafood, although most fishing in Guinea-Bissau’s waters is presently not done by Bissau-Guineans and very little fish and seafood is processed in Guinea-Bissau. The country’s other important product is cashews. License fees for fishing provide the government with some revenue. Rice is a major crop and staple food and, if developed, Guinea-Bissau could potentially be self-sufficient in rice. Tropical fruits such as mangos could also provide more income to the country if the sector were developed. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long run.

The military conflict that took place in Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999 caused severe damage to the country’s infrastructure and widely disrupted economic activity. Agricultural production is estimated to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Cashew nut output, the main export crop, declined in 1998 by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the economic devastation caused by the conflict. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country’s structural adjustment program under International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsorship. Under the government’s post-conflict economic and financial program, implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December 2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt-service relief under the first phase of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. However, Guinea-Bissau’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Fund program with the IMF was suspended that same month—following disbursement of the first tranche—due to off-program expenditures by the Yala regime. Thus, IMF and Paris Club internal debt relief for Guinea-Bissau was also suspended in 2001. Presently, Guinea-Bissau is benefiting from World Bank and African Development Bank debt relief.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. The European Union, France, Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, People’s Republic of China, Libya, Senegal, Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, and Russia have embassies in Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau through their embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), African Union, and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of 77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO).

U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent conflict between forces loyal to then-President Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and following the Embassy closure, the United States and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations. The U.S. recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. Guinea-Bissau’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was one of the first the new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an Embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S. Ambassador presented credentials later that year.

U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million grant to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement of refugees returning to Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at African technical schools for Guinean students. Emergency food was a major element in U.S. assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has provided more than $65 million in grant aid and other assistance.

Since the 1998 war the U.S. has provided over $800,000 for humanitarian demining to a non-governmental organization (NGO) which has removed over 2,500 mines and 11,000 unexploded ordnance from the city of Bissau; $1.6 million in food aid; and nearly $3 million for assistance for refugees, improving the cashew industry, and promoting democracy.

The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an international military education and training (IMET) agreement in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S. provided English-language teaching facilities as well as communications and navigational equipment to support the navy’s coastal surveillance program. The U.S. European Command’s Humanitarian Assistance Program has assisted with $390,000 for constructing or repairing schools, health centers, and bridges.

The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in 1998 at the start of the civil war. In August 2004, sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act—which were imposed as a result of the September 2003 military coup—were lifted and Bissau once again became eligible for IMET and other direct aid.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BISSAU (BO) Address: P.O. Box 297 Bissau Codex, Bairro de Penha, Rua Ulysses Grant; APO/FPO: 2130 Dakar Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2130; Phone: 00-245-252-282; Fax: 00-245-222-273; Workweek: M-F, 0800-1700; Website: http://dakar.usembassy.gov/wwwhguineabissau.html.

AMB:Janice L. Jacobs
AMB OMS:Teresa Yata
DCM:Robert Jackson
DCM OMS:Debra Clark-Ware
POL:Gregory Holliday
MGT:Gary Mignano
DAO:Mark Deets
GSO:Peter Anthes
PAO:Claud R. Young
RSO:F. John Bray

Last Updated: 9/21/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : July 31, 2006

Country Description: Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The capital is Bissau and the official language is Portuguese. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited and not up to American standards.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required. The visa must be obtained in advance. Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry requirements and their visas from the Embassy of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. The Embassy is located at 15929 Yukon Lane, Rockville, MD 20855, or P.O. Box 33813, Washington, D.C. 20033; telephone (301) 947-3958.

Safety and Security: There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in June and July 2005, travelers should be aware that political tensions persist. Sporadic politically-motivated violence has taken place in the past two years. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

In December 2004, the Government of Senegal and some factions of the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFCD), a Senegalese separatist movement, instituted an end to hostilities and agreed to negotiate with the goal of achieving a definitive end to the armed conflict in the Casamance. This conflict has not yet been resolved, however, and its effects reach into Guinea-Bissau. In the spring of 2006, Bissau-Guinean military forces conducted offensive operations near the town of Sao Domingos to expel elements of the MFDC. The fighting reportedly resulted in dozens of military and civilian casualties, mostly from landmine explosions.

Unexploded military ordnance and landmines remain scattered throughout the country, although the capital city of Bissau was declared “mine-free” in June 2006 by the national de-mining center (CAAMI), which is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There are two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in successfully removing mines.

To minimize the risks posed by both bandits and landmines, U.S. citizens are encouraged to limit driving outside of towns to daylight hours only and to remain on well-traveled roads at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night. The lack of reliable public electricity means that urban streets are dark at night, even in Bissau. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: While modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau and travelers should not rely on them, emergency medical care may be possible at a new hospital in Bissau operated by the Sant’Egidio Community. Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available. Malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is a risk for travelers to Guinea-Bissau. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers’ Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm. Travelers are also at risk of cholera, yellow fever, dengue fever, and other tropical diseases.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and the availability of roadside assistance are all poor. There is no consistent public electricity in the capital, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving essential. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways. The landmines are scattered in several areas throughout Guinea-Bissau, including Bafata, Oio, Biombo, Quinara and Tombali regions. While there has been significant progress in locating and removing landmines, an estimated 46,000 landmines remain. Speak with local authorities first and use caution if leaving a main road or highway to enter a trail network or to make other types of cross-country movement.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Guinea Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea Bissau’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Guinea-Bissau’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. You should contact Guinea-Bissau’s representative in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.

As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau. Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a notarized copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy, so travelers should not count on using credit cards and ATMs.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Guinea Bissau laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea Bissau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Guinea Bissau are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guinea Bissau Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau remains closed. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal. The telephone number is (221) 823-4296 and the fax is (221) 822-2991. The email address is: [email protected] The web site is: http://usembassy.state.gov/dakar.

International Adoption : October 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: The U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal issues immigrant visas for Bissau-Guinean citizens, including adopted orphans. Please review carefully the information found later in this flyer regarding the immigrant visa procedures at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar. Failure to comply with the Embassy’s requirements could result in a denial of the child’s visa case.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Child Protection is responsible for intercountry adoptions in Guinea-Bissau. Adoption laws are outlined in Article 1974 of the civil code. In the adoption process, the Public Ministry will appoint a lawyer to ensure that the child’s rights are protected. The Regional Tribunal in Guinea Bissau (Juiz de Direito da Seccao de Familia, Tribunal Regional de Bissau) is the court that approves intercountry adoptions.

Types of Adoption: There are two types of adoptions in Guinea Bissau: simple adoption (adopcao restrita) and full adoption (adopcao plena). In a simple adoption, the ties of the child to his birth family cannot be definitively proven and the child may continue to have contact with his or her biological family. Simple adoptions are revocable. In contrast, full adoptions are irrevocable and are granted when one or both parents have died and any living biological parent has severed ties with the child. In these cases, the child will take the last name of the adopting parents and be considered their legitimate child. Only full adoption is recognized for U.S. immigration purposes. Adoption lawyers and authorities in Guinea-Bissau are aware that full adoption is required. In order to adopt, the prospective adoptive parents must have a local lawyer and meet the eligibility requirements.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: According to the Civil Code, the adoption must meet four basic criteria:

  • the adoption should benefit the child;
  • the child should be under age 14 and not emancipated;
  • the adoption must be with the full consent of the child if he/she is 14 years old or older, unless he/she is mentally disabled, and;
  • the adoptive parents must be between the ages of 25 and 60, married more than five years, and not legally or voluntarily separated.

The U.S. Government is aware of cases in which a single parent has successfully adopted an orphan. Adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate that they have adequate financial resources (through employment, tax records, home ownership, or other assets), no criminal record, and the emotional capacity to care for the child (usually described in a home study).

Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for adoptive parents.

Time Frame: The adoption process in Guinea-Bissau can take from six months to two years to complete. Once the case has been presented to the Court (Direito da Seccao de Familia), final review and the issuance of the adoption decree typically take one to two weeks.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: There are no adoption agencies in Guinea-Bissau. Two private nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate centers for orphans and abandoned children: the SOS Village and Casa Emanuel, both in Bissau. Foreign parents have adopted orphans from the Casa Emanuel orphanage in the past. A local lawyer is required to handle all of the requisite legal paperwork. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.

Adoption Fees: The fee for issuing an adoption decree is 400,000 West African Francs (CFAF) or approximately $750. This does not include additional fees that may be incurred for the lawyer’s time, translation, and other expenses. The total cost to the lawyer is approximately $1,000 to $2,000 and subject to change.

Adoption Procedures: Because relatively few foreigners have adopted Bissau-Guinean orphans, the specific procedures to adopt an orphan are unclear. In general, adopting parents have identified an orphan through the help of a foreign adoption agency and the local orphanage before presenting the supporting documents to a private lawyer, who then presents the case before the Regional Tribunal.

Documentary Requirements:

  • Certified true copies of the adopting parent(s)’ birth certificates;
  • Certified true copies of the adopting parents’ marriage certificate, if applicable;
  • Police record or certification of the lack thereof;
  • Financial documents of the adopting parents (employment records, documentation of assets, retirement and social security);
  • Home study describing the social situation of the adopting parent(s);
  • Birth certificate of the orphan;
  • Death certificate(s) of the biological parents(s), if applicable, and;
  • Statement of relinquishment of the biological parent(s), if applicable.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy: There is no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar provides limited assistance to American citizens living in and traveling to Guinea-Bissau.

The Consular Section is located at:
American Embassy Dakar
BP 49
Avenue Jean XXIII, angle Rue Kleberb
Dakar, Senegal
Telephone: (221) 823-4296
Fax: (221) 822-5903
Email: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Guinea-Bissau may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Dakar. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

GUINEA-BISSAU

Compiled from the January 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guinea-Bissau


PROFILE

Geography

Area: (including Bijagos Archipelago) 36,125 sq. km., about the size of Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Bissau. Other cities—Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim, Cacheu. Regions: Oio, Tombali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara, Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.

Terrain: Coastal plain; savanna in the east.

Climate: Tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Bissau-Guinean(s).

Population: (July 2004 est.) 1,388,363.

Population growth rate: 1.99%.

Ethnic groups: African 99% (Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%), European and mulatto less than 1%.

Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Languages: Portuguese (official), Creole, French, many indigenous languages: Balanta-Kentohe 26%; Pulaar 18%; Mandjak 12%; Mandinka 11%; Pepel 9%; Biafada 3%; Mancanha 3%; Bidyogo 2%; Ejamat 2%; Mansoanka 1%; Bainoukgunyuno 1%; Nalu 1%; Soninke 1%; Badjara 1%; Bayote 0,5%; Kobiana 0,04%; Cassanga 0,04%, Basary 0, 03%.

Education: Years compulsory—4. Literacy—42.4% of adults.

Health: Infant mortality rate—108.72 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—46.98 years.

Work force: (480,000) Agriculture—78%; industry, services, and commerce—14%; government—8%.

Government

Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.

Independence: September 24, 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from Portugal).

Constitution: Adopted 1984. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution in 2001, but it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the President.

Branches: Executive—president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government) and Council of State, ministers and secretaries of state. Legislature—People's National Assembly (ANP), 102 members directly elected in 2004. Judicial—Supreme Court and lower courts.

Administrative subdivisions: Autonomous sector of Bissau and eight regions.

Political parties: The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) [leader Carlos Domingos Gomes Jr.] won the most seats (45) in the March 2004 legislative elections. Other parties represented in the ANP include: the Party for Social Renovation (PRS)) [leader Alberto Nambeia] with 35 seats, the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD) [leader Francisco Jose Fadul] with 17 seats, the Electoral Union (UE) [leader Joaquim Balde] with 2 seats, and the United Popular Alliance (APU) with one seat. Other parties include: the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-FM) [leader Salvador Tchongo], the Union for Change (UM) [leader Amin Saad], Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING) [leader Catengul Mendy], Guinean Civic Forum or (FCG) [leader Antonieta Rosa Gomes], International League for Ecological Protection (LIPE), National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) [leader Victor Mandinga], Party of National Unity (PUN) [leader Idrissa Djalo], Party of Solidarity and Employment (PST) [leader Iamcuba Indjai], Guinean Democratic Movement (MDG) [leader Silvestre Alves], Guinean Popular Party (PPG) [leader Joao Tatis Sa], Socialist Alliance (AS) [leader Fernando Gomes]. Coalitions: Platform for Unity (PU) [leader Victor Mandinga].

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP: (2003 est.) $251 million; real growth rate: (2003 est.) −7%.

Per capita income: (2003 est.) $180.

Natural resources: Fish and timber. Bauxite and phosphate deposits are not exploited; offshore petroleum.

Agriculture: Products—cashews, tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil. Arable land—43%.

Industry: Very little industrial capacity remains following the 1998 internal conflict. The cashew processing industry is nascent.

Trade: Exports—$40 million (f.o.b., 2003 est.) cashews ($45.1 million, 2001 est.), cotton ($1.1 million, 2001 est.), shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber. Major markets—India 50.49%, Uruguay 19.1%, Thailand 19%, Italy 2.6% (2002). Imports—$59 million (f.o.b., 2003 est.) foodstuffs ($18.1 million, 2001 est.), machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products ($6 million, 2002 est.). Major suppliers—Senegal 19.6%, Portugal 19.1%, India 15.4%, China 4.3%, France, Netherlands (2002 est.).


PEOPLE

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.


HISTORY

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but few trading posts were established before 1600. In 1630, a "captaincy-general" of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the cooperation of some local tribes, the Portuguese entered the slave trade and exported large numbers of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands. Cacheu became one of the major slave centers, and a small fort still stands in the town. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, and Bissau, originally founded as a military and slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the major commercial center.

Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the interior did not begin until the latter half of the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea to French West Africa, including the center of earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the Casamance River region. A dispute with Great Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in Portugal's favor with the involvement of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.

Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.

In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.

It established civilian rule in the territory under its control and held elections for a National Assembly. Portuguese forces and civilians increasingly were confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to 1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to Portugal and led the movement that brought democracy to Portugal and independence for its colonies.

Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first President of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo Vieira.

From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held by a provisional government responsible to a Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP) was reconstituted. The single-party assembly approved a new constitution, elected President Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a Council of State, which was the executive agent of the ANP. Under this system, the president presided over the Council of State and served as head of state and government. The president also was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986, first Vice President Paulo Correia and five others were executed for treason following a lengthy trial. In 1994, the country's first multi-party legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising against the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a bloody civil war that created hundreds of

thousands of displaced persons. The President was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.

Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance. On November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree. Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed until June and then October. On September 12, 2003, the President of the National Elections Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on October 12, 2003, as scheduled. The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on September 14, 2003. President Yala announced his "voluntary" resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and a 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established. On September 28, 2003 businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as President. He had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as Prime Minister. On March 28 and 30, 2004, Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which international observers deemed acceptably free and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior became Prime Minister.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The country is in a transitional period. According to Guinea-Bissau's constitution, last modified in 1993, and the Pact of Transition, the newly selected prime minister serves as the head of government, but President Henrique Pereira Rosa will continue in his capacity as head of state until April 2005, when a presidential election must be held. Tasks facing the new government include determining whether to modify the April 2001 constitution before the President promulgates it.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 6/21/04

President: Rosa , Henrique
Prime Minister: Gomes , Jr. Carlos
Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: de Carvalho , Joao
Min. of Economy & Finance: Fadia , Joao Amadu
Min. of Education: Barbeiro , Marciano Silva
Min. of Energy & Natural Resources: Kabi , Martinho Ndafa
Min. of Fisheries: Embalo , Helena Nosolini
Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Sambu , Soares
Min. of Health: Semedo , Odete
Min. of Industry, Tourism, & Trade: Sanha , Issuf
Min. of Interior: Seidi , Lassana
Min. of Internal Administration:
Min. of Justice: Perreira , Raimundo
Min. of Public Works: Perreira , Marcelino Simoes
Min. of Social Solidarity & Anti-Poverty: Saldanha , Eugenia Araujo
Min. of Territorial Administration, State Reforms, Civil Service, & Labor: Gomes , Aristides
Min. of Transport & Communications: Araujo , Rui Perreira
Min. in Charge of Cabinet & Parliamentary Relations: de Pina , Filomeno Lobo
Sec. of State for Budget, Treasury, & Taxes: Correia , Jr. Francisco
Sec. of State for Civil Service & Labor: Balde , Carlos Mussa
Sec. of State for Combat Veterans: Buscardini , Isabel
Sec. of State for Energy: Danfa , Wasna Papai
Sec. of State for Planing & Regional Integration: Andrade , Carlos Alberto
Sec. of State for Tourism: Soares , Lurdes
Sec. of State for Youth, Culture, & Sport: Barboza , Ruspicio Marcelino
Ambassador to the United States: Permanent Rep. to the UN, New York:

Guinea-Bissau does not have official representation in Washington, DC. For routine information, travelers can contact Guinea-Bissau's representative in Washington, Henrique Da Silva, at P.O. Box 33813, Washington, DC 20033, (301) 947-3958 main/fax. The Mission of Guinea-Bissau to the United Nations does not have a physical office in New York City.


ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least developed nations and depends mainly on agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports some fish and seafood, although most fishing in Guinea-Bissau's waters is presently not done by Bissau-Guineans and very little fish and seafood is processed in Guinea-Bissau. The country's other important product is cashews. License fees for fishing provide the government with some revenue. Rice is a major crop and staple food and, if developed, Guinea-Bissau could potentially be self-sufficient in rice. Tropical fruits such as mangos could also provide more income to the country if the sector were developed. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long run.

The military conflict that took place in Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999 caused severe damage to the country's infrastructure and widely disrupted economic activity. Agricultural production is estimated to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Cashew nut output, the main export crop, declined in 1998 by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the economic devastation caused by the conflict. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsorship. Under the government's post-conflict economic and financial program, implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December 2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt-service relief under the first phase of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. However, Guinea-Bissau's Poverty Reduction and Growth Fund program with the IMF was suspended that same month—following disbursement of the first tranche—due to off-program expenditures by the Yala regime. Thus, IMF and Paris Club internal debt relief for Guinea-Bissau was also suspended in 2001. Presently, Guinea-Bissau is benefiting from World Bank and African Development Bank debt relief.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. The European Union, France, Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, People's Republic of China, Libya, Senegal, Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, and Russia have embassies in Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau through their embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of African Unity (OAU—now the African Union), and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of 77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO).


U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent conflict between forces loyal to then-President Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and following the Embassy closure, the United States and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations.

The U.S. recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. Guinea-Bissau's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was one of the first the new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an Embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S. Ambassador presented credentials later that year.

U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million grant to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement of refugees returning to Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at African technical schools for Guinean students. Emergency food was a major element in U.S. assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has provided more than $65 million in grant aid and other assistance.

Since the 1998 war the U.S. has provided over $800,000 for humanitarian demining to a non-governmental organization (NGO) which has removed over 2,500 mines and 11,000 unexploded ordnance from the city of Bissau; $1.6 million in food aid; and nearly $3 million for assistance for refugees, improving the cashew industry, and promoting democracy.

The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an international military education and training (IMET) agreement in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S. provided English-language teaching facilities as well as communications and navigational equipment to support the navy's coastal surveillance program. The U.S. European Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program has assisted with $390,000 for constructing or repairing schools, health centers, and bridges.

The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in 1998 at the start of the civil war.

In August 2004, sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act—which were imposed as a result of the September 2003 military coup—were lifted and Bissau once again became eligible for IMET and other direct aid.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BISSAU (BO) Address: P.O. Box 297 Bissau Codex, Bairro de Penha, Rua Ulysses Grant; APO/FPO: 2130 Dakar Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2130; Phone: 00-245-252-282; Fax: 00-245-222-273; Workweek: M–F, 0800-1700; Website: http://dakar.usembassy.gov/wwwhguineabissau.html

AMB:Richard Alan Roth
DCM:Robert Jackson
POL:Seiji T Shiratori
MGT:Gary Mignano
DAO:Scott Womack
GSO:Frank Shields
Last Updated: 12/9/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 20, 2004

Country Description: Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The country under-went a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited. The primary language is Portuguese. The capital is Bissau.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required. The visa must be obtained in advance. The Embassy of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau in Washington, D.C., is closed. Those needing visas should call (or fax requests to) Guinea-Bissau's representative in the U.S. at (301) 947-3958 or (202) 361-9852.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all of Guinea-Bissau's laws affecting U.S. citizens, individuals who also possess the nationality of Guinea-Bissau may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Safety and Security: There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While U.S. officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar maintains an office in Bissau, staffed by local employees (tel: 00-245-25-2273 or 00-245-720-1560). The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and a new government came into office on May 12, 2004, travelers should be aware that the political situation, though gaining stability, is still in a period of transition. The United Nations currently has restrictions on travel to the northwest regions of the country, which border on Senegal's Casamance region. It is recommended that travelers crossing the Senegalese frontier utilize crossing points east of Cambaju. Land-mines remain scattered throughout the country. The UN office in Bissau is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There are two NGOs active in successfully removing mines. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328.

Crime: Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while oveseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Business Fraud: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Guinea-Bissau. The frauds pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably from Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money. Another typical ploy involves persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Guinea-Bissau should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Advance Fee Business Scams, available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Modern medical facilities are virtually non-existent in Guinea-Bissau and should not be relied on by travelers. Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or auto-fax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Chloroquine resistant P. falciparum malaria is a severe form of the disease that is found in many parts of western Africa, including Guinea-Bissau. Because travelers to Guinea-Bissau are at high risk for contracting malaria they should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariamtm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone – tm). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarials, visit the CDC's Traveler's Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea-Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

There are frequent power outages in the capital, Bissau, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving necessary. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_road-safety.html.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Guinea-Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea-Bissau's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

Customs Regulations: Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guinea-Bissau of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. It is advisable to contact Guinea-Bissau's representative in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements. (Please see contact information in the above section on Entry Requirements.) In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found here.

Photography Restrictions: Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Guinea-Bissau's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Consular Access: As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau. Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Currency: Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

Registration/Embassy Location: The U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau remains closed. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal. The telephone number is (221) 823-4296 and fax (221) 822-2991. The e-mail address is: [email protected]

views updated

GUINEA-BISSAU

Compiled from the September 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE

Geography

Area: (including Bijagos Archipelago) 36,125 sq. km., about one-third the size of Indiana.

Cities: Capital—Bissau. Other cities—Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo.

Terrain: Coastal plain; savanna in the east.

Climate: Tropical.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Guinean(s).

Population: (est. 2001) 1.3 million.

Annual growth rate: (est. 2001) 2.23%.

Ethnic groups: Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinka 13%, Papel 7%.

Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Languages: Portuguese (official), Creole, French, many indigenous languages, including Mandinka and Fula.

Education: Years compulsory—4. Literacy—34% of adults.

Health: Infant mortality rate—130/1,000. Life expectancy—44 years.

Work force: (480,000) Agriculture—78%; industry, services, and commerce—14%; government—8%.

Government

Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.

Independence: September 24, 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from Portugal). Constitution: Adopted 1984. The National Assembly adopted a new Constitution in 2001, but it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the President.

Branches: Executive—president (chief of state and head of government), prime minister and council of state, ministers and secretaries of state. Legislature—People's National Assembly (ANP), 102 members directly elected in 1999. Judicial—Supreme Court and lower courts.

Administrative subdivisions: Autonomous sector of Bissau and eight regions. Political Parties: The Party for Social Renovation (PRS) was the ruling party until the September 14 military intervention. Other parties are the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC); the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-FM); the Union for Change (UM); Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING); Guinean Civic Forum or (FCG); International League for Ecological Protection (LIPE); National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP); Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD); and the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.


Economy

GDP: (2000 est.): $201 million; real growth rate: (2000 est.) 7.6%.

Per capita income: (2000 est.) $173.

Natural resources: Fish and timber. Bauxite and phosphate deposits are not exploited; possible offshore petroleum.

Agriculture: Products—cashews, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil. Arable land—43%.

Industry: Very little industrial capacity remains from the 1998 internal conflict.

Trade: Exports—$80 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.) cashews (70%), shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber. Major markets—India 59%, Singapore 12%, Italy 10% (1998). Imports—$55.2 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.) foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products. Major suppliers—Portugal 26%, France 8%, Senegal 8%, Netherlands 7% (1998).




PEOPLE

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka-speaker concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.




HISTORY

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but few trading posts were established before 1600. In 1630, a "captaincy-general" of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the cooperation of some local tribes, the Portuguese entered the slave trade and exported large numbers of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands. Cacheu became one of the major slave centers, and a small fort still stands in the town. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, and Bissau, originally founded as a military and slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the major commercial center.


Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the interior did not begin until the latter half of the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea to French West Africa, including the center of earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the Casamance River region. A dispute with Great Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in Portugal's favor with the involvement of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.


Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.

In 1956, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was organized clandestinely by Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.


It established civilian rule in the territory under its control and held elections for a National Assembly. Portuguese forces and civilians increasingly were confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to 1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to Portugal and led the movement which brought democracy to Portugal and independence for its colonies.


Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first president of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coupled by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo Vieira.


From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held by a provisional government responsible to a Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP) was reconstituted. The single-party assembly approved a new constitution, elected President Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a Council of State, which was the executive agent of the ANP. Under this system, the president presides over the Council of State and serves as head of state and government. The president also was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986, first Vice President Paulo Correia and five others were executed for treason following a lengthy trial. In 1994, the country's first multi-party legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising against the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a bloody civil war that created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. The president was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.


Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding three years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance. On November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree until the September 14 military intervention. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and for the Supreme Court to choose its own leadership; however, it was subject to political influence and corruption, and was undermined when President Yala replaced the President of the Supreme Court on two occasions in 2002.

Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April, but later postponed until June and then October. On September 12, the President of the National Electoral Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on October 12 as scheduled. The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on September 14. President Yala announced his "voluntary" resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established. On September 28, businessman Henrique Rosa, was sworn-in as President. He had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn-in as Prime Minister.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The country is in a transitional period. An ad-hoc committee prepared a pact to form a transitional government. Their goals are to hold Supreme Court elections, organize legislative and presidential elections, and promulgate the new Constitution (adopted in 2001). Most Guineans support this transitional government and its effort to return to the rule of law and rebuild political institutions. However, it is uncertain how long this process will take and whether the transitional government has the capacity to accomplish its stated goals.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 12/4/03


President: Rosa, Henrique

Prime Minister:

Min. of Agriculture, Forestry, & Livestock:

Min. of Economy & Finance:

Min. of Education:

Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Monteiro, Joao

Min. of Internal Administration:

Min. of Justice:

Min. of National Defense:

Min. of Media & Parliamentary Affairs:

Min. of Public Administration & Labor:

Min. of Public Health:

Min. of Public Works:

Ambassador to the US:

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

Guinea-Bissau does not have official representation in Washington. The Mission of Guinea-Bissau to the United Nations is located at 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 604, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-611-3977).




ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least developed nations and depends mainly on agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports some fish and seafood, along with small amounts of peanuts, palm kernels, and timber. License fees for fishing provide the government with some revenue. Rice is the major crop and staple food. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a nearterm prospect. However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long run.


