Africa and the African Diaspora

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Africa and the African Diaspora

Christopher A. Brooks

An Abridged History of Africa

The Organization of African Unity (OAU)

New Direction and Challenges for a New Century

The Modern Day People of Africa

People of African Descent in the Western Hemisphere

Country Profiles

The African continent has played a profound role in world history. It witnessed the evolution of the human species and sustained its development through many periods. It has been home to many of the world’s great ancient societies, but also experienced the greatest forced removal of its population that has ever been recorded. Like other parts of the world, the continent experienced occupation of external powers, but on a much greater scale. In more recent times, there have been collective triumphs, but there have also been numerous challenges and obstacles that the continent has been forced to confront. Civil wars, religious conflict, famine, and disease have been human realities that modern African nation states have had to cope with. Yet, it continues to make progress in spite of these major challenges.


For at least half a century, archaeological research has established lines of hominoid (an early manifestation in the human family tree) as far north as modern-day Ethiopia through Tanzania as well as South Africa. Early examples of australopithecus (a bipedal, apelike creature with a pelvis more similar to Homo sapiens than to an ape) have been located throughout the east African corridor. Later stages of australopithecine had an increasingly large brain capacity and had a strong presence in both regions of the continent. At some point (perhaps two million years ago), there was a split and the human forerunner, Homo habilis, developed into Homo erectus. In this form, there was movement to other parts of the African continent and beyond. There were complex tool usage and cooperative activities such as hunting and living in groups. The most intact example of Homo erectus yet discovered was near Lake Turkana in Kenya in 1984; this discovery, known as the Nariokotome boy, is believed to be a 12-year-old male. These levels of Homo (i.e., habilis, erectus, and eventually Homo sapiens) constructed tools to use for hunting, digging, and for cutting meat. Hominids began migrating to other parts of the globe, including Asia and southern Europe. Between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, now referred to as Homo sapiens sapiens, emerged, and the earlier forms of hominids seem to have interbred or died out because they lacked certain survival skills such as the use of fire and the ability to identify rudimentary shelter such as caves. As the Stone Age developed, more sophisticated use of tools, such as pointed projectile tips for bows and spears, were developed.

The genetic variation on the African continent manifested itself in later periods with the emergence of four distinctive physical types: the African Caucasoid, also referred to as “Mediterranean”; the Negroid; the Pygmoid, and the San (formerly referred to as Bushman, but also known as Bushmanoid or Capoid). These human variations can still be found on the continent, but the Negroid became the dominant group. Other evidence of more complex organizational structures can be gleaned from the rock art found in several parts of the continent, notably in the southern region.

While the use of tools represented a new level of accomplishment among early humans, greatly improving their ability to form small-scale communities throughout the continent, it was agricultural advancement and the cultivation and mastery of irrigation methods in the Nile Valley region that laid the ground work for the earliest known African states, circa 5000 bce. The expansion of agriculture as an economic foundation facilitated population growth and the eventual emergence of the Egyptian state. Between 3200 and 2900 bce, Upper Egypt (southern part of the state) absorbed Lower Egypt (north part of the state) through conquest. The unified state produced many of the world’s wonders, including the great Pyramid of Giza, established complex religious beliefs (in which the Pharaoh or king was regarded as a god), made advances in medicine, and became the foundation of many Western practices and traditions. Egypt eventually came under Roman control in 146 bce.

Other early African states included Kush, which had a well-developed social structure and political history and lasted 1,500 years into the fourth century ce. Within the millennium, other African states emerged, including ancient Ghana (between 750 and 800 ce), well known for its abundance of gold and smelting techniques. Other West African states were Mali, Songhai, Djenne, and Gao. To the south, the state of Benin was established by the thirteenth century. It was followed by the founding of the Yoruba city of Oyo during the fifteenth century.

The spread of Islam throughout West Africa was initially tied to commerce around the early eighth century. Later, the religion was imposed through conquest. Several kingdoms in the region had an Islamic presence dating back to the eighth century, including Songhai (an empire in present-day Mali on the central portion of the Niger River), the Mali empire (centered on the upper portion of the Niger River), and the ancient kingdom of Ghana. By the ninth century, Muslim merchants from North Africa began to trade regularly in gold and salt with the peoples of West Africa. The merchant class in West Africa was the first major group in the region to fall under the spell of Islam. The West African merchants were soon joined in their conversion to Islam by traditional leaders. Arab traders first began to set up trading outposts along the East African coast in the twelfth century. By the eleventh century, there was a movement

to impose a more rigorous Islamic structure throughout the region by banishing certain customs and practices viewed as contrary to the belief. Even though stricter religious practices were carried out with great vehemence, the unique character of Islam in West Africa was its variation on standard customs. By the sixteenth century, Islam was established in large sections of West Africa.

It was from the early sixteenth century through the first several decades of the nineteenth century that trade in human cargo profoundly changed the African continent as well as the Americas. Prior to the European desire for enslaved Africans, there were jihads, or holy wars, in the western and eastern regions. When Muslim conquerors assumed control of a territory, the conquered were sold into enslavement. While much scholarly attention has gone to the exportation of enslaved Africans, there was also internal enslavement throughout West Africa prior to any contact with Europeans.

There was a Christian (Catholic) presence in West Africa as early as the fifteenth century. The Portuguese sought to break the Muslim control of the maritime trade in the region. By the 1460s, the Cape Verde islands were colonized, and the Portuguese began building forts on the Island of Goree and in other coastal areas such as Elmina, in what became known as the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana). This trading in gold provided a lucrative incentive for the Portuguese and later other European powers to establish contact with Africans who were in a position to mine gold and other precious commodities.

The sustained effort at converting Africans to Christianity did not begin until the 1840s, when the British, the French, and the Portuguese undertook missionary work in the western part of the continent. The French and Portuguese adopted a policy of assimilation, whereby the Africans in their colonies were equipped with the language, culture, and customs of the colonial power and afterwards could be considered French or Portuguese citizens. They thus divided their colonial populations into those who were assimilated and those who remained indigenous. The indigenous were frequently Muslims,

who had well-honed trading skills but did not have a Western-style education and were looked down upon by the colonial powers.

Although the British government declared the trade in enslaved Africans illegal in 1807, such commerce continued in varying degrees through most of the nineteenth century. Some African territories, stung by the British ban on African enslavement, turned to other European nations to continue such trading. When the British fleet deployed along the coast of West Africa to implement that country’s ban on the forced exportation of Africans, human traders simply shifted their operations to areas not under surveillance. Africans were also captured and shipped from East African ports to the Americas.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the European presence on the African continent grew dramatically, but it was the last two decades that were known as the “Scramble for Africa,” which altered the continent, made colonialism a reality, and forged a precarious path well into the twenty-first century. To avoid armed conflict among the major European powers (i.e., Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and Portugal), these countries met in Berlin in 1884 to determine how the continent should be divided and colonized. Among the guidelines that the participants agreed upon were that a colonial power had to establish control of a territory, either through armed occupation or through some form of indirect rule; it had to ensure access to trade routes; and it had to be committed to the abolition of slavery in the claimed territory. A colonial power had to recognize all Christian denominations, primarily for missionary purposes. The African response to these events was pacifistic in some instances and violent in others. In Dahomey (modern-day Benin), Chad, and the Gold Coast, Africans fought the French and British imposition of colonialism. Similar resistance took place in other parts of the continent, as when the Ethiopians defeated the Italians at Adowa in 1896. Resistance was also offered in 1890s during the Shona/Ndebele Wars in Zimbabwe 1896–1897. By late in that decade, however, the “magnificent cake” had been carved up among the European powers.

The spread of the railroad system and the mining industry also played a major role in movement around the

continent from the nineteenth into the twentieth centuries. The so-called Cape (i.e., Cape Town, South Africa) to Cairo (Egypt) Railway, while ultimately left unfinished, cost the lives of many Africans in the development process. Mining also transformed southern Africa. In parts of Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), some 30,000 Africans died between 1900 and 1933 in what were known as chibaro (forced labor). Prisoners and child labor were used in railroad and mining industries throughout that region and other parts of the continent. The Portuguese colonizers in the territories of Angola and Mozambique were especially harsh in their use of forced labor to grow and harvest cotton, only to sell it at artificially low prices.

By the end of World War I, Germany’s defeat dealt a blow to its colonial ambitions, but the remaining European colonizers were still well entrenched and thriving throughout the continent. Only Liberia and Ethiopia escaped falling under the European sphere. In the 1920s, many African colonial governments were threatened by the movement of Marcus Garvey, who preached from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, “Africa for the Africans.” This dictum resonated among many Africans in the colonies and chapters of Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association were established in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria, among other African colonies. Many of the chapters had to operate covertly, but those that paid the most attention to Garvey’s speeches and writings were primarily educated professionals or civil servants who could appreciate the significance of an independent African continent.

North Africa saw most of the actual fighting on the continent during the World War II, although the European Allied forces drew heavily on their African colonists to provide logistical support and labor in several crucial battles. After World War II, continental Africans and those of African descent met at the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England, in 1945, where one of the congress’ primary aims was to formulate strategies for ending colonialism on the continent. The economic impact of the war in Europe made it easier for several independence movements around the African continent to gain new momentum with comparatively little resistance.

Colonialism’s impact on the African continent was dramatic. While there is some scholarship that suggests the overall benefits of this system, such as imposing a uniform language to facilitate communication among different language groups and other infrastructural improvements, colonialism fundamentally took much more than it gave, regardless of the advances. Colonialism was autocratic and it set up artificial boundaries that gave privileges to certain regions (or ethnic groups within those regions). Colonial authorities exploited the territories they controlled for their mineral wealth, and agricultural potential was poorly developed. This colonial legacy was a huge challenge for the new governments in the early postcolonial period.

There were numerous independent movements throughout the 1950s, but that which seemed to capture world attention took place in Kenya. Called “Mau Mau” (a term of contempt used by the British colonizers), it was a Kikuyu-based resistance movement that lasted several years. Militarily, the movement was unsuccessful. Symbolically, however, it galvanized the country in its march toward independence like no other single occurrence.

The former Gold Coast was reborn, taking the ancient name of Ghana as it became independent from the British in 1957. By 1960, several African countries had freed themselves of their colonial masters or actively engaged in struggles to achieve that goal. In the following decades, the African continent experienced many political, economic, and social challenges as well as moments of glory that have helped determine its current position in world history.


At the core of this idea of a united African continent was the Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972), the first leader of an independent Ghana. His vision of a “United States of Africa” took a step forward with the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) when the charter was signed on May 25, 1963, in Addis Ababa. Among the conditions for membership were political independence and majority-rule states of the continent. This organization consisted of 30 independent states, including Ghana, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Chad, among others.

The OAU’s general aims were to promote unity and solidarity among African states, respect and defend the sovereignty of those geographical and political borders, and promote intercontinental trade. However, there was no substantial authority that the OAU leadership could exercise over its member states. Many of the new African nations could be classified as developing countries and as such chose socialist systems of governance. The Soviet Union became their model for economic and political development. Embracing the notion of centrally planned economies, many of these countries developed into single-party states. Almost all African countries in the socialist sphere closely aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, which provided for substantial military and economic assistance. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, many socialist African states were left without a major source of support. Socialism quickly fell into dis-favor, with most countries in Africa turning to Western Europe and the United States for help. While the OAU used its influence to mediate or attempt to resolve various conflicts on the continent (e.g., the Somalia-Ethiopian War in 1977; civil conflicts in Chad in 1980–1981; Mozambique in the mid-1970s), as a unifying force similar to that which Nkrumah predicted, the OAU’s record has been far less distinguished.


The reality of military takeovers of governments (coup d’etats) on the African continent has been a consistent hallmark of the postcolonial era. Between 1960 and 2000, there were more than 140 attempted coups, and close to half of that number was successful. The strong military presence in many African states is another legacy of colonialism (which also maintained a strong police presence to enforce law and order). By the early twenty-first century, African countries were collectively spending more of their national budgets on military expenditures than on education and health systems combined.

Beginning in 1966, Kwame Nkrumah was ousted by the military, which stayed in power for a good deal of Ghana’s independence. Similarly, Nigeria (Africa’s most populous country) was the setting of a violent military overthrow in January 1967 in which the president, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912–1966), and several other prominent politicians were assassinated. Subsequent events in that country led to the outbreak of a devastating civil war (1967–1970, also known as the Biafran War). Such scenarios were recurrent on the continent, where military leaders assumed power to prevent the total breakdown of the government. In some cases, the political in-fighting, governmental corruption, and civil unrest would be so severe, military intervention was actually welcomed. This was the case with Nigeria in 1967 when its first coup took place. The reality, however, is that while they were able to enforce the rule of law, military governments were no better at addressing issues of poverty, health care, land reform for agricultural issues, and employment than the civilian governments that they toppled.


The dilemma of nation building has been another major challenge facing most modern African nations. During the colonial era, it was common for the “divide and rule” strategy to manifest itself in one group being privileged over another because of their proximity to the seat of power or access and opportunity to commercial advantages. The period before andafterWorld War II (when nationalist sentiments began to thrive) was punctuated with the emergence of ethnic associations (sometimes referred to as “tribal” associations) and unions. In several cases, they became the basis of more formal political parties. While the various disparate factions had the single goal in mind of independence from colonialism, afterwards these ethnic sentiments frequently reemerged with equal passion and became stumbling blocks in the construction of a national unity during the postcolonial era. With close to 1,000 different ethnic groups represented on the African continent, from childhood a person is made aware of his or her ethnic identity as keenly (if not more) as they are made aware of their national identity.

Throughout the postcolonial era, conflict surrounding this issue has been routine. Whether it was Yoruba versus Hausa versus Igbo in Nigeria; Kikuyu versus Luo in Kenya; Shona versus Ndebele in Zimbabwe; Zulu versus Xhosa in South Africa; Hutu versus Tutsi in Rwanda as examples, these conflicts have continued to haunt many modern states. In 1994, the outbreak of violence between Hutu and Tutsi led to a genocidal massacre in Rwanda. These events went largely unreported to the international community as they were taking place.

These ethnic-related conflicts have been the foundation of major internal skirmishes, and many modern political leaders have actively exploited such feelings for political gain. Such is typically the case when limited resources are available, and political leaders favor one group as a means of maintaining that group’s loyalty and support.

Some countries have used creative strategies to combat ethnic polarization. After Nigeria’s devastating civil war ended in 1970, it began a policy of mandatory national service for its youth. After completing secondary school in their “home” territory, the participants were required to spend a year performing some service-related activity (such as tutoring younger students, or similar public service) in another part of the country. Ideally, they would learn and be exposed to a different language and cultural tradition.

Zimbabwe adopted an innovative strategy, or invented tradition, in the early 1980s in its creation of Heroes Acres. These stylized cemeteries were created throughout the country to honor those who had died during the struggle for independence, known as “chimurenga.” In honoring a deceased combatant or hero, the state sought to minimize the manifestation of ethnic polarization in funerary practices for a higher cause.


One way in which a number of modern African leaders and countries attempted to combat the persistent problem of ethnic polarization, was through the so-called single- or one-party state in which only one political party exists, the theory being that if there was only one political party, it would minimize the tendency of people to divide themselves along ethnic lines and cause division. With such a divisive obstacle removed, more emphasis could be placed on nation building and tackling other social concerns such as economic development. Another argument made in favor of the one-party state is that it offers individual talent, regardless of ethnicity, the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the party to achieve leadership position and recognition. Yet another argument put forward in support of such governance is that democracy as it has been practiced in western countries is a foreign concept to the African continent, which traditionally had chiefs, kingdoms, and top-down rule. Many prominent post-independence leaders have spoken in favor of this traditional form of government, including Julius Nyerere (1922–1999) of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.

In Africa, there has been the establishment of the one-party state by law, political statute, or referendum (de jure). The other form of a single-party state exists where the ruling party has all major state apparatus (both social and developmental) at its disposal (or de facto). Throughout much of the post-independence era, many African countries, which began as multi-party states, reformed constitutionally as single-party states. There is still a majority of African states that are effectively one party.

The reasons offered for adopting this system, however, have not held up when scrutinized more closely. Economically, Tanzania under Julius Nyerere performed very poorly because of his adherence to strict socialist ideology. One-party systems in Malawi, Zaire, and Uganda under the rules of Hastings Banda (c.1900–1997), Mobutu Sese Seko (1930–1997), and Idi Amin (c.1924–2003), respectively, were very repressive, restrictive, and even brutal in some cases. These were also examples in which ethnic loyalties were actively exploited. One-party states in Africa have also had a tradition of controlling the means of communication such as print and visual media as well as radio communication. This has frequently made it difficult for dissenting views to be heard, yet the majority of African countries still adhere to this system of governance.

After years of political in-fighting and dramatic instances of violence in Zimbabwe, the two major political parties, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), emerged as a united single party, ZANU (PF), in 1987, thus forming a de facto single-party state. Other political parties were not outlawed, but the power apparatus clearly fell into the ZANU sphere of control. It was not until the early twenty-first century that a viable opposition party in that country

emerged. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) seriously challenged ZANU rule. That government quickly passed laws and instituted restrictive practices (for instance, through banning dissenting voices in the press and through other means) and engaged in alleged political intimidation to limit the access and opportunity of the rival party.

The early 1990s witnessed the collapse of several autocratic African leaders as the forces of democratization swept across the continent. The socialist leadership of Benin was forced out. Similar actions also took place in Mali, and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was defeated in 1991. Three years later, Malawi’s Hastings Banda was also defeated at the polls.

One of the more positive recent developments took place in Kenya at the end of 2002. After years of de facto single-party rule by the Kenya Africa National Union, this party was defeated in free and fair national elections by the newly formed National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) with a minimum of disturbances. This portends a new direction for that country and possibly for other African countries.


Throughout the postcolonial period, there have been multiple efforts to expand economic cooperation among African countries as a means of countering outside unfair trade practices. In 1967, the East Africa Community (EAC), which included cooperation among Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar, was established, but lasted only a decade when disputes between Kenya and Tanzania broke out. Also in the face of the Idi Amin crisis in Uganda in the late 1970s, Tanzania invaded Uganda to oust him. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established in 1975 to ease trade among the 16 member states. Similarly, the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) formed to combat South Africa’s economic dominance of the region. These agreements, however, have come with difficulties. In the case of ECOWAS, for example, Nigeria, which has the largest population and economy in the region, has on more than one occasion exercised its will on the smaller states.


Until quite recently, the African story has been told from an elite male perspective exclusively. These events often did not include the perspectives of women, although they were equal participants in many of the historical developments that have molded the continent. History records the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya in the 1950s, but relatively little has been said about the role of women in that independence struggle. Many women took the Mau Mau oath of commitment to the movement. Women were also central to the independence struggle in Zimbabwe where they operated in traditional roles as nurses and caretakers, but many received formal military training in the Soviet Union, North Korea, or Mozambique, among other places. When independence was won in 1980, their participation was rewarded when laws were enacted to expand and protect women’s rights (including the right to vote).

In the area of politics, African women have made significant gains, but there is a far way to go. Most presidential cabinets on the continent will have a minister of state responsible for women’s affairs. Women’s numbers have swollen the ranks in cabinet positions as ministers of transportation, culture, health, and they hold posts throughout the diplomatic corp. Several countries, including Zimbabwe and South Africa, have women deputies or vice presidents. Burundi’s second vice president, Alice Nzomukunda, resigned her position in 2006 after serving only one year in office. In November 2005, Liberia “broke” with African tradition and elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as its head of state. It was the first time a woman has been elected president on the African continent.

There are many other areas where women have not advanced in the same way. Many countries have enacted laws banning female genital cutting (so-called femal circumcision), but, by and large, those laws have not had the enforcement strength to make a significant impact. There are other issues that women continue to struggle with, including inheritance rights, receiving equitable treatment in the courts regarding issues such as domestic violence, reproductive rights, customary and traditional rights, among others.

The case of Wambui Otieno in Kenya is an example of the struggle that women continue to face. In the late 1980s, she had to fight in the courts for the right to bury her husband (S. M. Otieno, who was a lawyer) when his family insisted that as a member of the Luo clan they, by custom, had that obligation. Although she lost the right to bury him, she retained their joint estate and finances. Wambui made national headlines in the country once more in 2003 when, at the age of 67, she married a 28-year-old man.

The impact of civil and military unrest on the continent affects women at a disproportionate rate than men. Women who lose husbands or fathers to conflict become more vulnerable and economically disadvantaged. In some cases, they may resort to prostitution as a means of economic survival.

Women’s voices, however, are increasingly heard in areas of creative and expressive arts that, for a long time, were also dominated by men. The threat to this development appears to increase with the incidence of HIV cases, which presently affects African women at a 12-to-1 ratio to men.


In 2004, South Africa celebrated its tenth anniversary as an independent African state. Between 1948 to the early 1990s, the country suffered under organized racial segregation, oppression, and degradation, which privileged the whites over the other racial groups in the country.

After years of political and often violent resistance, the African National Congress (ANC), under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, took control of the government in 1994. Four years earlier, he had been released after 27 years of imprisonment, and became an international symbol of resistance and perseverance. Although he served only one term in office as South Africa’s first president elected in a one-person, one-vote election, he occupied a larger-than-life Nkrumah-like position throughout the African world.

As Africa’s largest and most prosperous economy with impressive nuclear military credentials, South Africa is poised to lead the rest of the continent. Current South African President, Thabo Mbeki, called for an African renaissance, which he envisions as a regeneration of African pride, technology, innovativeness, and accomplishment. His administration has had to do worldwide damage control over his government’s controversial HIV/AIDS stance, which suggested that the virus did lead to

the disease, but there were larger contributing issues, such as poverty, as major contributing factors.

The promise of this African renaissance, however, is in danger of being sidetracked with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The numbers infected and those who have died from the disease have the potential to ravage the African continent in the same way the bubonic plague devastated sixteenth-century Europe. The occurrence of the disease also points out gender disparities and politics (for every 10 men infected, there are 13 women infected). How the African continent deals with this phenomena will determine its future success in its general social, political, and developmental order for the next generation.

The other threat facing the continent is the outbreak of religious violence in various countries. Nigeria has had several outbreaks between Christians and Muslims in recent years. Efforts to correct such conflicts have been minimal and the root causes of these disputes have not really been addressed. In other parts of West Africa, there continue to be religious tensions, but they are not nearly as severe as in Nigeria. The Mano River Basin, comprising Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, has been economically devastated by civil conflict that has raged throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s. Religious institutions have played a significant role in helping to resettle refugees displaced by the fighting and have functioned as a conflict resolution vehicle. The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP, founded in 1970), a coalition of representatives of the world’s great religions, has encouraged Christian and Muslim leaders in the region to work together through the formation of organizations such as the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL; 1997), which in 1999 helped bring about the signing of the Lome Peace Accord in that nation. There are many African organizations that seek to address the delicate issue of religious intolerance on the continent. The Project for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA) has, among its primary aims, the facilitation of constructive engagement between Christians and Muslims and the reduction of worrying and negative relations. As part of the effort to improve relations, participants have shared gifts and sent greetings and goodwill messages on the occasion of major religious festivals. They have also formed joint committees of Christians and Muslims to address such issues as the implementation of Islamic law (Shari‘a) in northern Nigeria and to encourage governments to stop making aid and political appointments dependent on one’s religious affiliation. They have spoken out against the polarization of society into Christian and Muslim; their efforts represent an African solution to an ongoing challenge in the region.

The Christian/Muslim divide is also at the basis of Africa’s longest civil war with the conflict in the Darfur region of southern Sudan. Since 2003, there have been many documented cases of violence against the local population and more than 1.5 million people have lost their homes or have been forced into refuge in other countries. This has raised the specter of yet another case of genocide on the continent.



As the second-largest continent on the globe, Africa is divided by the equator and bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Indian Ocean. Its 11,616,110 million square miles could contain North America, Argentina, Europe, India, and China. The continent comprises of 52 nation states and six islands.

Africa is essentially a huge plateau divided naturally into two sections. Northern Africa, a culturally and historically Mediterranean region, includes the Sahara desert—the world’s largest expanse of desert. Areas south of the Saharan also contain some desert land, but are primarily tropical, with rainforests clustered around the equator; vast savanna grasslands covering more than 30% of the continent and surrounding the rainforests on the north, east, and south; some mountainous regions; and rivers and lakes that formed from the natural uplifting of the plateau’s surface.

There are many geographical wonders throughout the African continent, including mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Mount Kilimanjaro has the highest peak and is one of the tallest in the world. Major bodies of waters include the rivers Niger, Senegal, Congo, Zambezi (home of the mile-wide Victoria Falls, one of the world’s seven natural wonders), Orange, Limpopo, Malawi, and Nile (the longest river in the world); lakes Tanganyika, Albert, Rudolf, and Victoria (the second-largest freshwater body in the world). The Libyan, Nubian, and Kalahari are among the largest deserts on the continent.