The military conflict that took place in Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999 caused severe damage to the country's infrastructure and widely disrupted economic activity. Agricultural production is estimated to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in GDP in 1998. Cashew nut output, the main export crop, declined in 1998 by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the economic devastation caused by the conflict. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under IMF sponsorship. Under the government's post-conflict economic and financial program, implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December 2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt-service relief under the first phase of the enhanced HIPC initiative.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. France, Portugal, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, Taiwan, Libya, Cuba, Sweden, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Russia have diplomatic offices in Bissau.


Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AF DB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of African Unity (OAU), and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the G-77, ICAO, FAO and WHO.




U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

The U.S. embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent conflict between forces loyal to then-President Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and following the embassy closure, the United States and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations. The U.S. recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. Guinea-Bissau's ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was one of the first the new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S. ambassador presented credentials later that year.


U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million grant to the UN High


Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement of refugees returning to Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at African technical schools for Guinean students. Emergency food was a major element in U.S. assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has provided more than $65 million in grant aid and other assistance.


At the time of the closure of the U.S. embassy in Bissau, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to the country was less than $5 million per year. It focused primarily on increasing sustainable private sector economic activity in Guinea-Bissau's critical growth sectors through USAID's TIPS program, which covered the production, processing, and marketing of cashews, rice, fruits, and vegetables as well as fish and forest products. Removing legal, regulatory, and judicial constraints to private sector activity also as a goal of U.S. assistance. In 2001, USAID re-started its TIPS program using $1.6m in funding remaining from the preconflict period. This assistance includes programs for "peacebuilding" and cashew processing. Also in 2001, the State Department approved $250,000 in Economic Support Funds for Guinea-Bissau, which was used to fund good governance programs for the legislature and the judiciary.

The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an international military training agreement (IMET) in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S. provided English-language teaching facilities as well as communications and navigational equipment to support the navy's coastal surveillance program. The IMET program ceased in 1998.


The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in 1998 at the start of the civil war.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Operations temporarily suspended. All official U.S. contact with Guinea-Bissau is handled by the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.


Dakar (E), B.P. 49, Avenue Jean XXIII, Tel [221] 823-4296 or 823-7384, Fax 822-2991; AID Tel 869-6100, Fax 869-6101; E-mail user last name and initials, i.e. [email protected]

AMB: Richard A. Roth
AMB OMS: Denise DaSilva
DCM: Alan B. C. Latimer
POL: Christopher Rochester
ECO: Tim Forsyth
RCON: Andrew Passen
MGT: Paul Pometto
RSO: Joseph Davison
PAO: Michael Pelletier
IMO: David Fleming
ODC: MAJ Keith Lynch
RMO: Dr. Nancy Manahan
AID: Donald Clark
DEA: Andre Kellum (res. Lagos)
RIG: Lee Jewel
DAO: LTC Paul Simoneau, USMC
AGR: Joe Lopez (res. Abidjan)
IPO: James D. Matthews
FAA: Edward Jones
LAB: Anthony C. Newton (res. Wash., D.C.)
RELO: Kay Davis
IRS: Marlene M. Sartipi, Acting (res. Paris)
TREAS: William Baldridge


Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet
February 3, 2004


Country Description: Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited. The primary language is Portuguese. The capital is Bissau.


Entry Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required. The visa must be obtained in advance. The Embassy of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau in Washington, D.C., is closed. Those needing visas should call (or fax requests to) Guinea-Bissau's representative in the U.S. at (301) 947-3958.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all of Guinea-Bissau's laws affecting U.S. citizens, individuals who also possess the nationality of Guinea-Bissau may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.


Safety and Security: There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While U.S. officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The U.S. Embassy in Dakar maintains an Office in Bissau, staffed by two local employees (tel: 245-25-2273). The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999, travelers should be aware that the political situation, though gaining stability, is still in a period of transition since the coup of September 14, 2003. Elections are scheduled for March 28, 2004. The United Nations currently has restrictions on travel to the northwest regions of the country, which border on Senegal's Casamance region. It is recommended that travelers crossing the Senegalese frontier utilize crossing points east of Cambaju. Landmines remain scattered throughout the country. The UN office in Bissau is responsible for demining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There is also an NGO active in successfully removing mines. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.


Crime: Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pick pocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Business Fraud: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Guinea-Bissau. The frauds pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.


Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably from Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money. Another typical ploy involves persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash. Other variations include what appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Guinea-Bissau should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Advance Fee Business Scams, available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Modern medical facilities are virtually non-existent in Guinea-Bissau and should not be relied on by travelers. Every day, Monday to Saturday, there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.


Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Chloroquine resistant P. falci parum malaria is a severe form of the disease that is found in many parts of western Africa, including Guinea-Bissau. Because travelers to Guinea-Bissau are at high risk for contracting malaria they should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycy cline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarials, visit the CDC's traveler's health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea-Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


There are frequent power outages in the capital, Bissau, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving necessary. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Guinea-Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea-Bissau's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.intl.faa.gov.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.


Customs Regulations: Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guinea-Bissau of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. It is advisable to contact Guinea-Bissau's representative in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements. (Please see contact information in the above section on Entry Requirements.)


Photography Restrictions: Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Guinea-Bissau's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Consular Access: As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau. Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Currency: Guine a-Bissau has a cash-only economy and uses the Communauté Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc, the currency used by the majority of francophone Africa.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.


Registration/Embassy Location: The U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau remains closed. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal. The telephone number is (221) 823-4296 and fax (221) 822-2991. The e-mail address is: [email protected]

views updated

GUINEA-BISSAU

Guinea-Bissau

Major City:
Bissau

Other Cities:
Bafata, Bolama, Cacheu, Farim, Gabú, Mansôa

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated April 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of GUINEA-BISSAU , an enclave between Senegal in the north and northwest of Africa, and Guinea in the southeast, is an independent state once known as Portuguese Guinea. This small overseas province, discovered in 1446, was a center for slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Guinea-Bissau's remarkably successful struggle for autonomy, twenty years in the making, was achieved in 1974 when its former colonial power recognized it as a republic. That year, it became a member of the United Nations. Representatives of Guinea-Bissau serve as members of several of the specialized agencies within that international body.

MAJOR CITY

Bissau

Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, was founded in 1692. Its population is approximately 233,000. The city, located on the Geba River where it meets the South Atlantic Ocean, is 400 miles south of Dakar, Senegal, and 200 miles south of Banjul, The Gambia. Bissau has low, Portuguese-style buildings and mango tree-lined streets.

Food

In recent years the food situation has improved dramatically in Bissau. Frozen and fresh fish and shrimp of good quality are generally available year round. Oysters can be found in season. Seafood is not expensive by international standards. Frozen, imported meat arrives monthly. Fresh vegetables, eggs, and fruits are available in the local markets. Normally, one may purchase green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, kale, green and red peppers, and a variety of other vegetables. Flour, sugar, and dried whole milk are almost always available. Several stores offer a variety of imported cheese, processed meats, canned goods, and bottled products. Local butcher shops sell cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Soft drinks, beer, wines, selected liquors, soap products, and other household items are always available, at prices considerably higher than for similar products purchased in Europe or the U.S. In season, tropical fruits, such as mango, papaya, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, limes, and pineapple are available on the local market.

Clothing

For men, suits and ties are worn on special occasions. For women, such occasions generally require Western-or African-style dresses. Gloves are not worn. Guineans dress informally in open, short-sleeved shirts and slacks during the normal business day. Safari suits are also very popular. Women generally wear informal cotton dresses or skirt/slacks and blouse to the office. People tend to stick to cotton fabrics as the humid, hot conditions make polyester materials uncomfortable. Also, cotton does not require dry-cleaning, which is nonexistent. Some local tailoring is available and reasonably priced, but quality is uneven. Those having something made usually supply the material and pattern. Ready-made items, although available, generally are not suitable for most American tastes.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Local sundries are unreliable.

Basic Services: Dry-cleaning does not exist. Shoe repair is not very satisfactory. Bissau has a few barbers and hairdressers.

Religious Activities

Bissau has three Catholic churches where Mass is held on Sundays: the venerable Bissau Cathedral in the downtown area (in Portuguese), the newer church on the airport road (also in Portuguese), and another Catholic church in one of the town's suburbs (in Crioulo). Bissau has several mosques, but no synagogues.

Education

Bissau offers no educational facilities with English as the language of instruction. Almost all primary and secondary education is in Portuguese and Crioulo. Two French schools also operate in the primary grades, with monitors supervising study lessons, which are forwarded to France for correction and comments.

The Portuguese Embassy and the Brazilian Cultural Center sponsor Portuguese language classes; the Alliance Francaise offers French-language lessons.

Sports

Guineans love soccer. Games are scheduled at one of the two major stadiums virtually every weekend and are well attended.

Guineans and a number of foreigners play tennis at a variety of skill levels on the other five tennis courts in Bissau. Tennis lessons can be arranged with one of several keen Guinean players at a reasonable cost. A number of foreign volunteers and Guineans play volleyball during the weekend, usually later in the afternoon when the heat abates. Local play and travel to the annual softball tournament in Dakar are possibilities. Many people in Bissau spend their weekends traveling to favorite fishing spots to cast for a variety of saltwater species of fish. For those who like to get close to nature, there are bird-watching opportunities outside Bissau.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The Island of Bubaque is the most well developed within the archipelago off the coast, with an airstrip and paved road linking a hotel with a lovely beach, 10 kilometers away. Weekend packages can be arranged, covering lodging, meals, and transportation to and from the beach. Erratic schedules of water transport to and from the island and irregular flights are constraints to further development of tourism on other islands. One of the country's best mainland beaches is Varela, in the northwesternmost corner of the country, just south of the Senegalese border. The trip from Bissau takes about 4 hours, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended for the trip because of the ferry crossings. The pristine beach is not developed and there is only one rudimentary hotel. Campers must take all their own food and equipment, including drinking water. A number of Guineans and foreigners make the trip to Varela to enjoy long weekends or holidays.

Nearer Bissau is a small beach called Biombo, offering fishing and swimming; the road is paved until the last few miles. Just 20 minutes from Bissau is Quinhamel, a pleasant spot for swimming, picnicking, or fishing; a small restaurant offers tasty food at reasonable prices.

Driving into Guinea-Bissau's interior, one can find primitive camping and swimming at Saltinho and Cusselinta, both river rapids areas approximately a 2-hour drive from Bissau on paved roads. A new tourist camp near Saltinho has good food and comfortable lodging.

The trip by road to Ziguinchor in southern Senegal takes 4-5 hours. This principal town in the Casamance Region of the country has a number of good hotels and restaurants. From Ziguinchor, 1 hour's drive west, is the coastal resort of Cap Skirring, which boasts an excellent beach and many fine hotels, including a huge Club Mediterranean with an array of facilities.

From October to May the "Africa Queen," a French-registered ship, which sleeps 35, offers 3-7 day cruises from Bissau in the Bijagos Archipelago. The trips are popular with both visiting French tourists and the local international community.

Entertainment

The French Cultural Center offers a wide range of activities, including concerts, art exhibits, film showings, and lectures, all at reasonable cost; the center also has a lending library.

The Hotti Hotel offers outdoor dinner and dancing next to its swimming pool on weekends during the dry season. In recent years a number of new restaurants which offer a variety of cuisine-French, Cape Ver-dean, Italian, Lebanese, and Portuguese, have sprung up.

Discos are popular with the younger crowd and usually come to life after 11 pm. The most popular of them are Cabana, Tropicana, O Rio, and Ponto Neto.

Social Activities

Among Americans: The small American community consists primarily of official U.S. Government personnel and their dependents, plus Peace Corps volunteers. A number of American citizen contractors and consultants also come through Bissau, either associated with A.I.D. activities or with other donor organization projects.

Informal contact among Americans is frequent.

International Contacts: Guineans are among the friendliest people in Africa. A growing number have been educated in the U.S. and bring back warm memories of their time there, as well as fluency in English. A larger number know French, in addition to Portuguese.

The international community consists of members of a dozen foreign embassies plus the various international organizations. Social activities generally depend on the preference of the host. Luncheons, small sit-down dinners, buffets, and larger cocktail receptions are common.

OTHER CITIES

Located in the east-central part of the country, BAFATA lies along the Geba River and is an important trading center. The growing of peanuts and livestock raising are the main economic pursuits in the town and surrounding area.

BOLAMA is a port town and capital of Guinea until 1941. Situated on the southeast side of the Ilha de Bolama, between the mainland and the Bijagós Islands, the town has been declining in importance since the 1940s. The opening of a foot-wear factory in the early 1980s was a major economic boost to Bolama.

CACHEU has flourished and declined with the West African slave trade. Situated in the northwestern part of the country on the south bank of the Rio Cacheu, it gained prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries. When the slave trade dwindled in the early 19th century and Bolama became Guinea-Bissau's capital, Cacheu's importance diminished. In the late 1970s, phosphate deposits were found nearby, spurring hopes of growth. Today it is a small port town, as well as a market center where local farmers sell coconuts, palm oil, and rice. Subsistence crops such as millet, corn, and sorghum are grown near Cacheu.

The northern town of FARIM is a marketing center for peanuts and livestock. Significant phosphate deposits have been located near Farim, but have yet to be exploited.

GABÚ in eastern Guinea-Bissau, is home to the Fulani people. Situated along the Colufe River, Gabú is an agricultural center. Peanuts are the principal crop of the region.

MANSÔA is a town situated in central Guinea-Bissau. Areas surrounding Mansôa are known for their forests and rice production. Attempts have been made to develop sugar plantations near Mansôa.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a small nation on the African West Coast bounded on the north by Senegal, and to the south and east by the Republic of Guinea (Conakry). Its 36,000-square-kilometer area rises from a low coastal plain in the south to forested plains in the center of the nation and a low plateau in the northwest. Guinea-Bissau also extends through the Bijagos Archipelago, a series of scenic islands off the west coast.