A mineral-rich continent, Africa is a prime source of copper, diamonds, gold, manganese, oil, uranium, zinc, and several other deposits. The equatorial forests produce ebony, teak, and rosewood, while cash crops include bananas, cocoa, coffee, cloves, cotton, sisal, sugar cane, tobacco, yams, and all kinds of nuts, including cashews and groundnuts. Agriculture has formed the basis of most African economies for centuries, but the vast potential was not always developed during its colonial period. Despite such resources, many African nations rank among the poorest in the world. The artificial boundaries set up by colonialism often facilitated one area or region being given preferential treatment. In turn, ethnic conflicts broke out or were perpetuated. In addition, droughts, lack of technological skills, and the very clear reality of corrupt government officials all contribute to the weak economy encountered in much of the continent.

Though Africa does have booming urban and industrial centers—for example, Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Lagos, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana, and Cairo, Egypt—the continent is better known to visitors for the national parks and reserves of East and southern Africa. Wildlife concentrations in these locations vary, but include antelope, impala, Thompson’s gazelles, and wildebeests; buffalo, hippos, and rhinos;

elephants; giraffes; zebras; crocodiles; a variety of bird species; hyenas, jackals, and wild dogs; and cheetahs, leopards, and lions.

Kenya, located in East Africa, is one of the oldest and most popular game-viewing destinations for safari-seeking tourists. The Samburu National Reserve (at the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River), Lake Nakuru (one of the soda lakes of the Rift Valley and home to many animals, including flamingos, warthogs, and more recently rhinos have been introduced), the Masai Mara National Reserve (established in 1961), and Amboseli (which is northwest of Mount Kilimanjaro and borders Tanzania) attract regional and international visitors annually. In Tanzania itself, there is Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park (famous for it annual migration of zebras and wildebeests), and Ngorongoro Crater (a natural amphitheatre that was formed by the collapse of a volcano). Uganda features Bwindi Forest, also known as the impenetrable forest, which is home of the Buhoma Gorilla Camp. It also is home to several species of monkeys and chimpanzees. In the southern region of Africa, South Africa contains ostrich farms; Kruger National Park, one of the continent’s largest reserves; Cango Caves; and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. In Zimbabwe, there is Lake Kariba (completed in 1960 and considered one of the greatest manmade achievements in the region), a permanent water source for monkeys, warthogs, waterbuck, and other species, including birds; Hwange, a game reserve filled with more than 107 species; and the Zambezi Nature Sanctuary and Crocodile Farm.


The African continent holds more than 840,000,000 people, which is approximately 12–13% of the world’s population. Having a higher birthrate than any other continent, there are projections that Africa’s population will exceed two billion by 2040. Currently, a majority of the population continues to live in rural areas. Among those areas where there is heavy population concentrations are Nigeria; southern Ghana; along the Gulf of Guinea; Benin and Togo; the Nile Valley; in northern Sudan; the East Africa highlands of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania; eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo; the eastern and southern coasts; and the inland High Veld of South Africa. The desert and mountain regions are largely uninhabited.

The collective emphasis that Africans place on childbirth makes the idea of population control foreign to most African countries. Because of limited resources, there is a fear that the continent’s rapid growth will cause later generations to cope with food and water shortages. Unplanned urbanization is also a growing concern of several African governments. In the search for employment, many rural dwellers have moved to the cities where there may not be appropriate resources and housing to support the growth. There are a growing number of African cities that have populations in excess of 100,000, including Johannesburg, Ibadan, Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Harare, Lusaka, and Accra, among others. Zimbabwe began a controversial action in 2005 when it systematically destroyed informal housing in high density areas throughout its capital in an effort to force segments of the population back to rural settlements. While the action was condemned by and large, other African countries were taking note of this strategy.


There are an estimated 2,000–3,000 languages spoken on the African continent, with as many as 8,000 different dialects, including indigenized forms of English, French,

and Portuguese. Hausa, followed by Swahili, are the most widely spoken languages on the African continent, but there are close to 50 languages that are spoken by groups of one million or more people. Among them are Afrikaans, Arabic (spoken mainly in North Africa), Ga, Fula, Igbo, Kikuyu, Lingala, Malinke, Nguni (which includes SiNdebele, Xhosa, and Zulu), SeTwana-SeSotho, Shona, and Yoruba.

The language is often found to be the name of the group that speaks it (i.e., Ashanti, Luo, and Wolof). Swahili and Hausa, however, would not fit that pattern neatly because both languages are used by many people across several borders for commercial purposes. It is common in many parts of the continent, especially in the south, for individuals to be fluent in several languages (as many as four or more). By and large, however, one can still move around the African continent with facility in English, French, or Portuguese.

Several African languages are tonal, which means for successful communication, the speaker must employ certain syllabic rises and descents. Speakers of languages that are not tonal (English, for example) find this concept difficult to understand. However, speakers of Chinese (a language that is also tonal) find it easier to learn an African tonal language.

Many African languages were never translated into written form before contact with European colonist in the nineteenth century. As a result, many cultures developed very long and rich oral traditions. In many cases, the oral tradition was the only method of passing literature and history from generation to generation in ancient times, and there were specialists whose job it was to carry out this function. Within many West African traditions, such a person was known as a griot, or oral historian. In many cases, the griot’s knowledge and information is as factual as other source because of their training.


African literature must be considered a composite of both written and oral tradition (which itself can be based on myths and legends), but because several dramatists had their written and oral works performed on the stage, the lines between oral tradition, written works, and stage portrayals become somewhat blurred. For example, the Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka’s celebrated work Death and the King’s Horseman became known to the world as a play, but it existed in oral tradition before that and was based on an actual incident from Nigeria’s colonial past in the 1940s. To further blur the picture, above-mentioned incident was adapted as a play by at least one other dramatist.

Much of the folklore of Africa is available only in the oral and dramatic form. One of the best examples of oral literature is the epic of Sundiata, founder of the West African kingdom of Mali in the thirteenth century. However, written literature is not without its own rich history in Africa. For centuries, written literature in Amharic, Arabic, Hausa, and Swahili has existed and, more recently, there has been a sharp increase in African literature written in the languages of the European colonial powers.

The West Coast of Africa, with its long tradition as a breeding ground for the arts, is home to some of the most important of today’s African writers. Among these, Nigerian Chinua Achebe, author of Man of the People, the story of a newly independent African state strangely reminiscent of Achebe’s own country, rails against corruption and the cult of personality. All of his work, which includes Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease,and Home and Exile, voice a concern for the loss of native culture in the flood of imported European values. This struggle between African traditions coming into conflict with modernization (some would say Westernization) is a recurring theme in several works.

Other Nigerian writers making a name for themselves include Cyprian Ekwensi, Tanure Ojaide, Funso Aiyejina, Amos Tutuola (1920–1997), and Onuora Nzekwu. In Nzekwu’s Blade Among the Boys, the clash between his native Ibo religion and imported Christian ideals causes confusion in the life of a sensitive young man.

Most of the best-known literature out of South Africa during the twentieth century has come from white authors uneasy about their country’s racist policies. William Plomer’s (1903–1973) Turbott Wolfe, published in 1925 well before the imposition of apartheid, argued for a mixing of white and black blood in South Africa to prevent a future in which the country’s whites dominated the country. Probably the best-known of the anti-apart-heid novels is Alan Paton’s (1903–1988) Cry, the Beloved Country. Other South African authors, such as Doris Lessing, Dan Jacobson, J.M. Coetzee, Andre Brink, and Nadine Gordimer, have elevated this literature of protest to a new level of excellence. Gordimer received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, following fellow Africans Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in 1986, and Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006) of Egypt in 1988. Among the better known black writers of South Africa are Sindiwe Magona, Zakes Mda, and Mandla Langa.

Other of Africa’s best-known authors include Came-roon’s Mongo Beti (1932–2001); Ghana’s Ayi Kwei Armah and J.E. Casely-Hayford (1866–1930); Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Lesotho’s Thomas Mofolo (1876– 1948); Nigeria’s Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa (1931– 1993), and Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941–1995) who was executed by the Nigerian government for political activism; Senegal’s Mariama Ba (1929–1981), Sembene Ousmane, and Leopold Sadar Senghor (1906–2001); Somalia’s Nuruddin Farah; South Africa’s Bessie Head (1937– 1986), Ezekiel Mphahlele, and Lewis Nkosi; Uganda’s Okot p’Bitek (1931–1982) and Moses Isegawa; and Zimbabwe’s Dennis Brutus.


Film is a relatively new art form to Africa, but it has been embraced eagerly as yet another medium through which to tell the many stories of the continent. Perhaps more than any other section of the continent, West Africa, particularly the former French-speaking colonies, has been drawn to the production of motion pictures. Among West Africa’s leading filmmakers are Senegal’s Ousmane Sembene and Moussa Toure; Burkina Faso’s Idrissa Ouedraogo, Drissa Toure, Gaston Kabore, and Dani Kouyate; and Mali’s Cheik Oumar Sissoko and Abdoulaye Ascofare. From Cameroon have come the motion pictures of Jean-Marie Teno and Bassek Ba Kkobhio, while Cote d’Ivoire has also produced films.

The former English-speaking colonies of Africa have managed to turn out a large number of well-received films as well. Among the more successful filmmakers in this group are Moses Adejumo (also known as Baba Sala) and Fred Chagu of Nigeria, John Akomfrah of Ghana, Simon Bright of Zimbabwe, and Barry Feinberg, Athol Fugard, and Peter Goldsmid of South Africa.

Over the last decade, African women have become more involved in motion pictures. The latest major political changes in South Africa have helped to open that market to a much wider range of “alternative” films and videos than was possible before.

In 1993, the films coming out of Africa were few in number but notable in quality. Among them, Samba Traore, directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo, employed an age-old plot line quite effectively: the flight of a young criminal to avoid punishment for his crime. Burundian director Leonce Ngabo cooperated with French and Swiss filmmakers in the production of Gito the Ungrateful, the tale of a youth searching for his identity. Director Roger Gneon M’Bala of the Cote d’Ivoire explored the subject of religion in his In the Name of Christ. One of the few notable African films of 1994 was Le Ballon d’Or, directed by Cheik Boukoure of Guinea, which related the story of a young boy’s dream of becoming a world-class soccer player.

Some of the most impressive African films of 1995 came from the tiny West African country of Burkina Faso. These included Drissa Toure’s Haramuya, Dani Kouyate’s Keita, Voice of the Griot, and Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Africa, My Africa. From Cameroon came The Great White of Lambarene, an African evaluation of missionary/doctor/philosopher/musician Albert Schweitzer. Also from Cameroon came one of the best African films of 1996: Clando, the story of a young foe of a repressive African regime, who immigrates illegally to Germany. Burkina Faso’s film community produced some of the most notable motion pictures of 1997. Foremost among these were Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Kina and Adams, which told the story of the relationship between two poor farmers, and Gaston Kabore’s Buud Yam, the tale of a young man’s quest to find medicine for his ailing foster sister. Stirring up controversy in 1997 was Guinea’s Dakan, director Mohamed Camara’s exploration of homosexuality, the first African motion picture to tackle the subject.

Significant African films of the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium included South African music video director Akin Omotoso’s God Is African, recounting the death of Nigerian writer Ken SaroWiwa, and Senegalese director Joseph Gai Ramaka’s Karmen Gei. Zimbabwean Simon Bright’s 1996 film Flame follows the paths of two women combatants in that country’s independence struggle. Also impressive were Guinea’s Temporary Registration; Senegal’s L’Afrance and And So Angels Die; Zimbabwe’s One Sunday Morning; and Gabon’s Dollar.

In 2005, the South African-produced film, Tsotsi (based on the Anthol Fugard novel) won the American Academy Award for the best foreign film. The year before another South African-produced film, Yesterday,dealt with the impact of the HIV pandemic on a rural community.


In the mind’s eye of most Westerners, the mention of “African music” would cause the person to envision a drum. This, of course, is a mistaken impression that has been perpetuated by many stereotypes (several of which are negative) and fostered and reinforced, unfortunately, by a good deal of scholarship. There are few generalizations that could be made about African music. The first is there are both group and solo instrumentalists to be found on the continent. The second and most important generalization is that accompanied song is far more universal on the African continent than any instrumental tradition. In fact, there are many stylized vocalizations common in African and African-derived musical traditions, such as falsetto, ululation, yodels, glissandi, shouts, screams, and moans. These characteristics are often overlooked while traditional emphasis has been given to instrumental traditions, especially drumming.

Sustained interest in African music dates back to the 1930s, but there have been many who have collected and documented a variety of traditions that date much earlier. African scholars like Nicholas George Ballanta of Sierra Leone and Ephraim Amu of Ghana were active musicians and produced written works of historical importance. Among the eminent collectors/recordists was Hugh Tracey, who began documenting musical traditions in Southern and Central Africa in the 1920s and continued doing so into the 1970s. He founded the International Library of African Music in South Africa in the 1950s to preserved and study musical genres on the continent. The tradition was continued by Andrew Tracey (son) and many others.

By the early 1960s and into the 1970s when several African countries were either independent or actively engaged in independence movements, several “African” voices emerged as scholars, interpreters, and authorities on various African musical traditions as never before. Names such as Kwabena Nketia, Samuel Akpabot (1931–2000), Francis Bebey (1929–2001), Kazadi wa Mukuna, among many others, established continental Africans as authorities on various traditions.

For the past three decades or more, there has been substantial interest in African popular musical styles. This interest has resulted in major radio programs dedicated to playing it (such as Afro Pop worldwide), compact disk circulation, and videos being generated. In addition, many popular African musicians have established international reputations because of the interest.

Many popular musical styles have developed on the continent several of which are hybrids or represent some blending with other sources. Kwela is a pennywhistle-based style that developed in townships of South Africa and was first noticed in the 1940s and 1950s. Highlife is one of the older twentieth-century African popular genres and appears to have been influenced by African American jazz bands as early as the 1920s. Ghana is the likely birthplace of the style that is characterized by the use of trumpets and saxophones. It spread to other West African countries, including Sierra Leone and Nigeria, among others. Juju is another older drumming-derived musical genre among the Yoruba that dates from the 1930s. Well-known early practitioners were I.K. Dairo (from the 1950s), to be followed by the other major performers like Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, and Twins Seven Seven. Soukous has its origins in Central Africa,

and the term is derived the French word for “shake.” A dance tradition, soukous has Afro- Cuban influences and, because the tradition has spread to other parts of the continent, it is one of the most popular genres after more than 50 years. Apala is another popular Yoruba-derived drumming style. It has a very strong secular Muslim following in Nigeria, but has also spread to other parts of the region. In an earlier version, it was used to call worshippers to pray, but increasingly moved outside this sacred setting. Jit is a guitar-based style popularized in Zimbabwe in the late 1970s and 1980s. It can be heard in dance halls and also features drums and has also been influenced by highlife and soukous. Makossa is also a dance-related style to found in the Cameroon. It seems to have appeared in the early 1950s. Widely considered as the national music of Cape Verde, morna is a hybrid traditional music that incorporates several Portuguese influences and employs instruments such as violins, accordions, clarinets, and cavaquinho. It tends to be mournful and frequently found in a minor key. Mbalax is a Senegalese (Wolof-derived) percussion tradition that has been popularized by Youssou N’Dour, one of the continent’s most renowned popular musicians, who is also a gifted composer.

Some of Africa’s biggest artists, “cross-over” or otherwise, include Angola’s Kuenda Bonga (born Barcelo de Carvallo, he is a political-minded singer-songwriter) and Ruy Mingas (a famous Portuguese-African vocalist and current minister of culture of that country); Burkina Faso’s Farafina (a group led by balafon virtuoso Mahama Konate); Cape Verde’s Cesaria Evora (“The Barefoot Diva”); Congo-Kinshasa’s Mbilia Bel (one of Africa’s most successful female singers), 4 Etoiles (featuring soukous guitarist Syran Mbenza), Ricardo Lemvo; Makina Loca (an Afro-Latino vocalist), Les Bantous (a rhumba band), Tabu Ley Rochereau (a soukous master), Sam Mangwana (known as “Le Pigeon,” since his travels and music have produced mixtures of Cuban, Portuguese-African, and Caribbean rhythms), Tshala Muana (“Queen of Mutuashi,” a dance form), Papa Wemba (one of the world’s greatest singers), and Zap Mama (an all-female group led by poet Marie Daulne); Gabon’s Pierre Akendengue (a blind singer, guitarist, poet, and playwright); Guinea’s Bembeya Jazz National (featuring Sekou “Diamond Fingers” Diabate); Mali’s Toumani Diabate (considered the world’s greatest kora player), Oumou Sangare (the country’s favorite female “praise singer”), and Ali Farka Toure (1939–2006, “The Bluesman of Mali”); Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade (“The King of Juju”) and Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938–1997, an outspoken social critic, pianist, saxophonist, and singer); Senegal’s Baaba Maal (known as “The Nightingale” because of his clear high-pitched voice), Youssou N’Dour (produces an exciting blend of mbalax, reggae, jazz, and calypso music), and Orchestre Baobab de Dakar; Sierra Leone’s Abdul TeeJay (a London-based studio guitarist adept at several forms including highlife, soukous, makossa, and soca); South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo (an a capella group led by tenor vocalist Joseph Shabalala), Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde (1937–1999, legendary, deep-voiced “King of the Groaners”), the Mahotella Queens (mbaqanga mavens), Miriam Makeba (“Mama Africa”), Hugh Masekela (trumpet and flugelhorn-playing jazz legend), West Nkosi (multitalented musician, arranger, producer, and bandleader), and The Soul Brothers (one of the nation’s biggest-selling groups); Tanzania’s Zuhura Swaleh (a female taarab singer); and Zimbabwe’s Stella Chiweshe (“The Queen of Mbira”).

Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi are currently Zimbabwe’s best-known popular musicians, but represent different political standpoints. Mapfumo, referred to as the “Lion of Zimbabwe,” rose to fame during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle (chimurenga) and his music was explicitly linked to that movement. He was briefly jailed because of his political views. When independence was won in 1980, he was hailed as a national figure. In the early 2000s, he became critical of the government and composed songs speaking of its widespread corruption. He eventually left Zimbabwe and now lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. Oliver Mtukudzi, on the other hand, has been more subtle and has not been as overtly political in his music as Mapfumo. His musical themes have dealt with social problems, such as HIV and abuse of women, and his songs often suggest that people should seek God’s intervention for their problems. While Mtukudzi continues to enjoy a celebrated and lucrative career in the country, Mapfumo’s songs have been banned from being played.

While there has traditionally been interest in popular African musical styles, there is also a legacy of art music (more commonly referred to as classical music) on the African continent. The Nigerian-born Fela Sowande (1905–1987), the celebrated organist and composer, produced several orchestra suites, choral works, and art songs. The Missa Luba, a musical setting of the Catholic Mass was produced in the 1950s and is a blend of Western art music and traditional Luba-style singing and drumming. More recent examples of this blend can be found in the performances of the Soweto String Quartet. Formed in the 1990s, the highly successful ensemble has become popular around the world. Yet another South African-based singing group, Afrotenor, has successfully blended Western art music, traditional South African traditions, and popular songs. The group modeled itself after the African American performing group, Three Mo’ Tenors.

South Africa is also leading in another genre of music, religious music (referred to as gospel music). There are religious choirs to be found all over the country, but solo artist, Rebecca Malope, has become an international star and hailed as the country’s “Queen of Gospel.”


Although there is no continent on the planet that has not been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the spread of the virus on the African continent has been the most severe. In human terms, the virus has devastated many countries. As of 2006, more than 18,000,000 Africans have died of AIDS since the epidemic was recognized in the early 1980s. Of that number, close to 3,500,000 are children. There has also been a dramatic rise in the number of AIDS “orphans” who have lost one or both parents to the virus. One estimate suggests that by 2010 there may be as many as 40,000,000 AIDS orphans. If these predicted numbers become a reality, it will result in a fundamental restructuring of family units on the continent because those parents of productive age who have died or are dying from the virus will leave an elderly population and a young population. This will also reverse the gains made in life expectancy on the continent because of other advances.

The statistics are staggering throughout the continent, but southern Africa has recorded the highest numbers of confirmed cases of HIV. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, South Africa had a 1-in-5 ratio of HIV+ adults. Comparable statistics can be found in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and other countries in the region. While there has been a sustained program to provide antiretroviral therapies for many affected, typically that will reach only about 20% of those in need. Even that effort, however, has been complicated by the presence of multiple strains of the virus in the region, which require evermore sophisticated treatment regimens.

It must also be reported that several countries took very aggressive steps in combating the virus early on and, as a result, leveled off the growing rates. At the forefront was Uganda’s head of state, Yoweri Museveni. In conjunction with grassroots organizations like The Aids Support Organization (TASO), founded by Noerine Kaleeba in 1987, the organization has dealt frankly with how the virus is contracted (i.e., sexually) and is avoided (i.e., abstinence, monogamy, or through condom use). Using traditional African means of disseminating information, such as local plays and skits, TASO has proven to be an effective tool in the fight against the virus. Other countries have imitated its model.

While HIV/AIDS has clearly been the most challenging health issue on the African continent, other long-term health problems continue to present themselves. Diseases such as malaria and cholera have not been eradicated and other conditions like roof and mouth disease and rinderpest emerge periodically, which affect the livestock in certain regions. In 2006, a resistant strain of tuberculosis was detected in several South African townships. The general challenge of mass accessibility to medicine and proper nutrition is also a barrier to overall health stabilities in areas that are troubled by civil conflict such as the Darfur region of Sudan.

In the mid-1990s, the highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus struck in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Gabon, and the Ivory Coast. After a mid-1996 outbreak in Gabon, there was a temporary lull on the Ebola front, until northern Uganda was struck by an outbreak in the fall of 2000. Ebola is one of the most contagious and lethal viruses known to mankind, and the international scientific community has come together in trying to locate the sources of contamination in hopes of bringing an end to a virus whose newer strains have increased the fatality rate of the afflicted from 80% to 97% since earlier outbreaks dating back to the 1970s in the Sudan and former Zaire.

Food shortages caused by drought and civil conflicts continue to cause mass starvation and malnutrition in Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, as well as in parts of western Africa. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the international community has joined forces to try to alleviate the situation by sending food and aid to the needy and even resorting to peacekeeping military personnel in situations caused by ongoing civil disturbances.

The practice of female circumcision or genital mutilation—one of many varying rites of passage performed in parts of Africa—has been denounced by Western society as the harbinger of medical problems for women later in life, including the inability to walk, chronic infections, and difficult childbirth. While an African and Western effort to stamp out the sometimes fatal ritual is growing, many others decry what they deem to be cultural interference. Tradition holds that the surgery preserves the chastity of those upon whom it is performed.


Various scholars have demonstrated an African presence in the Americas long before the Common Era (bce). For example, there has been a proposed link made between the huge Olmec heads found in the Mexican Gulf Coast and the African features they display. Yet another theory offers that Abu Bakari II, King of Mali, sent ships early in the fourteenth century across what is now the Atlantic Ocean and landed in modern-day Mexico as early as 1310. Voyages of exploration and trade between Africa and modern-day Central America seem to have been steady over the next 180 years.

What appears not to be in dispute is that by the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in the 1490s, an African presence had preceded him in the region. Pedro Alonzo Nino, an African Spaniard, navigated Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, in the explorer’s initial voyage. There were at least 30 Africans accompanying Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he first reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513. What was recorded as one of the period’s most daring exploration adventures was that of the African Portuguese, Estevan de Dorantes, who accompanied the explorer Panfilo de Narvaez on an expedition to modern-day Florida in 1527. Estevan and a surviving party of fellow explorers were captured by Native Americans, but eventually escaped. He was killed by Zuni Indians around 1540.

By the mid-sixteenth century, African arrivals to the New World had begun in earnest; however, unlike before they did not come as explorers. An early sixteenth century recommendation made by the activist priest, Bartolome de Las Casas (later Bishop of Chiapa) that “Africans” be used for slave labor instead of the indigenous Indians fundamentally altered the course of human history. In response to the de las Casas request, Spain’s King Charles I granted license around 1518 for the importation of thousands of Africans from the continent to Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica for the purpose of harvesting sugar and other types of spices. Many Spanish New World settlers took advantage of this opportunity and the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade in Africans was underway. Although the Spanish had initial control of the enterprise, the Portuguese quickly joined in along with other European powers. Over the next three centuries, between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 Africans were imported forcibly to the Americas. The vast majority of the enslaved went to South America and endured some of the most brutal and cruel practices in their transportation ever recorded in human history.

The slave labor varied from territory to territory. Where large plantations developed, the labor would have been agricultural, but many enslaved Africans also worked in gold and silver mines to harvest precious minerals. Life for the enslaved Africans in the New World, however, was generally harsh and unpleasant, and the frustration over the elusiveness of freedom sometimes boiled over into unrest and even outright revolt. In 1620, a group of escapees in Santo Domingo created a colony, which staged several uprisings. The island was also the setting of the late eighteenth century rebellion when close to 500,000 Africans led by Toussaint L’Ouverture took control of the territory from the British and Spanish. In 1801, Toussaint L’Ouverture conquered Santo Domingo, which had been ceded by Spain to France in 1795, and thus he governed the entire island. Following a hard-fought resistance to French colonial ambitions in the Western Hemisphere, Toussaint L’Ouverture struck a peace treaty with Napoleon in 1802.