The country is cut by many rivers and the sea encroaches deeply into the interior. Major rivers are the Corubal, Cacheu, Mansoa, Geba, and the Rio Grande de Buba.

Guinea-Bissau is a tropical country with only two seasons. The wet season extends from June to October and the dry season from November to May.

Average annual rainfall is 1,000-2,000 mm (49-80 inches). Usual temperatures range from 75°F to 90°F.

Population

The population of Guinea-Bissau was estimated at 1.3 million in 2000. Bissau, the capital, is estimated to have a population of 233,000. Other population centers of Bafata, Gabu, and Canchungo have 10-20,000 inhabitants. The majority of the people live in small villages. Ethnic groups include the Balanta, Fula, Manjaco, Mandinga, and Papel.

Portuguese is the official language; Crioulo, a mixture of Portuguese and various African languages, is the lingua franca. Each ethnic group also retains its own language, customs, and social life in rural areas.

50 percent of the people are ani-mists and follow traditional African religions. Moslems comprise about 45 percent and are concentrated in the Fula and Mandinga areas in the northeast. Some 5 percent of the population is Christian, with Roman Catholic the largest denomination. Several Protestant churches are also represented.

Public Institutions

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Although the nominal rulers of Guinea-Bissau for 500 years, the Portuguese did not have a major impact on the country beyond giving it its official language. Even today, most of Guinea-Bissau's inhabitants live in traditional African societies, almost untouched by the outside world.

The independence movement was born in 1956 with the formation of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the country's current ruling party. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to neighboring Conakry in 1960 and initiated armed rebellion in 1963. Despite the presence of more than 35,000 Portuguese troops, the PAIGC had gained control over much of the country by 1972 and unilaterally declared independence on September 24, 1973. Hostilities in Guinea-Bissau ended in 1974, following the April revolution in Portugal. Guinea-Bissau gained formal independence in September 1974.

Amilcar Cabral, the founder of the independence movement and its widely respected leader throughout "The Struggle," was assassinated under mysterious circumstances in Conakry in 1973. Today, his picture is displayed in every government office in Guinea-Bissau, his birthday is a national holiday, and the country's leadership is still dominated by his disciples.

At independence, the new government adopted an essentially Marxist philosophy, emphasizing government control of the economy. By 1980, the economy had failed to improve and complaints against the Cape Verdean-dominated government were widespread. A successful coup d'etat with support from the armed forces, ousted President Luis Cabral in November 1980. The leader of the coup, Prime Minister Joao Bernardo Vieira, was awarded the Presidency and has ruled Guinea-Bissau ever since.

In 1984 a new Constitution, which continued the tradition of a single legal political party, was approved by the one-party legislature. By the mid-1980s the paralysis of the statist economic system led to broad economic reforms; in 1989 the ruling PAIGC under the direction of President Vieira began to outline a political liberalization program which the legislature approved in 1991. Under the revised constitution, multiple political parties were legalized, freedom of the press was recognized, and independent trade unions given the right to strike. There are 13 recognized political parties.

Guinea-Bissau's first multi-party elections were held in July and August 1994 and were judged free and fair by all international observers. Elctions were once again held in 1999, when Koumba Yala of the Social Renewal Party (PRS) won the presidency and his party gained a majority in the legislature. The term for President is 5 years and for members of the legislature, 4 years.

The President selects, with the advice of the various political parties, a Prime Minister, who heads the government and presides over the Cabinet (currently 26 ministers and Secretaries of State). The President currently appoints judges, but under the revised Constitution the independence of the judiciary should be enhanced through judicial selections made by a panel of senior judges with Presidential concurrence.

The President appoints mayors, called presidents of the council, for the major urban areas. The country is divided into eight regions, plus the capital area.

Arts, Science, and Education

Except for local artisans working in traditional modes, such as weaving lengths of fabric called "panos," arts and sciences are extremely limited. A few local outlets, including a church-run artisans' workshop, sell African arts and crafts, which are mostly wood carvings and masks.

Education is primarily a function of the central government and remains one of the country's major problem areas. In a country where the great majority of the population live in dispersed rural settlements, schools compete with the agricultural industry to attract students. There are shortages of educational facilities, teachers and supplies. The suitability of Portuguese as the initial language of instruction, instead of Crioulo or indigenous languages, has long been debated without resolution. An estimated 70 percent of the population remains illiterate in any language.

Beyond secondary school, there is a law faculty affiliated with Lisbon University, a 3-year secondary teacher training college; a medical faculty relying on Cuban doctors and curriculum, nurses' and medical technicians' training facilities (these three health facilities are to be merged in the near future), and a 3-year accounting/public administration course granting a technical mid-level degree. The Catholic Church also runs a seminary.

Commerce and Industry

Guinea-Bissau is one of the twenty the 20 poorest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of about $850. Over 60 percent of economic activity is informal and is not reflected in statistics. The economy is dominated by subsistence farming. Commercial farming includes cashews, peanuts and palm kernels. USAID projects include local processing of cashew nuts and improving mango production for export. Guinea-Bissau is the world's sixth largest cashew producing country. Cashews comprise 70 percent of product exports, generating over $20 million in 1994, double the revenue earned from fishing licenses. Some fishing license agreements are being renegotiated to reduce over-fishing and provide more revenue. Although rice production has increased, imports of this staple remain high. Crops for domestic consumption include rice, millet, maize, sorghum, beans, cassava, manioc, and vegetables, as well as bananas and other fruits.

The nation is completing the transition to a market economy. The state no longer dominates either the productive or service sectors, having abolished state marketing boards, privatized some companies, ended price controls (except on petroleum), passed a new investment law, and adopted laws and procedures to facilitate private economic activity. Transport, commerce, and service sector responses to these changes have been very positive.

The most successful aspects of Guinea-Bissau's structural adjustment program have been in trade reform and price liberalization. A military conflict between the government and a military junta in 1998 and 1999 caused a major decline in economic activity. The GDP has begun to recover since, and the country saw 7.6 percent growth in 2000. Guinea-Bissau has one of the heaviest debt burdens in the world. External debt is over US$600 million; a debt to GDP ratio of 300 percent. A Paris Club rescheduling of bilateral debt in February 1995 reduced debt service payments and improved the economic climate.

Transportation

Local

Traffic outside the capital in Guinea-Bissau is light, though one must be watchful for people, cattle, pigs, goats, or chickens suddenly crossing the road. Within Bissau, as the economic reform program has begun to take effect, commercial activity and traffic have increased. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is only one main road into town from the airport.

Throughout Guinea-Bissau and especially in the capital, defensive driving is a must! Pedestrians wander at will, without regard for vehicular traffic. Most local drivers are first-generation, with little experience. Motorists must be prepared for all kinds of unpredictable behavior, from stopping suddenly in the middle of the road to pick someone up, to dangerous maneuvers at excessive speeds which cause many accidents in the country. A related problem is caused by failure to impose effective motor vehicle inspection standards. Many cars and trucks simply are not road worthy, lacking rearview mirrors, lights, or windshields. The presence of these unsafe vehicles on the roads and highways of the country offers an additional challenge to the motorist in Guinea-Bissau.

Although inexpensive, buses are usually crowded and not reliable in terms of a regular schedule. Taxis are generally available, except late in the evening or in the predawn morning hours. They are "communal" in the sense drivers pick up passengers until the car's capacity is reached, dropping customers off along the way while proceeding in the general direction you want to go.

Regional

Guinea-Bissau has no railroads. Travel between towns is normally by "bush taxi," the ubiquitous enclosed trucks which have equipped the rear end with benches. People are squeezed in like sardines and transported to where they want to get off. Bush taxis are cheap, but only the hardy wishing to gain intimate contact with the sights, sounds, and smells of the country choose this mode of transportation.

Most major roads are paved and one can easily travel overland to Senegal and The Gambia. Roads in Guinea-Conakry are poor, but the trip from Bissau to Conakry can be made in the dry season. Many secondary roads in Guinea-Bissau are impassable during the rainy season.

Travelers must have valid entry visas for The Gambia and Guinea-Conakry.

Air service to and from Bissau is available from Europe and neighboring countries. T.A.P. (Air Portugal) operates a weekly flight from Lisbon. Air Bissau and Air Afrique jointly operate a weekly flight from Paris via Bamako. Flights are available 4 days a week to and from Dakar on Air Senegal or Air Bissau. Other flights are scheduled during the week which link Conakry, Banjul, and Praia with Bissau.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service is not up to U.S. standards. Individuals can expect their telephones to be out of service for several days per year. It is not always easy to telephone from the capital to other parts of the country.

However, international service is reliable, and it is easy to call Europe or the U.S. from Bissau. International direct dial was instituted in the country a few years ago. The costs are high, but connections are quick and usually very good. However, not all countries can dial direct into Guinea-Bissau. Telephone calls to Bissau from Europe and other African countries can be difficult.

Telegraphic links also are adequate.

Radio and TV

Guinea-Bissau's TV station began broadcasting in 1989 and now broadcasts up to 8 hours daily. Most TV programs are in Portuguese, though often U.S. films are aired in English, with Portuguese subtitles.

Local TV operates using the European system (PAL).

A shortwave radio receiver is another item travelers cannot do without. VOA, BBC, and other international broadcasters beam strong signals into Guinea-Bissau in the morning and evening hours.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Guinea-Bissau's Government-owned newspaper, No Pintcha, and several independent papers appear irregularly. Some foreign publications, including the International Herald Tribune and the Economist, can be purchased at the local book shop and arrive within a week of publication. A number of Portuguese and Brazilian newspapers can be found on a regular basis.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Guinea-Bissau has one of the poorest medical systems in the world. Local medical providers are, in most cases, competent, but due to limited facilities and supplies are unable to manage problems at a Western level of care. Only the most basic diagnostic tests can be done in country. Therefore, the need for medical evacuation to more appropriate medical facilities is frequent.

Community Health

Travelers are encouraged to receive all immunizations recommended by Medical Services prior to arriving in Bissau.

Malaria is a constant threat in Guinea-Bissau, and everyone should take steps to prevent it. Primary prevention (how not to get bit by mosquitoes) is at the forefront of the malaria battle. Keeping screens in good shape and using bed nets is also encouraged. Bring plenty of insect repellant (DEET based). In addition, individuals should start malaria prophylaxis prior to arriving in Bissau. The most effective malarial prophylaxis is mefloquine.

Preventive Measures

All water in Guinea-Bissau must be boiled or chemically treated prior to consumption. Bottled water and drinks are readily available in restaurants and markets. All fruits and vegetables must be cooked or chemically treated prior to eating. Meats, seafood, and poultry need to be well cooked. Fresh milk is difficult to find and requires boiling, but powdered and heat-treated milk are available.

Although some over-the-counter medications and supplies are available in Bissau, the brand selection, compared to the U.S. is limited, costly, and unfamiliar. Those coming to Guinea-Bissau should ship or bring most items normally found in their medicine cabinets. As Guinea-Bissau's water is deficient in fluoride, parents should bring fluoride supplements for their children.

You should have a prescription for refills, either in hand or on record at your pharmacy.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

The U.S. Department of State warns American citizens against travel to Bissau. Although the civil war has ended, the political situation is unstable and potentially dangerous.

There are still landmines located throughout the country, and any travelers should exercise extreme caution at all times.

Those traveling to Bissau usually fly an American carrier to Lisbon or Paris, and then take the weekly Air Portugal (T.A.P.) or Air Afrique flights to Bissau. Alternatively, one can fly to Europe and transfer to a plane bound either for Banjul or Dakar, then fly into Bissau. A final possibility is to catch the thrice weekly New York/Dakar flight of Air Afrique and then make the Bissau connection.

You must secure a visa before entering Bissau. Visas can be obtained from the Guinea-Bissau Embassy in Washington, D.C. the Guinea-Bissau Mission to the U.N. in New York, or Guinea-Bissau's Embassies in Lisbon or Dakar. Allow 2 weeks to get the visa.

Pets may be brought into the country if a valid official veterinarian's certificate of health is presented. Check the pet regulations in the Lisbon Post Report if transiting Lisbon with a pet. Inoculate pets every 6-12 months against rabies and other diseases as advised by the veterinarian.

A veterinarian at the government veterinary facility in Bissau will treat private cases. The Peace Corps medical officer has only rabies vaccine on hand.

Few houses have sufficient outside exercise space, and ticks, fleas, and other pests abound.

The unit of currency is the CFA franc. In January 2001, the exchange rate was U.S. $1 equals 699 CFA francs. Money can be exchanged at the International Bank of Guinea-Bissau.

For emergency travel, bring travelers checks, as they cannot be purchased in Bissau. Credit cards are accepted only at the Hotti Hotel and at some, but not all, of the airlines in Bissau. Senegalese resorts accept VISA cards more often than others.

Guinea Bissau uses the metric system of weights and measures.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan.1 New Year's Day

Jan. Heroes' Day*

Mar. 8 Women's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1 Labor Day

Aug. 3 Martyrs of Colonialism Day

Sept. 24 Independence Day

Nov.14 Readjustment Movement Day

Dec. 24 Christmas Eve

Dec. 25 & 26 Christmas

Ramadan*

Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bennett, Norman R. and Brooks, George E., Jr. New England Merchants in Africa. Boston Univ. Press: 1965.

Brooks, George., Jr. Yankee Traders, Old Coasters & African Middlemen, Boston Univ. Press: 1970.

. Landlords and Strangers: Ecology, Society and Trade in Western Africa, 1000-1630. West-view Press: 1993.

Chabal, Patrick. Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People's War. Cambridge University Press: Cam-bridge, 1980.