Toussaint’s successful independence campaign in Haiti (as the island later became known) inspired similar actions among enslaved Africans in North America. There are about four movements which have received extensive attention in U.S. history books (i.e., the Stono Rebellion in 1739 outside Charleston, South Carolina; the Gabriel Rebellion in 1800 in Richmond, Virginia; the Denmark Vesey Rebellion in 1822 also in Charleston, and the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia). However, between 1800 and 1850, there were close to 200 liberation movements staged by enslaved Africans throughout the United States.

During and just after the American Revolutionary War, several newly created states formally abandoned African enslavement, but the southern states regarded the “peculiar institution” as part of its legacy and essential to its economic survival. By the 1820s, the foundation was laid for regional conflict.

There were several events which punctuated regional differences between northern and southern sentiments regarding African enslavement. For example, the 1839 Amistad incident in which enslaved Africans forcibly took control of the ship and ordered the crew to steer the vessel back to the continent. En route, the vessel was intercepted by the U.S. Navy and brought to shore in the northeast. The Africans were charged with sedition, but ultimately found not guilty and allowed to return to the continent.

Active since the colonial period, the abolitionist movement dramatically increased its operation in the 1820s after the Missouri Compromise issue was settled. One of outgrowths of the movement was the founding of the Underground Railroad, which gave secret aid to those seeking freedom. There were a variety of techniques used to assist in this process. There were alert and map songs that secretly encoded information about escaping. Quilts were also employed as a means of communication. To throw dogs off their scent, escapees often used a strong-smelling liquid like turpentine or something similar that made them more difficult to be followed.

Another example of the northern/southern divide on the issue of black enslavement was the passage of the Fugitives Slave Laws in the 1850s that allowed for a southern slaveholder to go anywhere throughout the country to reclaim his “property.” This resulted in escapees having to seek safety outside U.S. borders in Canada or Mexico.

On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, blacks in the South numbered about four million, making up approximately one-third of the total population of the region. At the same time, there were about half a million free blacks living throughout the United States, slightly more than half of them in the South. There were several events that further divided the country on the issue of African enslavement, including the Dred Scott decision, which ruled that even though an enslaved person lived in a “free” state, their enslaved status was not altered.

The immediate forerunner of the conflict was the John Brown raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal. Brown recruited several black participants. His ultimate capture and hanging made him a symbol for the cruelty of black enslavement. After the conflict broke out in 1861, few thought the war would last as long as it did. Black troops eventually participated in the fighting, mostly for the Union, but by the end of the war, they were inducted to fight for the Confederacy as well.

Constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War by the U.S. Congress gave statutory recognition to freed African Americans. For example, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments gave them freedom from slavery, recognized African Americans as citizens of the country, and gave them the right to vote, respectively. Although these laws were on the books, they were undermined, avoided, or simply not enforced. It took another century for this group of Americans to begin to realize their basic rights as U.S. citizens when the civil rights movement in the 1960s in the United States forced the country to begin to live up to its promises of justice for all.

The system of African enslavement in the Caribbean was generally an extension of the European power that had governed the territory. However, unlike in the United States where African Americans represented a numerical minority, the African-Caribbean population represented a clear majority on most of the islands throughout the region. There were rebellions and uprisings throughout the history of the Caribbean, but even 40 years after independence in the 1960s, those of African ancestry still hold an inferior position to the smaller numbers of whites, Asians, and East Indian populations collectively. With regard to politics, entrepreneurial activity, and other sectors of the society, the African-derived population still lags behind in terms of access and opportunity to things such as education and other societal advancements. In places like Guyana, however, the East Indian population now outnumbers those of African descent.

In Jamaica, the Rastafarian movement has come to represent an anti-establishment symbol that has spread to other areas of the world, principally through reggae music. It represents one of the few distinctive African-derived cultural developments to come out of the region. The current collective economic situation in the West Indies continues to represent a challenge. For some time, Haiti has been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has experienced continuous social, economic, and political upheaval well into the twenty-first century. Efforts by the United States to foster economic recovery in Haiti have been largely unsuccessful, and attempts to nurture the fledgling democracy, thus far, have yielded limited results.



“Area” values are given in square kilometers as that is the unit of measurement most common to the countries covered. To figure the area in square miles, multiply the number by 0.3861.

Most of the statistical data in the country profiles comes from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s publication, World Factbook 2005.

“Income” values for each nation are the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita figures as measured using the purchasing power parity (PPP) method, which attempts to determine the relative purchasing power of different currencies over equivalent goods and services. For example, if it costs someone in the United States US$300 to buy a month’s worth of groceries, but it costs someone in Ghana only US$100 to buy the same amount of groceries, then the person in Ghana can purchase three times as much for the same amount of money. This means that, though the average citizen of Ghana may earn less money than the average citizen of the United States, money buys more because goods and services cost less in Ghana. Note that GDP figured at purchasing power parity may be three or more times as large as GDP figured at exchange rate parity.

In preparing this latest edition of The African American Almanac, editors considered the possibility of removing from its Country Profiles those countries with small or negligible populations of African descent. In the end, it was decided that such deletions would deprive readers of a comprehensive overview of those regions that generally have strong African ties. As a result, this edition continues to provide complete coverage of all countries within Africa and the Americas regardless of the percentage of population of African descent.


Official name: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria

Independence: 5 July 1962 (from France)

Area: 2,381,740 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Algiers

International relations: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MONUC, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OAU, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD)

Income: US$6,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 32,531,853 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%

Religious groups: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%

Languages: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects

Literacy: 70% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products 97%

Primary export partners: US 22.6%, Italy 17.2%, France 11.4%, Spain 10.1%, Canada 7.5%, Brazil 6.1%, Belgium 4.6% (2004)

Imports: capital goods, food and beverages, consumer goods

Primary import partners: France 30.3%, Italy 8.2%, Germany 6.5%, Spain 5.5%, US 5.2%, China 5.1%, Turkey 4.3% (2004)

Since the period of 5 bc, the area that makes up what is now Algeria has been populated by indigenous groups that have been progressively pushed back from the coast by invaders. As a result, the country’s boundaries have shifted during various stages of the conquests. Nearly all Algerians are Muslim of Arab, Berber, or mixed stock.

French colonization began in 1830 and continued until 1954, when the indigenous population staged a revolt. A small group of nationalists who called themselves the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched the revolution. Negotiations led to a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN on March 18, 1962; France then declared Algeria independent on July 3.

Mohammed Ben Bella became Algeria’s first post-independence president, but was ousted three years later by Col. Boume’dienne. After he died, Chadi Benjadid became the head of state. In 1991, Algeria held its first free election after 30 years of a one-party system, and the National Liberation Front was defeated by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the first round of voting for the National Assembly. When it appeared clear that the fundamentalist group would win a majority in the second round of voting scheduled for January 1992, the government and army intervened to cancel the elections. Mohammed Boudiaf, a former dissident in the FLN, was installed as president of the ruling State Supreme Council. In May 1992, Boudiaf was assassinated, allegedly by an FIS gunman while delivering a speech in Annaba, continuing the ongoing conflict between the government and the fundamentalist Muslims of the FIS. Algeria has since been in a declared state of emergency.

In 1994, Liamine Zeroual became president and greatly increased the power of that office through constitutional changes approved by voters. The conflict with religious extremists and the FIS continued as both groups boycotted the next round of elections in 1997. This move allowed the military government to consolidate its hold on power as the level of violence increased in the country, as evidenced by the bloody Ramadan massacres and random killings of that same year. After a flawed election in April 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika became president. The new president struck a peace accord with rebels and won approval for an amnesty plan in a September 1999 referendum. Violence flared again in the spring of 2001, over the issue of Berber identity. Violent protests and boycotts of local elections caused the government to concede and recognize Berber as an official language. Abdelaziz Bouteflika was reelected in a landslide in 2004, but the issue of the Berber autonomy campaign persists.


Official name: Republic of Angola

Independence: 11 November 1975 (from Portugal)

Area: 1,246,700 sq km

Form of government: transitional government, nominally a multiparty democracy with a strong presidential system

Capital: Luanda


Currency: kwanza (AOA)

Income: US$2,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 11,190,786 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Ovimbundu 37%, Kimbundu 25%, Bakongo 13%, mestico (mixed European and native African) 2%, European 1%, other 22%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 47%, Roman Catholic 38%, Protestant 15%

Languages: Portuguese (official), Bantu, and other African languages

Literacy: 66.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: crude oil 90%, diamonds, refined petroleum products, gas, coffee, sisal, fish and fish products, timber, cotton

Primary export partners: US 38%, China 35.9%, Taiwan 6.8%, France 6.5% (2004)

Imports: machinery and electrical equipment, vehicles and spare parts, medicines, food, textiles, military goods

Primary import partners: South Korea 28.3%, Portugal 13.1%, US 9.3%, South Africa 7.4%, Brazil 5.6%, Japan 4.8%, France 4.4% (2004)

Angola’s boundaries were formally established by the Berlin West Africa Congress of 1884–1885. Following World War II, Portuguese interest in colonizing Angola increased, leading to the establishment of a strict and harsh colonial rule.

Discontent over Portuguese unwillingness to concede eventual independence led to the formation of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). In January 1975, the Portuguese and the three liberation movements worked out a complicated agreement—the Alvor Accord—that provided for a transitional government composed of all three groups and for elections in preparation for independence in November of 1975.

Once the Portuguese departed in late 1975, Angola was left in the midst of a fierce struggle for power between the three divided liberation movements. Fueling the civil war was the involvement of such foreign powers as the United States, South Africa, the Soviet Union, and Cuba. South African troops, which were encouraged by the United States that backed the FNLA-UNITA alliance, actually invaded Angola, but were repelled. The Marxist MPLA was finally able to establish control of the country under Augustinho Neto who ruled as the newly independent country’s first president until his death in 1979. Jos succeeded Neto&eacute Eduardo Dos Santos, but the MPLA government, weakened by continuing South African incursions into Angolan territory and its own inflexible economic policies, had lost territory in the south of the country to UNITA by the early 1980s.

By the late 1980s, the embattled MPLA government was forced to abandon some of its most stridently Marxist economic policies, which opened the door to more cordial relations with Western countries. Hope for a lasting peace increased in 1991, when peace accords were signed between the MPLA and UNITA. However, war again erupted the following year, when UNITA refused to acknowledge its defeat in multiparty elections. The struggle between MPLA and UNITA for control of Angola continued into the late 1990s.

In 1997, a plan to install a government of national unity had to be abandoned when Jonas Savimbi, leader of UNITA, refused to come to Luanda because he feared for his life. Savimbi also balked at proposals that he surrender UNITA’s control over most of the country’s diamond business, arguing that the MPLA controlled all of Angola’s lucrative oil trade. In 1998, escalating political and military tension between the Angolan government and UNITA again threatened to flare into a full-scale civil war. In August 1998, the Angolan government sent thousands of troops into neighboring Congo-Kinshasa

(now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in support of the regime of Laurent Kabila. As the civil war within Angola continued to rage, the United Nations in March 1999 withdrew its mission from the country. The devastating toll of Angola’s civil war, as of 2001, was estimated by the U.N. at one million lives with another 2.5 million left homeless. An August 2001 UNITA ambush of a train left more than 250 dead. In February 2002, rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed a conflict with government forces. His death resulted in a cease-fire. Following further negotiations, UNITA abandoned its military efforts and became the major opposition party in the country. The MPLA government of President Dos Santos announced its intention to hold elections in 2006 followed by a new multi-party constitution. The 2006 election did not take place, but a new date for a general election has been announced for 2008.


Official name: Republic of Benin

Independence: 1 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 112,620 sq km

Form of government: republic under multiparty democratic rule; dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989; democratic reforms adopted February 1990; transition to multiparty system completed 4 April 1991

Capital: Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US $1,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 7,460,025 (2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: African 99% (42 ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba), Europeans 5,500

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

Languages: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), indigenous languages (at least six major ones in north)

Literacy: 33.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2002 est.)

Exports: cotton, crude oil, palm products, cocoa

Primary export partners: China 28.7%, India 18.4%, Ghana 6.3%, Thailand 6%, Niger 5.8%, Indonesia 4.2%, Nigeria 4.2% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, tobacco, petroleum products, capital goods

Primary import partners: China 32.2%, France 13%, Thailand 6.7%, Cote d’Ivoire 5.3% (2004)

During the pre-colonial era, Benin was a collection of small principalities, the most powerful of which was the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey. By the eighteenth century, the Portuguese and other Europeans established trading posts along the coast. From these posts, thousands of enslaved Africans were shipped to the New World, primarily to Brazil and the Caribbean. This part of West Africa became known as the Slave Coast.

In 1892, the King of Dahomey was subjugated, and the country organized as the French protectorate of Dahomey. It remained a French colony until independence in 1960, when the name was changed to the Republic of Dahomey, and Hubert Maga became president. Three years later, military commanders overthrew him. Mathieu Kérékou took over in 1975. In the same year, the name of the country was changed to the People’s Republic of Benin. When the government reverted to civilian control in 1980, Kérékou was reelected president of the republic. Facing formidable internal dissent, Kérékou in 1989 abandoned his Marxist-Leninist ideology. A new constitution, adopted in 1990, laid the groundwork for the establishment of a multiparty republic. Nicéphore Soglo defeated Kérékou in presidential elections in 1991, Benin’s first free ballot in 30 years. Although the country’s economy improved under Soglo, his personal popularity declined, and he was defeated by Kérékou in 1996 presidential elections. In his second term, Kérékou has largely abandoned his socialist vision, instead pursuing policies of economic liberalization. Kérékou’s policies apparently won favor with the country’s electorate, winning him reelection in a March 2001 runoff despite claims of voting irregularities. In 2006, general elections took place. President Kérékou and former President Soglo were banned from contesting because of their age and constitutional requirements. Neither challenged their banning. Yayi Boni won a runoff election in March 2006 and was sworn in as president the following month. Benin’s presidential succession was declared free and fair and the country has been hailed as a model of African democracy.

The population of Benin comprises about 20 sociocultural groups. Four groups—the Fon, Aja (who are related), and Bariba, and Yoruba—account for more than half of the population.


Official name: Republic of Botswana

Independence: 30 September 1966 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 600,370 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary republic

Capital: Gaborone


Currency: pula (BWP)

Income: US $9,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,640,115 (2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa 3%, other, including Kgalagadi and white, 7%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 50%

Languages: English (official), Setswana

Literacy: 79.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: diamonds 72%, vehicles, copper, nickel, meat (2003 est.)

Primary export partners: European Free Trade Association (EFTA) 87%, Southern African Customs Union (SACU) 7%, Zimbabwe 4% (2000)

Imports: foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, textiles, petroleum products

Primary import partners: Southern African Customs Union (SACU) 74%, EFTA 17%, Zimbabwe 4% (2000)

Europeans made first contact with the area in the early nineteenth century. In the last quarter of the century, hostilities broke out between the Botswana and the Afrikaners from South Africa (Transvaal). Following appeals by the Botswana for assistance, the British government in 1885 proclaimed “Bechuanaland’’ to be under British protection. In 1909, despite South African pressure, inhabitants of Bechuanaland, Basutoland (now Lesotho),

and Swaziland demanded and received British agreement that they not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa.

In June 1964, the British government accepted proposals for a form of self-government for Botswana that would lead to independence. Botswana became independent on September 30, 1966, and Seretse Khama was installed as the prime minister after the Bechuana-land Democratic Party (BDP) won majority votes. The country was later named Botswana, and upon Khama’s death in 1980, Quett Ketumile Joni Masire assumed the presidency, an office to which he was reelected three times. Constitutional reforms in 1994–1995 allowed more political parties to participate in the government and greatly reduced the power of the central government. However, the retirement of President Masire and the orderly succession of his vice president, Festus Mogae, to the presidency in 1998 appeared to extend the BDP’s firm grip on power.

Since winning independence, Botswana has maintained a nonaligned foreign policy. Although it opposed the former racist policies of neighboring South Africa, Botswana maintained close economic ties. Large deposits of diamonds have been discovered in Botswana in recent years, making the country one of the world’s major producers of the valuable gemstone. Also contributing to the country’s economic growth are cattle raising and the mining of copper and nickel. Botswana has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the region, which, because of its relatively small population, has the potential to threaten its economic growth and development, which has consistently been one the strongest in that part of the continent. Because of its relative prosperity, Botswana has called on experts to assist the country as it combats the epidemic. It has some of the most progressive policies for caring for those with the virus to be found on the continent. This has gone a long way in diminishing the stigma associated with the virus found in other countries throughout the region.

Some 75% of the country’s population is made up of the Tswana (Botswana), which is divided into eight subgroups: Bamangwate, Bakwena, Batawana, Bangwaketse, Bakgatla, Bamalete, Barolong, and Batlokwa. The Kalanga, Herero, Bushmen (Basarwa), Yei, and Kgalagadi are minorities.

Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta)

Official name: none

Independence: 5 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 274,200 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary

Capital: Ouagadougou


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 13,925,313 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mossi over 40%, Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, Mande, Fulani

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 40%, Muslim 50%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%

Languages: French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population

Literacy: 26.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: cotton, animal products, gold

Primary export partners: China 32.1%, Singapore 11.5%, Ghana 4.7%, Bangladesh 4.3% (2004)

Primary import partners: France 29.3%, Cote d’Ivoire 16%, Togo 9.8% (2004)

Until the end of the nineteenth century, the Mossi, who are believed to have come from central or eastern Africa in the eleventh century, dominated the history of Burkina Faso. When the French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, the Mossi resisted but were defeated when their capital at Ouagadougou was captured. After World War II, the Mossi renewed their pressure for separate territorial status, and Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French Community on December 11, 1958. It achieved independence on August 5, 1960, under President Maurice Yaméogo. Austerity measures imposed by the Yaméogo government at the end of 1965 led to a confrontation between the nation’s trade unions and the government. In the opening days of 1966, power was seized by General Sangoulé Lamizana, the army chief of staff. He named himself president and suspended the constitution. In 1980, Lamizana was ousted in a bloodless coup, which was followed by two more coups over the next three years. In August 1984, one year after the coup that brought Captain Thomas Sankara to power as head of the National Revolutionary Council, the country’s name was changed from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso.

Sankara was overthrown and executed in an October 1987 coup led by Blaise Campaoré. In 1990, Campaoré introduced some democratic reforms and the following year was reelected. His party won a legislative majority in the May 1992 legislative elections. During the mid-1990s, Burkina Faso actively supported revolutionary movements in Gambia and Liberia, alienating it from its neighbors and most Western powers. However, in 1998, Burkina Faso hosted the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, Africa’s biggest sporting event. The nation received favorable international media coverage for its efforts.

The country experienced extensive political and social unrest in the wake of the December 1998 deaths of journalist Norbert Zongo and three companions. At the time of his death, Zongo had been investigating the 1997 death in detention of the driver of the president’s brother. In May 1999, President Campaoré promised a full investigation into Zongo’s death. A month later several presidential guards were arrested and charged with Zongo’s murder. In August 2000, three of five soldiers on trial for Zongo’s murder were convicted.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Burkina Faso’s citizens migrate to Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in search of work. This has contributed to strained relations with Côte d’Ivoire. Despite a July 2001 meeting between the two countries’ heads of state called to resolve conflicts, border tensions between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire continued throughout 2001.

In 1998, Blaise Campore was declared the winner and held a second presidential term. However, there were widespread complaints about election irregularities and several opposition groups boycotted the voting. In 2005, he won yet another five-year term.

The country continues to face challenges and international accusations regarding its human rights record and poorly run economy. Even by the region’s standards, Burkina Faso’s economy has consistently performed poorly.

The majority of the population belongs to two major West African cultural groups, the Voltaic and the Mande. The Voltaic are far more numerous and include the Mossi, which make up about one-half of the population. The Mossi are still bound by the traditions of the emperor, the Mogho Naba, who holds court in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations in the world, with most inhabitants subsisting on agriculture and animal husbandry.


Official name: Republic of Burundi

Independence: 1 July 1962 (from UN trusteeship under Belgian administration)

Area: 27,830 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Bujumbura

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, CEEAC, CEPGL, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Burundi franc (BIF)

Income: US$600 (2004 est. purchasing power parity)

Population: 6,370,609 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu) 85%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 14%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%, Europeans 3,000, South Asians 2,000

Religious groups: Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23%, Muslim 10%

Languages: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)

Literacy: 51.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, hides

Primary export partners: Germany 19.6%, Belgium 8.2%, Pakistan 6.7%, US 5.6%, Rwanda 5.6%, Thailand 5.4% (2004)

Imports: capital goods, petroleum products, foodstuffs

Primary import partners: Kenya 13.7%, Tanzania 11.2%, US 8.9%, Belgium 8.5%, France 8.4%, Italy 6%, Uganda 5.6%, Japan 4.6%, Germany 4.5% (2004)

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Burundi was a kingdom with a highly stratified, feudal social structure. Rulers were drawn from princely dynastic families, or ganwa, from whom a king, or mwami, was chosen. A mwami continued to rule even after independence was granted.

European explorers and missionaries began making brief visits to the area as early as 1858. However, Burundi did not come under European administration until the 1890s, when it became part of German East Africa. In 1916, Belgian troops occupied the country, and the League of Nations mandated it to Belgium in 1923 as part of the Territory of Ruanda-Urundi, now the nations of Rwanda and Burundi. Burundi became independent on July 1, 1962. Just 10 years after independence, an abortive coup d’état provoked brutal massacres, claiming the lives of more than 100,000 people.

Burundi’s population is made up of three ethnic groups—Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. Hutus, who make up 85% of the population, are primarily farmers whose Bantu-speaking ancestors migrated into Burundi 800– 1,000 years ago. The Tutsi, who make up 14% of the population, are a pastoral people who migrated from Ethiopia several hundred years later. Years of dispute with neighboring Rwanda have continued into the 1990s. Ethnic conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis has led to many atrocities, most notably an explosion of violence in 1993 that claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced nearly three-quarters of a million Burundians, both Tutsi and Hutu. A military coup in July 1996 increased ethnic strife within Burundi. In an effort to protect their borders, the country intervened in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998. In December 1999, former South African President Nelson Mandela mediated peace talks that ultimately led to a provisional peace treaty, signed by most of the warring parties in August 2000 and witnessed by Mandela and U.S. President Bill Clinton. After attempted coups in April and July 2001, a transitional government signed a power-sharing agreement in November 2001. Outbreaks of violence continued sporadically until a cease-fire was signed in 2003. Implementation of a provisional constitution in October 2004 has been delayed because rebel factions have refused to sign. This has made a lasting peace elusive.


Official name: Republic of Cameroon

Independence: 1 January 1960 (from French-administered UN trusteeship)

Area: 475,440 sq km

Form of government: unitary republic; multiparty presidential regime (opposition parties legalized in 1990)

Capital: Yaounde

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, C, CCC, CEEAC, CEMAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-19, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 16,380,005 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%

Languages: 24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)

Literacy: 79% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: crude oil and petroleum products, lumber, cocoa beans, aluminum, coffee, cotton

Primary export partners: Spain 15.2%, Italy 12.3%, UK 10.2%, France 9.2%, US 8.8%, South Korea 7.1%, Netherlands 4.3% (2004)

Primary import partners: France 28.2%, Nigeria 9.9%, Belgium 7.6%, US 4.9%, China 4.8%, Germany 4.6%, Italy 4.1% (2004)

The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were probably Pygmies, who still inhabit the southern forests. However, Bantu-speaking people were among the first to invade Cameroon from equatorial Africa, settling in the south and later in the west. The Muslim Fulani from the Niger basin arrived in the eleventh and nineteenth centuries and settled in the north. Europeans first made contact with the area in the 1500s. For the next three centuries, Spanish, Dutch, and British traders visited the area.

In July of 1884, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France each attempted to annex the area. A 1919 declaration divided Cameroon between the United Kingdom and France, with the larger, eastern area under France. In December of 1958, the French trusteeship ended, and French Cameroon became the Republic of Cameroon on January 1, 1960.

The Republic of Cameroon consisted of a federal system integrating the French-controlled south and the British-controlled north under the leadership of its first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo. The country depends heavily on foreign capital and has been faced with internal problems, both ethnic and social, under the leadership of Ahidjo’s successor, Paul Biya. Despite sometimes violent confrontations between the nation’s political parties, Biya was reelected in 1997 presidential elections, which were boycotted by the three main opposition parties. Despite recent health problems, relative economic prosperity and strong-arm tactics against opponents have enabled Biya to withstand both international and domestic opposition.

President Biya in mid-2001 moved to defuse reports of growing discontent within the country’s military by ordering a total reorganization of the Cameroonian armed forces. He also disbanded the Operational Command (OC), a paramilitary crime-fighting unit Biya had created in February 2000, in response to public anger at reports the OC had carried out hundreds of summary executions of suspected criminals.

Cameroon has about 200 ethnic groups, speaking at least as many languages and dialects.