Chilcote, Ronald H. Amilcar Cabral's Revolutionary Theory and Practice. Lynne Rienner Publishers: Boulder, Co., 1990.

Davidson, Basil. No Fist is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: The Liberation of Guinea-Bissau. Humanities Press International: 1981.

Forest, Joshua B. Guinea-Bissau: Power, Conflict and Renewal in a West African Nation. Westview Press: Boulder, Co., 1992.

Galli, Rosemary Guinea-Bissau: Politics, Economics, and Society. Lynne Rienner Publishers: Boulder, Co., 1987.

Lobban, Richard, and Joshua Forrest. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. 2nd ed. African Historical Dictionaries, no. 22. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

Lopes, Carlos. Guinea-Bissau: From Liberation Struggle to Independent State. Westview Press: 1987.

Lopes, Carlos. Guinea-Bissau: From Liberation Struggle to Independent Statehood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

McCulloch, J. In the Twilight of Revolution. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

Washington, Shirley. Guinea-Bissau. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

views updated

GUINEA-BISSAU

Compiled from the January 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guinea-Bissau


PROFILE

Geography

Area (including Bijagos Archipelago):

36,125 sq. km., about the size of Maryland.

Cities:

Capital—Bissau. Other cities—Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim, Cacheu. Regions: Oio, Tom-bali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara, Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.

Terrain:

Coastal plain; savanna in the east.

Climate:

Tropical.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Bissau-Guinean(s).

Population (July 2005 est.):

1,590,000.

Population growth rate (2002 est.):

2.95%.

Ethnic groups:

Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, others 16%.

Religion:

Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.

Language:

Portuguese (official), Creole, French, many indigenous Language: Balanta-Kentohe 26%; Pulaar 18%; Mandjak 12%; Mandinka 11%; Pepel 9%; Biafada 3%; Mancanha 3%; Bidyogo 2%; Ejamat 2%; Mansoanka 1%; Bainoukgunyuno 1%; Nalu 1%; Soninke 1%; Badjara 1%; Bayote 0,5%;

Kobiana 0,04%; Cassanga 0,04%, Basary 0, 03%.

Education:

Years compulsory—4. Literacy (2005 est.)—39.6% of adults.

Health:

Infant mortality rate (2001 est.)—130 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2005 est.)—45.2.

Work force (480,000):

Agriculture—85%; industry, services, and commerce—13%; government—2%.

Government

Type:

Republic, multi-party since 1991.

Independence:

September 24, 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from Portugal).

Constitution:

Adopted 1984. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution in 2001, but it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the President.

Branches:

Executive—president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government) and Council of State, ministers and secretaries of state. Legislature—People's National Assembly (ANP), 102 members directly elected in 2004. Judicial—Supreme Court and lower courts.

Administrative subdivisions:

Autonomous sector of Bissau and eight regions.

Political parties:

The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) [leader Carlos Domingos Gomes Jr.] won the most seats (45) in the March 2004 legislative elections. Other parties represented in the ANP include: the Party for Social Renovation (PRS) [leader Alberto Nambeia] with 35 seats, the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD) [leader Francisco Jose Fadul] with 17 seats, the Electoral Union (UE) [leader Joaquim Balde] with 2 seats, and the United Popular Alliance (APU) with one seat. Other parties include: the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Ba-Fata Movement (RGB-FM) [leader Salvador Tchongo], the Union for Change (UM) [leader Amin Saad], Front for the Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING) [leader Catengul Mendy], Guinean Civic Forum or (FCG) [leader Antonieta Rosa Gomes], International League for Ecological Protection (LIPE), National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) [leader Victor Mandinga], Party of National Unity (PUN) [leader Idrissa Djalo], Party of Solidarity and Employment (PST) [leader Iamcuba Indjai], Guinean Democratic Movement (MDG) [leader Silvestre Alves], Guinean Popular Party (PPG) [leader Joao Tatis Sa], Socialist Alliance (AS) [leader Fernando Gomes]. Coalitions: Platform for Unity (PU) [leader Victor Mandinga].

Suffrage:

Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP (2005 est.):

$285.1 million; real growth rate (2005 est.): 1.6%.

GDP per capita, purchasing power parity (2004 est.):

$710.

Natural resources:

Fish and timber. Bauxite and phosphate deposits are not exploited; offshore petroleum.

Agriculture:

Products—cashews, tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil. Arable land—11%. Forested—38%.

Industry: Very

little industrial capacity remains following the 1998 internal conflict. The cashew processing industry is nascent.

Trade:

Exports—$100.8 million (f.o.b., 2005 est.): cashews ($64.1 million, 2003 est.), fish and shrimp ($0.2 million, 2003 est.), other ($2.8 million, 2003 est.). Major markets (2004)—India 54.1%, United States 23%, Nigeria 13.7%, Italy 3.5%, Senegal 1.2%.

Imports—$115.7 million (f.o.b., 2005 est.):

foodstuffs ($22.8 million, 2003 est.), capital equipment ($21.5 million, 2003 est.), petroleum products ($7.2 million, 2003 est.). Major suppliers (2004 est.)—Senegal 45.6%, Portugal 14.2%, Netherlands 4.0%, China 3.8%, Italy 3.8%.


PEOPLE

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.


HISTORY

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were among the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but few trading posts were established before 1600. In 1630, a "captaincy-general" of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the cooperation of some local tribes, the Portuguese entered the slave trade and exported large numbers of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands. Cacheu became one of the major slave centers, and a small fort still stands in the town. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, and Bissau, originally founded as a military and slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the major commercial center.

Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the interior did not begin until the latter half of the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea to French West Africa, including the center of earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the Casamance River region. A dispute with Great Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in Portugal's favor with the involvement of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.

Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.

In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.

It established civilian rule in the territory under its control and held elections for a National Assembly. Portuguese forces and civilians increasingly were confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to 1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to Portugal and led the movement that brought democracy to Portugal and independence for its colonies.

Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leader-ship fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first President of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira.

From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held by a provisional government responsible to a Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP) was reconstituted. The single-party assembly approved a new constitution, elected President Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a Council of State, which was the executive agent of the ANP. Under this system, the president presided over the Council of State and served as head of state and government. The president also was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of the armed forces.

There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986, first Vice President Paulo Correia and five others were executed for treason following a lengthy trial. In 1994, the country's first multi-party legislative and

presidential elections were held. An army uprising against the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a bloody civil war that created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and resulted in President Vieria having to request assistance from the governments of Senegal and Guinea, who provided troops to quell the uprising. The President was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.

Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance. On November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree. Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed until June and then October. On September 12, 2003, the President of the National Elections Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on October 12, 2003, as scheduled. The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on September 14, 2003. President Yala announced his "voluntary" resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and a 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established. On September 28, 2003, businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as President. He had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as Prime Minister. On March 28 and 30, 2004, Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which international observers deemed acceptably free and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior became Prime Minister.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On August 10, 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieria was declared the winner of a July 24 presidential runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an election judged by international observers to be free and fair. President Vieria was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior refused to accept Vieira's victory, and on October 28, Vieira dismissed Gomes and his government. Five days later, he installed former PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as Prime Minister.

The country is still in a transitional period. Tasks facing the new government include determining whether to modify the April 2001 constitution before the President promulgates it.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/30/2005

President: Henrique ROSA
Prime Minister: Carlos GOMES, Jr.
Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Joao DE CARVALHO
Min. of Economy & Finance: Joao Amadu FADIA
Min. of Education: Marciano Silva BARBEIRO
Min. of Energy & Natural Resources: Martinho Ndafa KABI
Min. of Fisheries: Helena Nosolini EMBALO
Min. of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation: Soares SAMBU
Min. of Health: Odete SEMEDO
Min. of Industry, Tourism, & Trade: Issuf SANHA
Min. of Interior: Lassana SEIDI
Min. of Internal Administration:
Min. of Justice: Raimundo PERREIRA
Min. of Public Works: Marcelino Simoes PERREIRA
Min. of Social Solidarity & Anti-Poverty: Eugenia Araujo SALDANHA
Min. of Territorial Administration, State Reforms, Civil Service, & Labor: Aristides GOMES
Min. of Transport & Communications: Rui Perreira ARAUJO
Min. in Charge of Cabinet & Parliamentary Relations: Filomeno Lobo DE PINA
Sec. of State for Budget, Treasury, & Taxes: Francisco CORREIA, Jr.
Sec. of State for Civil Service & Labor: Carlos Mussa BALDE
Sec. of State for Combat Veterans: Isabel BUSCARDINI
Sec. of State for Energy: Wasna Papai DANFA
Sec. of State for Planing & Regional Integration: Carlos Alberto ANDRADE
Sec. of State for Tourism: Lurdes SOARES
Sec. of State for Youth, Culture, & Sport: Ruspicio Marcelino BARBOZA
Ambassador to the United States: Permanent Rep. to the UN, New York: Alfredo Lopes CABRAL

Guinea-Bissau does not have official representation in Washington, DC. For routine information, travelers can contact Guinea-Bissau's representative in Washington, Henrique Da Silva, at P.O. Box 33813, Washington, DC 20033, (301) 947-3958 main/fax. The Mission of Guinea-Bissau to the United Nations does not have a physical office in New York City.


ECONOMY

Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least developed nations and depends mainly on agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports some fish and seafood, although most fishing in Guinea-Bissau's waters is presently not done by Bissau-Guineans and very little fish and seafood is processed in Guinea-Bissau. The country's other important product is cashews. License fees for fishing provide the government with some revenue. Rice is a major crop and staple food and, if developed, Guinea-Bissau could potentially be self-sufficient in rice. Tropical fruits such as mangos could also provide more income to the country if the sector were developed. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long run.

The military conflict that took place in Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999 caused severe damage to the country's infrastructure and widely disrupted economic activity. Agricultural production is estimated to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Cashew nut output, the main export crop, declined in 1998 by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the economic devastation caused by the conflict. Before the war, trade reform and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsorship. Under the government's post-conflict economic and financial program, implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December 2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800 million in debt-service relief under the first phase of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. However, Guinea-Bissau's Poverty Reduction and Growth Fund program with the IMF was suspended that same month—following disbursement of the first tranche—due to off-program expenditures by the Yala regime. Thus, IMF and Paris Club internal debt relief for Guinea-Bissau was also suspended in 2001. Presently, Guinea-Bissau is benefiting from World Bank and African Development Bank debt relief.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. The European Union, France, Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, People's Republic of China, Libya, Senegal, Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, and Russia have embassies in Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau through their embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), African Union, and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of 77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO).


U.S.-GUINEA-BISSAU RELATIONS

The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent conflict between forces loyal to then-President Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and following the Embassy closure, the United States and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations.

The U.S. recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. Guinea-Bissau's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was one of the first the new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an Embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S. Ambassador presented credentials later that year.

There is currently no U.S. Embassy in Bissau. The U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, who resides in Dakar, is accredited as the U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau. The position of U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau is in the process of being filled. Therefore, Robert Jackson is now the Charge d'Affaires in Dakar and has accreditation to Guinea-Bissau.

U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million grant to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement of refugees returning to Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at African technical schools for Guinean students. Emergency food was a major element in U.S. assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has provided more than $65 million in grant aid and other assistance.

Since the 1998 war the U.S. has provided over $800,000 for humanitarian demining to a non-governmental organization (NGO) which has removed over 2,500 mines and 11,000 unexploded ordnance from the city of Bissau; $1.6 million in food aid; and nearly $3 million for assistance for refugees, improving the cashew industry, and promoting democracy.

The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an international military education and training (IMET) agreement in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S. provided English-language teaching facilities as well as communications and navigational equipment to support the navy's coastal surveillance program. The U.S. European Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program has assisted with $390,000 for constructing or repairing schools, health centers, and bridges.

The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in 1998 at the start of the civil war.

In August 2004, sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act—which were imposed as a result of the September 2003 military coup—were lifted and Bissau once again became eligible for IMET and other direct aid.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BISSAU (BO) Address: P.O. Box 297 Bissau Codex, Bairro de Penha, Rua Ulysses Grant; APO/FPO: 2130 Dakar Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2130; Phone: 00-245-252-282; Fax: 00-245-222-273; Workweek: M-F, 0800-1700; Website: http://dakar.usembassy.gov/wwwhguineabissau.html

DCM/CHG:Robert Jackson
POL:Roy Whitaker
MGT:Gary Mignano
DAO:Scott Womack
GSO:Frank Shields
PAO:Claud R. Young
Last Updated: 9/13/2005

There is no U.S. Embassy in Bissau. Charge d'Affaires Robert Jackson, resident in Dakar, serves as the representative of the U.S. in Guinea-Bissau. (Note: The position of U.S. Ambassador to Senegal is in the process of being filled.) All official U.S. contact with Guinea-Bissau is handled by the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Local employees staff the U.S. Office in Bissau, and American diplomats from the Embassy in Dakar travel frequently to Bissau to conduct normal diplomatic relations.


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 9, 2005

Country Description:

Guinea-Bissau is a small, developing country in western Africa. The capital is Bissau and the primary language is Portuguese. The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy. Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required. The visa must be obtained in advance. Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry requirements and their visas from the Embassy of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. The Embassy is located at 15929 Yukon Lane, Rock-ville, MD 20855, or P.O. Box 33813, Washington, D.C. 20033; telephone (301) 947-3958.

Safety and Security:

There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998. While officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited. The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.

Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in June and July 2005, travelers should be aware that the political situation is still in a period of transition and tensions persist. Sporadic politicallymotivated violence has taken place in the past two years. Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

Unexploded military ordnance and landmines remain scattered throughout the country. Unexploded ordnance may be found even in the capital city Bissau. The national demining center (CAAMI) in Bissau is responsible for de-mining operations and maintains lists of known minefields. There are two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in successfully removing mines.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces. Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night. There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

While modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau and travelers should not rely on them, emergency medical care may be possible at a new hospital in Bissau operated by the Sant'Egidio Community. Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available. Malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is a risk for travelers to Guinea-Bissau. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm. Travelers are also at risk of cholera, yellow fever, dengue fever, and other tropical diseases.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web-site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guinea Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and the availability of roadside assistance are all poor. There are frequent power outages in the capital, Bissau, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving essential. Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Guinea Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea Bissau's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Special Circumstances:

Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. You should contact Guinea-Bissau's representative in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.

As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau. Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy, so travelers should not count on using credit cards and ATMs.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Guinea Bissau laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea Bissau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Guinea Bissau are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guinea Bissau Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau remains closed. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal. The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal. The telephone number is (221) 823-4296 and the fax is (221) 822-2991. The e-mail address is: [email protected] The web site is: http://usembassy.state.gov/dakar.

views updated

Guinea-Bissau

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Guineans

35 Bibliography

Republic of Guinea-Bissau
República da Guiné-Bissau

CAPITAL: Bissau

FLAG: The flag has equal horizontal stripes of yellow over green, with a red vertical stripe at the hoist bearing a black star.

ANTHEM: Esta é a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada (This Is Our Well-Beloved Land).

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr) replaced the Guinean peso (pg) as official currency in May 1997. The CFA franc, which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Death of Amilcar Cabral, 20 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Killing of Pidjiguiti, 3 August; National Day, 24 September; Anniversary of the Movement of Readjustment, 14 November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Korité (end of Ramadan) and Tabaski (Feast of the Sacrifice).

TIME: 11 am = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Situated on the west coast of Africa, Guinea-Bissau has a total area of 36,120 square kilometers (13,946 square miles), about 10% of which is periodically submerged by tidal waters. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guinea-Bissau is slightly less than three times the size of the state of Connecticut. Besides its mainland territory, it includes the Bijagós Archipelago (Archipélago dos Bijagós) and various coastal islands. Guinea-Bissau shares borders with Senegal and Guinea, with a total land boundary length of 724 kilometers (450 miles). The coastline (Atlantic Ocean) is 398 kilometers (247 miles).

The capital city, Bissau, is located on the country’s Atlantic coast.

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 36,120 sq km (13,946 sq mi)

Size ranking: 133 of 194

Highest elevation: 300 meters (984 feet) at an unnamed location at the northeast corner of the country

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Atlantic Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 8%

Permanent crops: 7%

Other: 85%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 202.3 centimeters (79.6 inches)

Average temperature in January: 24.4°c (75.9°f)

Average temperature in July: 26.3°c (79.3°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

2 Topography

The country is swampy at the coast and low-lying inland, except in the northeast. There are no significant mountains, but there is a central plateau rising to a couple hundred feet in elevation. Where the plateau stretches to the eastern frontier, it is called the Planalto de Gabú. This region has the nation’s highest point, an unnamed point at 300 meters (984 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Atlantic Ocean). The most important rivers include the Cacheu, Mansoa, Geba, and Corubal.

3 Climate

Guinea-Bissau has a hot, humid climate, with a rainy season from mid-May to mid-November and a cooler dry season the rest of the year. The average temperature in the rainy season ranges from 26 to 28°c (79 to 82°f). During the dry season, the harmattan (dust-laden wind) blows from the Sahara. Rainfall averages 202.3 centimeters (79.6 inches).

4 Plants and Animals

Guinea-Bissau has a variety of vegetation, with thick forest in the interior plains, rice and mangrove fields along the coastal plains and swamps, and savanna in the north. Parts of Guinea-Bissau are rich in game, big and small. Several species of antelope, buffalo, monkeys, and snakes are found.

5 Environment

One of the most significant environmental problems in Guinea-Bissau is fire, which destroys 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) of land per year and accelerates the loss of the nation’s forests at a yearly rate of about 570 square kilometers (220 square miles). In addition, Guinea-Bissau had lost over 75% of its original mangrove areas by the mid-1980s. Another environmental issue is soil damage, caused by drought and erosion. The soil has become more acidic and salty because of acid rain and fertilizer use.

In 2006, threatened species included five types of mammals, one species of birds, one type of reptile, ten species of fish, and four species of plant. Threatened species include the Pygmy hippopotamus and the West African manatee.

6 Population

In 2005, the population of Guinea-Bissau was 1.5 million. The population is projected to be 2.8 million in 2025. The population density in 2005 was estimated at 55 per square kilometer (142 per square mile). Bissau, the capital city, had an estimated area population of 336,000 in that year.

7 Migration

In 1998, thousands of citizens fled the civil war, migrating to Senegal and The Gambia. In 2004, there were about 7,536 refugees in the country, mostly from Senegal. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated at -1.54 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

The principal African ethnic groups are the Balante (an estimated 30% of the African population), living mainly in the central region; the Fulani (20%), in the north; the Manjaca (14%); the Mandinga (13%); and the Pepel (7%), in the coastal areas. Other African ethnic groups constitute most of the remainder. The Cape Verdean mulatto (mixed-race) community, which originated in the Cape Verde Islands, accounts for about 2% of the total population of Guinea-Bissau. Citizens of Guinea-Bissau are generally called Guineans.

9 Languages

Each tribe has its own language, subdivided into numerous dialects. A Guinean “crioulo,” or Africanized Portuguese patois, is the most common spoken language, while Portuguese is the official language.

10 Religions

About 49% of the population has retained traditional religious beliefs. An estimated 38% of the population are Muslim. The Fulani and Malinké ethic groups are primarily Muslim. Between 5% and 13% of the population are Christians, with a majority being Roman Catholic.

11 Transportation

There is no rail line in Guinea-Bissau. In 2002, the country had an estimated 4,400 kilometers (2,735 miles) of roads. Only about 10% (453 kilometers/282 miles) were tarred. Bissau is the main port and the site of a modern international airport. In 2004, there were an estimated 28 airports in the country, of which only 3 had paved runways in 2005.

12 History

The earliest inhabitants, hunters and fishermen, were replaced by the Baga and other peoples who came from the east. The Portuguese explorer Nuno Tristão arrived in the region in June 1446 and established the first trading posts. The slave trade developed during the 17th century, centering around the port of Bissau. In 1879 the area was made a separate Portuguese dependency.

In 1951, Guinea-Bissau was made a Portuguese overseas province. In September 1956 a group of dissatisfied Cape Verdeans founded an underground movement aimed at achieving independence from Portugal. It was named the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano de Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde-PAIGC), and Amilcar Cabral became its secretary-general. By 1963, large-scale guerrilla warfare had broken out in the territory.

During the following years, PAIGC soldiers, fighting a Portuguese force of about 30,000, increased their hold on the countryside. When Cabral was assassinated on 20 January 1973, Aristides Pereira took over the leadership of the movement, which on 24 September 1973 proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. On 26 August 1974, the Portuguese government (under new leadership following a takeover earlier that year) and the PAIGC signed an agreement in Algiers providing for the independence of Guinea-Bissau effective 10 September.

The new government, under President Luis de Almeida Cabral, had to deal with extensive economic turmoil brought about by the war. On 14 November 1980 President Cabral, who was of mixed European and American Indian ancestry with close ties to Cape Verde, was overthrown by a group of Guinean blacks under João Bernando Vieira’s command. Vieira and the PAIGC ruled Guinea-Bissau as a one-party state for ten years. However, in 1990, he denounced single-party rule, and in April 1991, Guinea-Bissau formally began a multiparty system and adopted a new constitution.

After several postponements, legislative and presidential elections were finally held in July 1994, the first multiparty elections in the country’s history. The PAIGC won a decisive majority in the Assembly. Vieira was elected president.

Since 1989, Guinea-Bissau and neighboring Senegal have disputed over their border, which had been determined by Portugal and France

in 1960. In 1992, the dispute erupted into violence as Senegalese bombers attacked the bases of Senegalese separatists located in Guinea-Bissau. In 1995, Senegal again bombed Guinea-Bissau, although it claimed the bombing was done in error. In March 1996, the two governments reached an agreement to end the hostilities.

In June 1998, tens of thousands fled north to Senegal, as civil war broke out in Bissau. The rebellion was led by Brigadier Ansumane Mané, a former army official whom President Vieira had dismissed on suspicion of arming separatist rebels in southern Senegal. Senegal and Guinea sent three thousand troops to restore order. In November, the Abuja peace agreement was signed with the stipulation that presidential and legislative elections be held before March 1999.

In May 1999, following the dismissal of General Ansumane Mané, troops loyal to the general stormed the presidential palace. Some 70 people died in the assault. Vieira renounced the presidency. Malam Bacai Sanha presided over

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Joao Bernardo Vieira

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: 1 October 2005

Birthplace: Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

Birthdate: 27 April 1939

Education: Trained as an electrician

Of interest: He is known as “Nini” and was a key player in the country’s guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule.

the interim government, which ended the 11-month civil war.

In November 1999, National Assembly elections took place, and in January 2000, Sanha lost to Koumba Yala in presidential elections judged free and fair. Despite the elections, the country had a parallel government in the form of the military junta. In November 2000 fighting erupted between forces loyal to the government and supporters of the junta. After regaining control, loyalist forces announced on 30 November that Mané had been killed.

Yala announced in December 2001 that his government had prevented another coup attempt. In November 2002, Yala dissolved the parliament and named Mario Pires prime minister. Yala arrested his defense minister on 30 April 2003 on charges of plotting a coup. In June, he held emergency talks with unhappy military leaders and key ministers to prevent the collapse of his government. By July 2003, Yala’s government owed six months in back pay to the army and civil service. Instead of receiving money, government workers were receiving payment in rice. In September, an agreement was reached between the military and political parties to hold presidential and legislative elections. In the legislative elections of March 2004, the PAIGC won. In the presidential election in July 2005, the former military ruler Joao Vieira, who had returned from exile in Portugal, was elected to a five-year term with 52% of the vote.

13 Government

The constitution adopted in April 1991 established a multiparty system of government. The National People’s Assembly and the regional councils are the nation’s representative governmental bodies. The popularly elected councils in turn elect the 100-member assembly from among their own ranks. The assembly then elects a 15-member Council of State as the nation’s executive body. The president of this council becomes head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president appoints prime minister who presides over a Council of Ministers.

Guinea-Bissau has 8 regions, not including the capital, and 37 sectors. Each region has an elected council, as does the capital.

14 Political Parties

Formerly, the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano de Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde-PAIGC) was the sole legal party. However, opposition parties were legalized by a new constitution adopted in April 1991. The most important opposition party is Bafata, the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Bafata Movement.

Other parties represented in the government as of the 2004 elections included the Social Renovation Party (Partido da Renovacao Social or PRS), the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD), the Electoral Union, the United Popular Alliance (APU), and 13 others.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

15 Judicial System

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over serious crimes and serves as an appeals court for the regional military courts. In rural areas, persons are often tried outside the formal system by traditional law.

16 Armed Forces

In 2005, the armed forces numbered approximately 9,700 in all services. The army numbered 6,800, the navy 350, and the air force 100. The defense budget in 2005 was $8.6 million.

17 Economy

About 82% of the population relies on agriculture and fishing. In 2002, about 88% of the population lived below the poverty line. Guinea-Bissau relies to a great extent upon foreign aid.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

The country has offshore oil reserves, which may become a source of income. Cashews are the biggest cash crop; the country is the world’s sixth-largest producer of cashews. Fishing prospects are also excellent.

18 Income

In 2005, Guinea-Bissau’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.1 billion, or $800 per person. The annual growth rate in gross domestic product (GDP) was at 2%. In 2002, the inflation rate was at 4%. In 2003, remittances from citizens working abroad totaled about $18 million, or about 7.5% of the GDP for that year.

19 Industry

Manufacturing constitutes a very minor part of Guinea-Bissau’s economy. Industries include a sugar refinery, and a rice and groundnut (peanut) processing plant. Guinea-Bissau ranks sixth in the world in cashew production. Brewing and urban construction are represented. In 2004, industry accounted for 12% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

20 Labor

In 2002, there were about 480,000 members of the labor force, with about 82% of workers involved in subsistence agriculture. The constitution grants workers the freedom to join and form trade unions. There were 11 registered labor unions in 2002.

The lowest legal monthly wage in 2002 was $20, and this did not support a family. The minimum working age is 14 years, but this is not enforced. Many children work as street vendors or on farms in rural areas.

21 Agriculture

Only 8% of the total land area is under permanent or seasonal cultivation. Rice is the major staple crop. Corn, millet, and sorghum are also produced and consumed very widely. In 2004, Guinea-Bissau produced 127,000 tons of rice, 22,000 tons of millet, 20,000 tons of peanuts, 45,000 tons of coconuts, 81,000 tons of cashew nuts, and 8,000 tons of palm kernels. Palm kernels, cashew nuts, and peanuts are the most important export crops. In 2004 trade in agricultural products consisted of $40.5 million in imports and $62.3 million in exports.

22 Domesticated Animals

Despite the damage caused by the tsetse fly (a disease-carrying insect), cattle raising is a main occupation, especially in the center of the country. In 2005, there were an estimated 530,000 head of cattle, 370,000 hogs, 300,000 sheep, and 335,000 goats.

23 Fishing

Fishing is slowly growing into a viable industry. Agreements allow the European Union countries to fish in national waters. Guinea-Bissau’s own catch was an estimated 5,000 tons in 2003, with mullet accounting for 44%.