Cape Verde

Official name: Republic of Cape Verde

Independence: 5 July 1975 (from Portugal)

Area: 4,033 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Praia

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNTAET, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Cape Verdean escudo (CVE)

Income: US$1,400 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 418,224 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs); Protestant (mostly Church of the Nazarene)

Languages: Portuguese, Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African words)

Literacy: 76.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: fuel, shoes, garments, fish, bananas, hides

Primary export partners: Portugal 59.4%, US 17.2%, UK 11.4% (2004)

Primary import partners: Portugal 41.8%, US 12.3%, Netherlands 8.4%, Spain 5.2%, Italy 4.2%, Brazil 4% (2004)

Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Verde archipelago remained uninhabited until the Portuguese visited it in 1456 and enslaved Africans were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans have mixed African and Portuguese origins.

In 1951, Portugal changed Cape Verde’s status from a colony to an overseas province. In 1956, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was organized to bring about improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea. The PAIGC began an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.

In December of 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975. After winning independence, the country voted for a union with Guinea-Bissau. In 1980, the link ended when João Vieira seized power in Guinea-Bissau. The PAIGC was dissolved and replaced by PAICV (African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde). Pedro Pires, Cape Verde’s prime minister and a prominent nationalist, was elected president in 1986. Under him, Cape Verde followed a socialist path with programs of nationalization and agrarian reform. In the country’s first free presidential elections made possible by political reforms, Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro was elected in 1991. A new constitution, firmly establishing the country’s new multiparty system, was adopted the following year. In 1996, Mascarenhas was reelected to another five-year term as president.

Cape Verde’s privatization program, launched as part of the government’s efforts to comply with World Bank/IMF recommendations for economic structural reform, came under fire in 2000 from the PAICV as well as certain members of the ruling Movement for Democracy. This rift within the ruling party eventually gave birth to a new party, the Democratic Renovation Party. The major issue in the 2001 legislative elections was the country’s troubled economy. The PAICV captured the majority of the seats, winning for the party’s leader, José Maria Neves, the office of prime minister. The PAICV prevailed again in the 2001 presidential elections, as its candidate, Pedro Pires, narrowly won the presidency.

The official language is Portuguese. However, most Cape Verdeans speak a Creole dialect, Crioulo, which consists of archaic Portuguese modified through contact with African and other European languages. Leading contemporary Afro-Cape Verdeans include Cesaria Evora, an internationally renowned singer.

Central African Republic

Official name: Central African Republic

Independence: 13 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 622,984 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Bangui


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,799,897 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Baya 34%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandjia 21%, Mboum 4%, M’Baka 4%, Europeans 6,500 (including 1,500 French)

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 24%, Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, other 11%

Languages: French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), Arabic, Hunsa, Swahili

Literacy: 51% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco

Primary export partners: Belgium 39.2%, Italy 8.6%, Spain 7.9%, US 6.2%, France 6.1%, Indonesia 5.8%, China 4.9% (2004)

Primary import partners: France 17.6%, US 16.3%, Cameroon 9.3%, Belgium 5% (2004)

The first Europeans to settle in the area that is now the Central African Republic were the French, who established an outpost at Bangu. United with Chad in 1906, the outpost formed the Oubangui-Chari-Chad colony.

In 1910, it became one of the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa, along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. However, a constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the federation. The nation became an autonomous republic within the newly established French Community on December 1, 1958, and acceded to complete independence as the Central African Republic on August 13, 1960. The first president and the founder of the Central African Republic was Bathelemy Boganda.

Gen. Jean-Badel Bokassa overthrew Boganda’s successor, David Dacko, in 1966. The 13 year reign of Bokassa marked one of the cruelest and repressive periods in the country’s history. He oversaw massive human rights abuses, survived numerous assassination attempts and coup plots, put to death several military personnel for disloyalty (including several family members) and ultimately proclaimed himself emperor of the Central African Empire in 1977. To these ends, the police were used to spy on citizens and foreign assistants (known as cooperant), maintained secret surveillance on dissidents (whether actual or perceived), and engaged in similar practices as directed by Bokassa’s regime.

A 1981 coup d’état put Dacko back in power. Gen. André Kolingba succeeded Dacko, and a multiparty state was established in 1991. The results of multiparty legislative and presidential elections, held in October 1992, were thrown out by the country’s Supreme Court, which cited multiple irregularities. In September 1993 elections, Ange-Felix Patassé was elected president, succeeding Kolingba, who released Bokassa from prison as one of his last official acts. Patassé was at odds with the military for much of the 1990s, and French troops were needed to put down military mutinies in the late 1990s. In early 1998, the United Nations sent an all-African peacekeeping force to the Central Africa Republic to enforce the so-called Bangui Accords of 1997, which called for an armistice and new elections. Despite opposition party claims of election rigging, incumbent President Patassé was reelected to office in September 1999.

In February 2000, the remaining U.N. peacekeeping troops stationed in the country withdrew. Political tensions in the capital, however, continued to run high. Although President Patassé promised to seek national reconciliation by bringing together representatives of all major political parties, a conference date was never set. A coup attempt in late May 2001 by army rebels loyal to former President Kolingba was successfully put down. The failed coup attempt staged by former President Kolingba resulted in more than 1,000 members of the various armed branches (mostly within the army and national police who were loyal to Andre Kolingba) fleeing across the river into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kolingba and his family were abducted and are presumed dead. The following year, the recently dismissed Army Chief of Staff, Francois Bozize, staged yet another coup attempt with the assistance of Chadian soldiers. This conflict, which lasted several months, resulted in the coup d’etat, which removed President Ange-Felix Patasse from office in March 2003.

Since proclaiming the presidency in 2003, Francois Bozize has continued to rely on Chadian soldiers for military support. This situation led to tense standoffs between the Chadians and the national police on several occasions throughout 2003 and 2004.

The Central African Republic is made up of more than 80 ethnic groups, each with its own language. About 70% of the population comprises Baya-Mandjia and Banda, with approximately 7% M’Baka. Sango, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. The country is one of the poorest nations in Africa, with a high mortality rate and widespread malnutrition and illiteracy.


Official name: Republic of Chad

Independence: 11 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 1.284 million sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: N’Djamena


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 9,826,419 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: 200 distinct groups; in the north and center: Arabs, Gorane (Toubou, Daza, Kreda), Zaghawa, Kanembou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, Hadjerai, Fulbe, Kotoko, Hausa, Boulala, and Maba, most of whom are Muslim; in the south: Sara (Ngambaye, Mbaye, Goulaye), Moundang, Moussei, Massa, most of whom are Christian or animist; about 1,000 French citizens live in Chad

Religious groups: Muslim 51%, Christian 35%, animist 7%, other 7%

Languages: French (official), Arabic (official), Sara and Sango (in south), more than 100 different languages and dialects

Literacy: 47.5% (age 15 and over can read and write French or Arabic; 2003 est.)

Exports: cotton, cattle, textiles

Primary export partners: US 67.8%, China 21.5%, Portugal 4.3% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transportation equipment, industrial goods, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles

Primary import partners: France 21.9%, Cameroon 16.1%, US 10.8%, Portugal 10.4%, Germany 6.4%, Belgium 4.6% (2004)

The region that is now Chad was known to Middle Eastern traders and geographers as far back as the late Middle Ages. Since then, Chad has served as a crossroads for Muslims of the desert and savannah regions and the animist groups of the tropical forests.

The Sao people populated the Chari River basin for thousands of years, but the powerful chiefs of what were to become the Kanem-Bornu and Baguirmi kingdoms overtook their relatively weak chiefdoms. At their peak, these two kingdoms and the kingdom of Ouaddai controlled a good part of what is now Chad, as well as parts of Nigeria and Sudan.

The French first made contact with the region in 1891. The first major colonial battle for Chad was fought in 1900 between the French major Lamy and the African leader Rabah. Although the French won that battle, they did not declare the territory for themselves until 1911, and thereafter armed clashes between colonial troops and local bands continued for many years. Although Chad joined the French colonies of Gabon, Oubangui-Charo, and Moyen Congo to form the Federation of French Equatorial Africa in 1910, Chad did not have colonial status until 1920.

In 1959, the territory of French Equatorial Africa was dissolved, and four states—Gabon, the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), and Chad—became autonomous members of the French Community. In 1960, Chad became an independent nation under its first president, François Tombalbaye. He was faced with the pressure of resolving the ongoing conflict between the Muslim north and the black south and responded by instituting authoritarian rule. Backed by Libya, FRONAT (Front de Libération Nationale) guerrillas of the north gained power, naming Goukouni Oueddei as head of state. In 1982, he was succeeded by Hisséne Habré, but civil war broke out one year later.

In 1990, Habré was ousted by a rebel group with Libyan support. Rebel leader Idriss Déby assumed the presidency. In January 1992, the Déby government claimed to have put down an uprising by forces loyal to Habré. An understanding was reached in 1994, ending the long-standing battle between the government and Habré forces. In mid-1996 elections under a newly adopted democratic constitution, Déby was elected president. After several postponements, Déby’s party dominated legislative elections in 1997. Though Déby’s defeated opponents claimed electoral fraud, international observers declared the elections free and fair.

Prospects for Chad’s economy improved significantly in mid-2000 when the World Bank approved the country’s proposed $3.4-billion oil-development project, which will carry crude oil from the Doba Basin in the south of Chad to the sea through a pipeline passing through Cameroon. One major threat to the project, tentatively scheduled to be completed by 2004, is the continuing rebellion in the country’s northern Tibesti region. President Déby handily won reelection in May 2001. Charges from opposition parties that the election had been rigged were rejected by Chad’s constitutional court. Déby’s heavy-handed repression of subsequent protest demonstrations by the opposition cost him support both domestically and internationally.

Chad is made up of more than 200 ethnic groups. Those in the north and east are generally Muslim, while most southerners are animists and Christians. Ethnic and religious divisions continue to run deep in Chad. The government continues to face armed resistance from rebels in the south demanding regional autonomy, and, in 1998, Amnesty International charged the government with arbitrarily killing civilians from the south.


Official name: Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros

Independence: 6 July 1975 (from France)

Area: 2,170 sq km

Form of government: independent republic

Capital: Moroni

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, CCC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, InOC, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (subscriber), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)

Currency: Comoran franc (KMF)

Income: US$700 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 671,247 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava

Religious groups: Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 2%

Languages: Arabic (official), French (official), Comoran (a blend of Swahili and Arabic)

Literacy: 56.5% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: vanilla, ylang-ylang, cloves, perfume oil, copra

Primary export partners: US 43.8%, France 18.6%, Singapore 16.5%, Turkey 4.8%, Germany 4.5% (2004)

Imports: rice and other foodstuffs, consumer goods; petroleum products, cement, transport equipment

Primary import partners: France 23.5%, South Africa 11.1%, Kenya 7.5%, UAE 7.2%, Italy 4.9%, Pakistan 4.7%, Mauritius 4.2%, Singapore 4.1% (2004)

Located off the northwestern coast of Madagascar, Portuguese explorers visited the archipelago in 1505. In 1843, the sultan of Mayotte was persuaded to relinquish the island of Mayotte to the French. By 1912, France had established colonial rule over the additional islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli and placed them under the administration of the governor general of Madagascar. After World War II, the islands became a French overseas territory and were represented in Fran-ce’s National Assembly. On July 6, 1975, the Comorian Parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. However, the deputies of Mayotte abstained; it remains under French administration. As a result, the Comorian government has effective control over only Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli. This was followed by a extended period of political upheaval in Comoros including a series of political insurrections and coup d’états.

In 1996, Mohamed Taki Abdulkarim was elected president and unveiled a new constitution extending the powers of the president and making Islam the state religion. In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli announced their intention to secede: in light of the relatively high standard of living enjoyed by Mayotte, they wished to return to French administration. After initially affirming its willingness to reincorporate the islands, France urged the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict. The OAU later worked out a framework agreement whereby the islands would have their own government within a new entity to be named the Union of Comorian Islands, which would have a separate administration. At an April 1999 peace conference in Madagascar, representatives of Grand Comore, Mohéli, and the Comoros government signed the agreement; the Anjouan delegation did not. Shortly afterwards, army officers took over the Comoros Republic in an apparent coup, bringing to power Col. Azali Assoumani.

The dominant issue in the first years of the new millennium continued to be the secession of Anjouan Island. In early 2000, after a referendum on Anjouan overwhelming supported the island’s refusal to sign an OAU-brokered agreement, the OAU imposed sanctions on the island and later voted to support armed intervention to end the secession. In early 2001, the OAU led talks between Anjouan and federal government officials that produced an agreement providing greater autonomy for Comoros’ individual island governments but reserved foreign policy and defense for the national government. After an August 2001 coup unseated Anjouan’s ruler, Lieut. Col. Said Abeid Abdermane, Col. Mohamed Bacar took over as the island’s head of state. In December 2001, Anjouan’s voters overwhelmingly supported a new Comoros constitution formalizing the terms set forth in the OAU-brokered reconciliation agreement.