24 Forestry

Guinean forests and savanna woodland, covering about 60% of the country, primarily supply wood and timber for domestic consumption and fuel and construction material. In 2004, round-wood (unsawed timber as in poles) production was about 592,000 cubic meters (21 million cubic feet), with 71% used as fuel wood. Timber has become a leading export, accounting for $719,000 in 2004.

25 Mining

Mining activities have been limited to small-scale production of basalt, cement, clay, gold, limestone, salt, and sand. Bauxite, diamonds, and phosphate were economically promising minerals being explored.

26 Foreign Trade

Cashew nuts account for 70% of export revenue, followed by fish, peanuts, palm kernels, and sawn lumber. Imports include industrial and commercial supplies, fuels and lubricants, and transport equipment, as well as imported foods, beverages, and tobacco. Principal export partners include India, the United States, and Nigeria. The main import partners are Senegal, Portugal, and China.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

27 Energy and Power

In 2002, electric power production was 56 million kilowatt hours. The country has no known proven reserves of oil or natural gas.

28 Social Development

Provision of health services, maternal and child care, nutrition programs, sanitation, and basic education is the principal social goal of the Guinea-Bissau government. There is no national social security system in place. Women have little access to education. Women also perform most of the work on family farms. Domestic abuse of women remains a problem and certain ethnic groups prohibit women from owning property.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorGuinea-Bissau Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$690 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate3.0% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land55 803032
Life expectancy in years: male44 587675
female46 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.1 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)n.a. 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)36% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people36 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people20 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n.a .5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.19 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

29 Health

The health care system in Guinea-Bissau is inadequate. Aid from the United Nations International Children’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization has enabled the country to strengthen its health care systems. The emphasis is on preventive medicine, with small mobile units serving the rural areas. As of 2004, there were an estimated 10 physicians, 109 nurses, 1 dentist, and 1 pharmacist per 100,000 people.

Life expectancy in 2005, was 45 years. The infant mortality rate that year was 107 deaths per 1,000 live births. An estimated 20% of all births are low birth weight. As of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was estimated at 17,000. Deaths from AIDS in 2003 were estimated at 1,200.

Most traditional housing units are made of adobe, mud, and/or quirinton, a combination of woven branches and straw. Though most of the population lives in rural areas, recent migration to urban areas has accounted for urban housing shortages.

31 Education

Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 13. As of 2001, only about 45% of primary-school-age children actually attended school. The same year, only 9% of secondary-school-age children were in school. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level averages 44 to 1. The pupil-teacher ratio for secondary school is about 14 to 1.

Amilcar Cabral University, the first public university in the nation, was established in 2003. The University of Clinas de Boe, a private university, also opened in 2003. As of 2005, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 36%.

32 Media

In 2003, there were an estimated eight mainline telephones and one mobile phone in use for every 1,000 people.

One national television station broadcasts from 7 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 5 p.m. to midnight on weekends. In 2002, there were five radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 178 radios and 36 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, about 20 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

The government-owned daily newspaper, Voz da Guine, (in Portuguese) had an estimated circulation of 6,000 in 2002. There are a few privately owned newspapers publishing once or twice a week.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Game shooting, a major attraction for many travelers in Africa, is popular in Guinea-Bissau.

The island of Bubaque and the town of Bolama are cited for their charm and beauty.

34 Famous Guineans

The best-known Guinean of recent years was Amilcar Cabral (1921–1973), a key figure in the war for independence. Luis de Almeida Cabral (b.1931), his younger brother, subsequently became the first president of Guinea-Bissau. João Bernardo Vieira (b.1939), leader of the Revolutionary Council, came to power in the 1980 coup and remained president until 2000. He was exiled in 1999, but came back to win the presidency gain in 2005.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Forrest, Joshua. Guinea-Bissau: Power, Conflict, and Renewal in a West African Nation. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.

Galli, Rosemary. Guinea-Bissau. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1990.

Lobban, Richard. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

WEB SITES

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/af/ci/pu/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

views updated

Guinea-Bissau

POPULATION 1,345,479
AFRICAN INDIGENOUS BELIEFS 65 percent
ISLAM 30 percent
CHRISTIANITY (ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT) 5 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea) is a small West African nation on the Atlantic Coast south of Senegal and west of Guinea. The coastal regions of the country comprise rivers and swampland, while forest and savanna cover the interior. The people make their living primarily by subsistence farming and herding. The country is home to more than 30 different ethnic groups, the principal ones being the Balanta (27 percent), Fula (23 percent), Mandinga (12 percent), Manjak (11 percent), and Pepel (10 percent). Brames, Beafada, Bijagos, Felupes (Mankanya), and migrants from neighboring countries make up the rest of the population. Although Portuguese is the official language, less than 10 percent of Gunieans speaks it. Kriolu—a blend of Portuguese and indigenous languages—is widely spoken, and each ethnic group also has its own language.

The first inhabitants of the area practiced indigenous African religions. Traders brought Islam to the area in the tenth century. In 1250 Mande warriors founded the Gabu kingdom, characterized by an indigenous animism. Political divisions and trade disputes weakened the kingdom in the late 1700s, and in 1867 it failed in the face of Islamic jihads throughout West Africa. The Portuguese arrived in the area in 1446. Throughout the colonial period they attempted to form an elite group of "assimilated" Guineans with Portuguese ancestry who spoke Portuguese and converted to Christianity. Portuguese influence did not extend beyond this small group. Guinea-Bissau gained independence from Portugal in 1974 after an eleven-year war of liberation.

The majority of Guineans practice indigenous African religions; these traditionalists are scattered throughout the country. The Muslim one-third of the population (the Mandinga, Fula, and Beafada peoples) lives mainly in the north and northeast. Despite Portugal's 500-year presence, Christianity is not widespread, and most Christians reside in the capital city of Bissau. Muslims and Christians in Guinea-Bissau continue to practice their indigenous religions, emphasizing "old" traditions in some contexts and "new" traditions in others.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Guineans strive to uphold the ideal of unity through diversity. The constitution of 1984, amended in 1996, guarantees religious freedom, and the government's attitude toward religious expression is officially one of tolerance and neutrality. It has criticized some traditional practices, such as delayed burial and female circumcision. Not much effort has been made to bring the country's religions together, and the cultural divide between them is readily observable in daily life. The capital city of Bissau is divided into Muslim, Christian, and traditionalist neighborhoods, and intermarriage between groups is often discouraged. In 1999 President Kumba Yala (a Christian Balanta) angered some Muslims by expelling the Ahmadiyya (a Muslim reform sect from Pakistan) from the country, a decision that was overturned by the Supreme Court. Despite divisions, overlap in religious practice is common. Muslims and Christians consult traditional African healers, and traditionalists and Christians commonly send their sons to Muslim initiation rituals. This translates into an ethos of religious harmony.

Major Religions

african indigenous beliefs

islam

AFRICAN INDIGENOUS BELIEFS

DATE OF ORIGIN 900 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 875,000

HISTORY

From 900 to 1400, the inhabitants of the area, adherents of traditional African religions, maintained peaceful contact with Muslim Berber and Djula traders who traveled through the area. Although between 1250 and 1867 the Mandinga conquered and converted many peoples in and around present-day Guinea-Bissau to their indigenous religion, other groups escaped their influence by fleeing to coastal areas, where they continued to practice their own traditional religions.

Indigenous beliefs and practices played a prominent role in the eleven-year war of liberation. Guineans fought against Portugal beginning in 1963. Both African and Portuguese soldiers consulted local healer-diviners to aid them in planning war strategies or to acquire amulets thought to offer protection against knives and bullets. In 1998, when a military junta attempted to oust the country's president, several diviners were said to have predicted the length and outcome of the conflict.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Because they are egalitarian and noncentralized, African indigenous religions lack individually recognized leaders. Ancestors, elders, and diviners play important local roles. Many people carve wooden posts representing ancestors, to which they make sacrifices to ensure health and success. Elders and diviners act as mediators between the human and spirit worlds, determining when and how such sacrifices should be made.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Religious knowledge among traditionalists in Guinea-Bissau is spread and passed on orally rather than in writing. Healer-diviners (djambakus in Kriolu) study their craft intensively over a number of years through apprenticeship and train the next generation of specialists.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Sacrifices to ancestral or other spirits to prevent or address misfortune are performed at local shrines, which are sometimes natural (trees and water sources) and sometimes man-made (carved ancestor posts, wells, and containers). Elders of some ethnic groups gather to make sacrifices or discuss religious matters in small thatched huts built around a central shrine or assemblage of shrines. The actions performed at shrines are thought to connect human and spirit worlds and to ensure harmony to the living.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Indigenous religions in Guinea-Bissau assert an interconnectedness of the human and spirit worlds. People, places, and things are sacred when they evoke this relationship. Specific trees and water sources are sacred in that spirits are believed to reside there. Members of some ethnic groups hold certain animals sacred and prohibit the consumption of their meat. Such man-made items as amulets, wells, and containers are sacred when they are used to place humans in contact with spirits. More generally, all natural things—the earth, the sky, animals, and plants—are thought to be sacred, and specific rules govern people's contact with them.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Practitioners of indigenous religions in Guinea-Bissau follow a calendar relating to the agricultural cycle. Members of most ethnic groups perform ceremonies before beginning such agricultural work as clearing fields, ploughing, or harvesting. Ceremonies may also be held when the first rains arrive, in times of drought, and after a successful harvest.

MODE OF DRESS

Traditional dress for ritual or ceremonial occasions varies by ethnic group in Guinea-Bissau and may include grass skirts, cowry shells, headdresses, and white clay (used as body paint). Women often wear dyed or patterned wraparound skirts (panu in Kriolu) and matching shirts or one-piece dresses (spera in Kriolu), accented with colorful head ties and bead jewelry. Men wear patterned cotton pants and shirt outfits or European-style clothing and hats, depending on ethnic group affiliation and the occasion.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Among many ethnic groups in Guinea-Bissau, pregnant women commonly observe food taboos, avoiding eggs, fruit that has fallen on the ground, and the meat of animals with claws, fangs, or slippery skin, since these are thought to produce fetal abnormalities. Adherents of traditional religions drink alcohol (usually palm wine, sugarcane alcohol, and cashew fruit wine) on ritual occasions, often in vast quantities.

RITUALS

Many indigenous rituals are linked to the agricultural cycle. Before ploughing rice fields, the Balanta hold baloba ceremonies to combat evil spirits. Sacrifices may be performed to control the rains or to ensure a successful harvest. Rituals are also performed in times of crisis. When faced with misfortunes, such as illness, death, theft, infertility, or social conflict, people consult healer-diviners, who communicate with iran (ancestral or other spirits) to uncover the cause and prescribe appropriate remedial action.

Many rituals center on such life events as birth and death. Funerary rituals are often elaborate, and many involve delayed burial. Members of several ethnic groups perform the djongajo ritual, in which men hold the corpse on a bier and ask it the reasons behind the death and whether sorcery was involved. The forward or backward movement of the bier indicates positive or negative responses.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Male initiation rituals are practiced throughout Guinea-Bissau, and most involve circumcision. The age varies with the ethnic group. The Bijagos people hold especially elaborate initiation rituals for both genders, teaching traditional skills and values in various stages over several months. Every twenty to twenty-five years Manjak hold an initiation ceremony for young males in a sacred forest in each Manjak "land." Emigrant Manjak from Senegal and Europe return to their home villages to participate in this all-important rite of passage, which lasts up to a couple of months.

Marriage is often arranged and includes ritual exchanges between the groom's and bride's families, as well as dancing and feasting. Funerary rituals (toka tchur in Kriolu) are thought to facilitate the entrance of the soul of the deceased into the next world. Relatives and friends gather to dance, feast, and drum throughout the night. Animal sacrifices are especially important, and the number of cows killed often reflects the social status of the deceased. Many indigenous religions of Guinea-Bissau hold that the deceased are reembodied in newborn infants.

MEMBERSHIP

Practitioners of indigenous African religions do not see themselves as members of a religion, and Guineans do not convert to such beliefs. Religious identity is acquired by birth into a particular ethnic group (some who believe in reincarnation believe it is acquired before birth). Although adherents of traditional religions commonly see converts to Islam and Christianity as turning their backs on tradition, the converts rarely abandon their old beliefs, and conversion rarely precludes participation in indigenous rituals.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Indigenous religions in Guinea-Bissau place a strong moral obligation on helping others. Those who share are respected and can count on the future help of others. The attainment of material wealth and power is often associated with witchcraft, especially when it is acquired quickly, effortlessly, or at other's expense.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Practitioners of indigenous religions in Guinea-Bissau see marriage as the ideal state and expect it of everyone. Among many ethnic groups, individuals are not considered full adults until they are married and have children, and traditional initiation rituals often prepare people for these roles. Marriages are arranged among many groups, although "love" marriages have become common in urban areas. Polygyny is common among members of some ethnic groups. The primary purpose of marriage is to produce children, and both men and women value children highly, especially given that infant mortality rates are high. Children bring joy and happiness, contribute to agricultural labor, increase one's social status, and ensure that one will be cared for in old age and remembered after death. "May you have many children" is a common blessing throughout the country.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Since independence, political power has remained in the hands of adherents of traditional religions, who openly profess their reluctance to relinquish it to the Muslims, "those who wear the hats." JoÂo Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, Guinea-Bissau's president from 1980 to 1999, was said to have consulted numerous healer-diviners (ironically some of them Muslims) to maintain power in the face of growing local discontent.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

In precolonial times Guinean practitioners of traditional religions often killed breach babies (born feet first) and twins, associating these with the animal world. Although some claim that infanticide still occurs today, such infants are more commonly washed with an herbal mixture thought to neutralize their ambiguity and danger. Babies born with physical deformities or other anomalies may be suspected of being iran, or spirit children, said to be created when a spirit enters a pregnant woman's body and changes places with the human fetus.

Development workers and government officials in Guinea-Bissau are critical of such practices as polygyny and delayed burial, associating the latter with disease. The Balanta people are criticized for ritualized cattle stealing, a practice associated with boy's initiation rites.

CULTURAL IMPACT

The influence of indigenous African religions is evident in nearly every aspect of culture in Guinea-Bissau. The Pepel weave cloth with intricate designs for use during funerary ceremonies. The Bijagos and Nalu peoples are famous for their wooden carvings of animals representing spirits, which are used in rituals. Several contemporary music groups have preserved indigenous musical styles, including ngumbe, fast-paced music using drums and other percussion instruments. They often sing in Kriolu. Wooden carved ancestor posts, spirit houses, and medicine bundles are common features of traditional Guinean architecture and have both practical purpose and aesthetic appeal.

ISLAM

DATE OF ORIGIN Tenth century c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 404,000

HISTORY

Berber and Mande traders brought Islam to the area beginning in the tenth century. Although Guineans gradually began adopting aspects of the religion as early as the twelfth century, most did not define themselves as Muslims until the nineteenth century, when Islamicized Fula from the Futa Jallon (present-day Guinea) began waging jihads. In 1867 the Fula put an end to the 600-year-old traditionalist Gabu kingdom, a tributary of the Mali empire, and they converted many local people (mainly Mandinga and Beafada) to Islam.

The Ahmadiyya, a Muslim reform sect from Pakistan, first arrived in Guinea-Bissau in the mid-1980s. Although this reform movement has since been slowly gaining popularity, traditional Muslims vehemently oppose it.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Leadership in Guinea-Bissau is tied to kinship and age rather than to personal achievements. Muslim men who are Koranic scholars or healer-diviners or who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca hold considerable power and influence. Leaders of local mosques are influential and provide balance to political leadership by asserting their spiritual influence.

Members of the Mandinga Sane and Mane clans, who ruled the various provinces of the Gabu kingdom during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are respected for their historical leadership. The founder of the Muridiyya brotherhood of Senegal, Ahmadu Bamba Mbacke (1853–1927), is remembered for his piety and anticolonial teachings, and Muslims in Guinea-Bissau sing praises to him on Islamic holidays.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Some local holy men (muru in Kriolu) have earned national or international reputations. Before Konchupa Faati's death in the late 1990s, pilgrims traveled to his village near Bafata to receive blessings, delivered through his breath and spittle. Some holy men study in North Africa and the Middle East, returning to Guinea-Bissau to establish their own Koranic schools. The Koranic school of Alhadj Fodimaye Ture (born sometime between 1919 and 1939) in the Oio region draws thousands of pilgrims annually to receive blessings and celebrate Gammo, the Prophet's birthday. Holy men double as Muslim healers, treating clients for a host of afflictions, and divine the future using sand, cowry shells, and dreams.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Guinean cities, towns, and villages in Muslim areas or with significant Muslim populations have at least one central mosque and may have smaller ones that serve specific neighborhoods. As mosques are generally reserved for Friday worship, people pray in their homes or central compounds on other days. Guinean Muslims travel to villages with famous Muslim healers to receive blessings or make requests. Alhadj Fodimaye Ture's village (near Farim) is the most popular Muslim pilgrimage site.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Sacred objects include the Koran, prayer beads, and protective amulets that encase Koranic verses. White things, such as rice, milk, sugar, salt, kola nuts, and cloth, are also deemed sacred and are commonly offered as sacrifices or charity.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Ramadan (Jun-Jun) is the most important holiday for Muslims in Guinea-Bissau. People break their daily fast with moni (millet porridge), drunk from a common calabash using small ladles. On Laila, which coincides with Ramadan, Muslims gather at sunset and chant until dawn, believing that the suffering endured on this single night is worth more than a thousand days of fasting in the eyes of God. On Gammo (the Prophet's birthday) Muslims travel to local pilgrimage sites where they stay awake for three nights, recounting the life of the Prophet and singing praises to local or regional saints. At a bunya, which celebrates the yearly return of the Mecca pilgrims, people sing praises to the returnees, receive blessings, and share a feast.

MODE OF DRESS

Ropa garandi ("big clothes") is the Kriolu term for modest attire, a distinguishing feature of Muslim identity in Guinea-Bissau. For women this consists of colorful African dresses and matching head ties. Older women may drape Arab-style scarves over their head ties, especially for prayer and ritual occasions. Women accentuate their dress with gold or bead jewelry and protective amulets that hold Koranic verses. Muslim men wear African or Arab-style long robes, often with pants underneath. Footwear consists of locally made leather sandals or colorful shoes from Saudi Arabia. Men accentuate their dress with embroidered hats, fezzes, or Saudi-style head coverings, silver bracelets (gold is reserved for women), protective amulets, and sunglasses.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Muslims in Guinea-Bissau have a unique local explanation for the Muslim prohibition on pork. The Mandinga people believe that, long ago, their journeying ancestors, near death from dehydration, encountered many animals that knew of a nearby water source but were too selfish to disclose its location. Finally a pig selflessly led them to water. Out of respect for the pig, rather than because of its uncleanness, Mandinga refrain from eating pork.

Animals with claws or fangs and carrion are also taboo. Chinese green tea, flavored with sugar and mint leaves and brewed ceremonially in three rounds, is drunk widely, especially by men. Tea, kola nuts, and local tobacco are essential features of rituals and other celebrations. Guinean Muslims say they follow the Muslim prohibition on alcohol, though some are said to drink in secret.

RITUALS

In preparation for Koranic school in Guinea-Bissau, a holy man writes Koranic verses on a child's palm with ink, sprinkles salt over the ink, and instructs the child to lick his hand. Circumcision for both girls and boys is linked to religious purity and is followed by a coming-out ceremony, involving dancing and feasting. Although circumcision used to be performed at puberty, it takes place more commonly now between the ages of 6 and 10.

Marriage occurs in two stages. The parents of the bride and groom exchange kola nuts to "tie" the marriage, allowing the couple to procreate. The "bringing of the bride," when relatives and guests accompany the bride from her father's to her husband's house, may occur between one and seven years later.

At death the corpse is washed, dressed, and buried according to Islamic doctrine. Graves are unmarked and virtually unrecognizable. Funerary ceremonies are held one week, one month, three months, and one year after the burial. People gather in memory of the deceased to read the Koran, receive blessings, and hold a feast.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Muslims in Guinea-Bissau consider infants pure until they cut their first tooth, an event associated symbolically with the ability to lie and the loss of innocence. Children of both sexes enjoy a relatively carefree existence until age 7, when they develop social sense and their behavior is more restricted: Girls help their mothers with domestic chores, and boys study the Koran. Adulthood for both genders is marked by the birth of the first child. During their childbearing years, women focus more on their roles as wives and mothers than on their spiritual lives, while their husbands become increasingly devout. Men and women become elders when their children have children. Elders of both genders enjoy reduced workloads and elevated social status. Elderhood for women is marked especially by an intensification of religious practice.

MEMBERSHIP

What makes one a Muslim is the subject of lively debate in Guinea-Bissau. Many believe that religious identity begins at conception, when the sexual fluids of a Muslim man "mix" with the blood of a Muslim woman and Allah breathes life into the fetus. A baby born headfirst is said to accept Islam, while a breach baby (born feet first) is said to refuse Islam. Muslim mother's breast milk is believed to transmit Muslim identity even to non-Muslim infants.

A more practice-based understanding of Muslim identity asserts that life course rituals inscribe it on the body, and daily prayer, fasting, and the observation of food taboos are signs of piety. Although they occur on occasion, mixed marriages are considered problematic since, in the eyes of many, conversion alone does not render one a true Muslim. For this reason Guinean Muslims do not actively proselytize.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Muslims in Guinea-Bissau are often members of socially stratified societies, consisting of groups of nobles, artisans, and descendants of slaves. Although membership is conferred at birth and marriage outside one's group is discouraged, social relations between groups reflect an ethos of respect and interdependence.

Material wealth, power, and fame are thought to be blessings from God. Guinean Muslims believe good fortune should be shared with others and discourage violence of all kinds, since the taking of human life is reserved for Allah. Despite these ideals, sorcery and spirit contracts (in which individuals make deals with spirits for wealth and power) are common among Muslims in Guinea-Bissau, even among those who deem such activities "un-Islamic." Those who accumulate money, power, and fame quickly and effortlessly or at other's expense are suspected of such nefarious activities.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Muslims in Guinea-Bissau place great importance on family and expect everyone to marry and have children. As gifts from God, children are highly desired and contribute to one's social status and economic situation. From initiation onward men and women maintain relatively separate lives and roles. Men are responsible for providing financially for the family, and motherhood is a woman's most important role. Women are free to engage in economic activities outside the home and may keep their earnings. Marriages are commonly arranged, and men may marry up to four wives. Co-wife relations are often harmonious. Children belong to their father's lineage, a law that discourages women from instigating divorce. A widow is encouraged but not obligated to marry a brother of her deceased husband. Foreign development organizations have waged campaigns to change local attitudes toward arranged marriage, polygyny, family planning, and female circumcision, but Muslims have been especially resistant to these efforts.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Islam has had little influence in national politics in the post-colonial era. In 1998 Ansumana Mané, a Muslim Mandinga from neighboring Gambia, led a popular rebellion against President "Nino" Vieira. Although Mané sought regime change rather than political power, practitioners of indigenous religions feared the possibility of a Muslim takeover, while Muslims (though skeptical) delighted in this possibility. Support for the rebellion did not follow religious lines, however, and was estimated at 98 percent of Guinea-Bissau's population. Nino was ousted in 1999, and his successors have been non-Muslims.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

Increased migration in Guinea-Bissau has raised awareness of how Islam is practiced elsewhere, and Guinean Muslims have become more concerned with their place in the ummah, the global community of Muslims. Some contend that traditional African practices, such as initiation rituals, are "un-Islamic" and should be ended, while others argue that such rites confer Muslim identity. Adherents of the Ahmadiyya reform movement pray with their arms folded and oppose many local "African" practices, such as female circumcision and the use of amulets. Some men are now aware that female circumcision is not an official Muslim practice and are open to change, but women explicitly link the practice to Muslim identity and are reluctant to end it.

Although the Ahmadiyya reform movement is gaining support by building schools and mosques throughout the country, they face significant opposition by local elders, who fear their power and influence.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Islam brought a profound appreciation for writing to Guinea-Bissau. Koranic students and holy men dedicate much of their lives to learning to write Koranic verses from memory in classical Arabic. Written with ink onto wooden tablets, these texts are thought to be both beautiful and powerful.

Masquerades associated with initiation rituals are still prevalent despite the fact that many deem them "un-Islamic." Drumming still occurs in some Muslim ritual contexts, but this traditional African holdover is often debated and may be accompanied or replaced altogether by Muslim chants.

Guinean Muslims sometimes paint the mud-brick walls of their traditional African-style houses white with a blue stripe as is common in parts of the Middle East, and they decorate the interiors of their houses with wall hangings from Mecca, prayer beads, and protective amulets encasing Koranic verses.

Other Religions

Christianity came to Guinea-Bissau in the 1500s with Portuguese traders and explorers, but the religion did not have a significant impact until the 1900s, when the Franciscans started the first schools. Christianity is most common among the Kriolu population—the urban elite, who maintained close ties with the Portuguese during the colonial period. Protestant churches are steadily gaining in popularity, but most Guinean Christians are Roman Catholics. Pope John Paul II visited Bissau in January 1990, saying Mass for thousands of Catholics and speaking on social justice. While Catholics in Guinea-Bissau persist in many indigenous beliefs and practices, Protestants are more inclined to view indigenous religions as conflicting with Christianity.

Carnival, which developed out of pre-Lenten parades in the 1950s, is Guinea-Bissau's most distinctive "Christian" celebration. Despite its Catholic roots, Carnival has an African flavor, and Guinean traditionalists celebrate it as enthusiastically as Christians. Children create giant masks out of paper, clay, a paste made from the baobab fruit, and paint. Common mask themes are cow heads (resembling the Pepel initiation masquerade figure) and "devils" (representing iran spirits). Masks may also be political in nature, representing colonial or contemporary political leaders. Carnival in Bissau is a hybrid blend of indigenous, Portuguese, and even Brazilian elements, with some people parading the streets in traditional ethnic clothing and others dressed as popular cult figures, such as Michael Jackson. The three-to five-day celebration culminates in an official carnival procession; all neighborhoods participate, and prizes are awarded to the best masks.

Michelle C. Johnson

See Also Vol. 1: African Indigenous Beliefs, Islam

Bibliography

Brooks, George. "Historical Perspectives on the Guinea-Bissau Region, Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries." In Mansas, Escravos, Grumetes e Gentio: Cacheu na Encruzilhada de Civilizações. Edited by Carlos Lopes. Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa, 1993.

Crowley, Eve Lakshmi. "Contracts with the Spirits: Religion, Asylum, and Ethnic Identity in the Cacheu Region of Guinea-Bissau." Ph.D. diss., Department of Anthropology, Yale University, 1990.

Forrest, Joshua. Guinea-Bissau: Power, Conflict, and Renewal in a West African Nation. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992.

Gable, Eric. "Women, Ancestors, and Alterity among the Manjaco of Guinea-Bissau." Journal of Religion in Africa 26, no. 2 (1996): 104–21.

Johnson, Michelle C. "Being Mandinga, Being Muslim: Transnational Debates on Personhood and Religious Identity in Guinea-Bissau and Portugal." Ph.D. diss., Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.

Scantamburlo, Luigi. Etnologia dos Bijagos da Ilha de Bubaque. Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa, 1991.