The Comorians inhabiting the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli (about 86% of the population) share African-Arab origins. Islam is the dominant religion, but substantial minorities of the citizens of Mayotte (the Mahorais) are Catholic and have been influenced strongly by French culture. The most common language is Shikomoro, a Swahili dialect. French and Malagasy are also spoken.

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Independence: 30 June 1960 (from Belgium)

Area: 2,345,410 sq km

Form of government: dictatorship; presumably undergoing a transition to representative government

Capital: Kinshasa

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, CEEAC, CEPGL, ECA, FAO, G-19, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, PCA, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Congolese franc (CDF)

Income: US$700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 60,085,804 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest cultural groups—Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic)—make up about 45% of the population

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs 10%

Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba

Literacy: 65.5% (age 15 and over can read and write

French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba; 2003 est.)

Exports: diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil

Primary export partners: Belgium 47.8%, Finland 21%, US 10.9%, China 7.6% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels

Primary import partners: South Africa 18.5%, Belgium 15.5%, France 10.8%, Kenya 6.3%, US 6%, Germany 5.8% (2004)

The area that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Congo-Kinshasa is believed to have been populated as early as 10,000 years ago. An influx of peoples arrived in the seventh and eighth centuries, when Bantu people from present-day Nigeria settled, bringing with them knowledge of the manufacture and use of metals. In 1482, the Portuguese arrived at the mouth of the Congo River. They found an organized society—the Bakongo Kingdom—that included parts of present-day Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Angola. The Portuguese named the area Congo. At the Berlin Conference of 1885, King Leopold’s claim to the greater part of the Zaire River basin was recognized. The Congo Free State remained his personal possession until he ceded it to the Belgian State in 1907, when it was renamed the Belgian Congo.

Following riots in Leopoldville in 1958, Belgian King Bedouin announced that the colony could look forward to independence. Roundtable conferences were convened at Brussels in January 1960, and Belgium granted independence on June 30, 1960. Parliamentary elections were held in April of 1960. The Congolese National Movement (MNC) obtained a majority of the seats, and Patrice Lumumba was named prime minister. After much maneuvering, the leader of the Alliance of the Bakongo (ABAKO) Party, Joseph Kasavubu, was named president.

Chaos started right after independence. Moise Tshombe, premier of Katanga Province, declared Katanga (rich with copper) independent. Belgian military intervened, and, soon after, U.N. troops arrived to help normalize the situation. Meanwhile, Lumumba was assassinated. Tshombe served as prime minister until 1965, when Joseph Mobutu organized a coup d’état. While amassing great personal riches, Mobutu managed to bring resource-rich Congo-Kinshasa (then known as Zaire) to the brink of bankruptcy during the more than 30 years that he held power. The country’s increasingly fragile economy and pressures from a sharp influx in refugees all contributed to growing dissatisfaction with Mobutu’s regime.

Anti-Mobutu guerrilla fighter Laurent-Désiré Kabila, leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, led rebel forces in seizing large portions of the country in the fall of 1996. In May 1997, as rebels neared Kinshasa, Mobutu stepped down and fled the capital. He died later that year in exile. The rebels took control of the country, which they renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila’s regime has faced heavy criticism from the international community, who suspect that his troops were responsible for the disappearance and assumed massacre of thousands of Hutu refugees. In addition, the political favoritism exhibited by Kabila has led to serious civil strife that threatens to spark a broad regional conflict beyond Congo-Kinshasa’s borders.

Attempts to quell the rebellion in the eastern provinces of the Congo in early 2000 were frustrated by President Kabila’s demand that Uganda and Rwanda must unconditionally withdraw their troops from the region. Fighting intensified in late 2000. In January 2001, one of his bodyguards assassinated Laurent Kabila, reportedly. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph, who seemed more amenable than his father to dealing with eastern Congo rebel leaders in an effort to end the continuing conflict. The younger Kabila also moved quickly to root out corruption at the higher levels of government. In May 2001, Kabila met with leaders of three rebel groups and struck an agreement that created a framework for further dialogue. An October 2001 peace conference in Addis Ababa failed to make much progress, but delegates agreed to continue their efforts to resolve the crisis. Fighting in the eastern provinces was sharply reduced, and Uganda and Rwandan troops began withdrawing from the region. Later the Pretoria Accord was signed by the various warring parties and produced a level of peace in the region. In 2002 several financial mission assisted the government in mapping out a sound economic strategy. A national unity government was set up in 2003 including several of Kabila’s political opponents. In 2006, the country held its first multi-party elections since independence 45 years earlier. Joseph Kabila won by a 25% margin, but the results were challenged by his closest competitor, Jean-Pierre Bemba. A run-off election yielded the same results. Although there was fighting by Bemba supporters, he has accepted the results and is now the main opposition to the president.

As many as 250 ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been distinguished and named. The largest group, the Kongo, may include as many as 2.5 million persons. Other socially and numerically important groups are the Luba, Lunda, Bashi, and Mongo. Some groups, including the aboriginal Pygmies, occupy isolated ecological niches and number only a few thousand.

Approximately 700 local languages and dialects are spoken; four serve as official languages. Lingala developed along the Congo River in the 1880s, in response to the need for a common commercial language. Swahili, introduced into the country by Arabs and especially the Zanzibari Swahilis during the nineteenth century slaving operations, is spoken extensively in the eastern half of the country. Kikongo is used primarily in the area between Kinshasa and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as in parts of Congo and Angola. Primarily, the ethnic groups of the south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo speak Tshiluba.

Congo, Republic of the

Independence: 15 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 342,000 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Brazzaville


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,039,126 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Kongo 48%, Sangha 20%, M’Bochi 12%, Teke 17%, Europeans NA%; note: Europeans estimated at 8,500, mostly French, before the 1997 civil war; may be half that of 1998, following the widespread destruction of foreign businesses in 1997

Religious groups: Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2%

Languages: French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo has the most users)

Literacy: 83.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum 50%, lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds

Primary export partners: China 26.8%, Taiwan 19.2%, North Korea 8.4%, US 7.3%, France 5.5%, South Korea 4.8% (2004)

Primary import partners: France 32.7%, US 10.1%, Germany 6.2%, Italy 6%, China 5.2%, Netherlands 4.5% (2004)

The early history of the Congo is believed to have focused on three kingdoms—the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke. Established in the fourth century, the Kongo was a highly centralized kingdom that later developed a close commercial relationship with the Portuguese, who were the first Europeans to explore the area.

With the development of the slave trade, the Portuguese turned their attention from the Kongo Kingdom to the Loango Kingdom. By the time the slave trade was abolished in the 1800s, the Loango Kingdom had been reduced to many small, independent groups. The Teke Kingdom of the interior, which had sold those enslaved to the Loango Kingdom, ended its independence in 1883, when the Teke king concluded a treaty with Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, placing the Teke lands and people under French protection. The area then became known as Middle Congo.

In 1910, Middle Congo became part of French Equatorial Africa, which also included Gabon, the Central African Republic, and Chad. A constitutional referendum in September 1958 replaced the Federation of French Equatorial Africa with the French Community. Middle Congo, under the name Republic of the Congo, and the three other territories of French Equatorial Africa became fully autonomous members within the French Community. On April 15, 1960, it became an independent nation but retained close, formal bonds with the community.

President Fulbert Youlou instituted a dictatorship for the first three years following independence and then was succeeded by a revolutionary government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Debat. In 1968, the military seized control of the nation under Gen. Marien Ngouabi, who declared the Congo a republic to be governed under a one-party system. Assassinated in 1977, Ngouabi was succeeded as president by General Joachim Yhombi-Opango. Two years later, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who was reelected to the presidency in 1984 and 1989. He was succeeded by Yhombi-Opango.

The 1990s brought increasing dissatisfaction with the Sassou-Nguesso regime, which was forced in 1992 to adopt a new constitution, making the country a multi-party democracy. In August 1992, Sassou-Nguesso lost in presidential elections to Pascal Lissouba, but the latter’s government was soon plagued by accusations of ethnic favoritism. Clashes between various private militias exploded into civil war, killing between 6,000 and 10,000 people and largely destroying Brazzaville. Many of the country’s citizens rallied behind opposition forces led by Sassou-Nguesso who, with considerable Angolan assistance, overthrew Lissouba in late 1997. Continuing to maintain power, Sassou-Nguesso has promised national reconciliation, a return to civilian rule, and a professional military.

Civil war again broke out in January 1999 when rebel militias loyal to Lissouba began attacks in and around the capital city of Brazzaville. By the end of the year, army representatives signed a truce agreement with rebel leaders. In March 2001, President Sassou-Nguesso launched talks to draft a new constitution that would help restore peace in the country. Despite opposition charges that the new constitution placed too much power in the hands of the president, the document was adopted by the Congolese parliament in September 2001.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Independence: 7 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 322,460 sq km

Form of government: republic; multiparty presidential regime established 1960

Capital: Yamoussoukro; note: although Yamoussoukro has been the official capital since 1983, Abidjan remains the administrative center; the United States, like other countries, maintains its Embassy in Abidjan

International relations: ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, Entente, FAO, FZ, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC (observer), OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WADB, WADB (regional), WAEMU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 17,298,040 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Akan 42.1%, Voltaiques or Gur 17.6%, Northern Mandes 16.5%, Krous 11%, Southern Mandes 10%, other 2.8%

Religious groups: Christian 20–30%, Muslim 35–40%, indigenous 25–40% (2001); note: the majority of foreigners (migratory workers) are Muslim (70%) and Christian (20%)

Literacy: 50.9% (age 15 and over can read and write 2003 est.)

Exports: cocoa 33%, coffee, tropical woods, petroleum, cotton, bananas, pineapples, palm oil, cotton, fish (2004)

Primary export partners: US 11.6%, Netherlands 10.3%, France 9.5%, Italy 5.5%, Belgium 4.7%, Germany 4.7% (2004)

Imports: food, consumer goods; capital goods, fuel, transport equipment

Primary import partners: France 24.3%, Nigeria 19.2%, UK 4% (2004)

The French made their initial contact with Côte d’Ivoire in 1637, when missionaries landed at Assinie near the Gold Coast (now Ghana) border. However, these early contacts were limited. In 1843 and 1844, France signed treaties with the kings of the Grand Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their territories under a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trading companies, and soldiers gradually extended the area under French control until 1893, when Côte d’Ivoire was officially made a French colony.

In December of 1958, Côte d’Ivoire became an autonomous republic within the French Community. Côte d’Ivoire became independent on August 7, 1960. Félix Houphouët-Boigny led the country under a one-party system. He maintained strong ties with Europe, which helped bring about rapid development and economic stability. In October 1990, Houphouët-Boigny was elected to his seventh term as president in the country’s first multiparty elections. He died in 1993 and was succeeded by Henri Konan Bédié, head of the National Assembly. Bédié was again elected to office in the 1995 elections that were boycotted by opposition parties protesting the government’s political restrictions. Continuing the policies of his predecessor, Bédié has helped build a nation of political stability and limited economic prosperity. At the same time, he has maintained a neocolonial dependence on France and blocked effective democratic reforms.

In December 1999, a military coup ousted Bédié from power, replacing him with Gen. Robert Gueï. In an attempt to broaden support for the new government, the military junta formed a coalition first with former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans, which was further strengthened in early 2000 when four members of the Ivorian Popular Front party agreed to join the cabinet. Gueï lost to Ivorian Popular Front candidate Laurent Gbagbo in the October 2002 presidential elections. At first, Gueï halted the vote count in a vain attempt to hold on to the presidency. He was soon forced from office by a popular revolt, and Gbagbo assumed office, despite strong opposition from some quarters. Political turmoil continued into 2001, and, in early January, a coup was mounted against the Gbagbo regime. It was quickly put down. Later in the year, Gbagbo proposed reconciliations talks that would bring together warring political leaders of the past and present. Such talks were eventually held in November 2001. In 2002, an assassination attempt on the life of Gbagbo, and the subsequent involvement of the French, resulted in fighting that further alienated the Muslim-dominated north. The area remains in strife. A unity government was formed at the urging of the U.N., but the peace has been unstable. Fighting among government and rebel groups have continued to flare up. General elections have been scheduled for October 2007, after being postponed from the previous year.

Côte d’Ivoire’s more than 60 ethnic groups usually are classified into seven principal divisions—Akan, Krou, Lagoon, Nuclear Mande, Peripheral Mande, Senoufo, and Lobi. The Baoule in the Akan division is probably the largest single subgroup, with perhaps 20% of the overall population. The Bete in the Krou division and the Senoufo in the north are the second- and third-largest groups, with roughly 18 and 15% of the national population, respectively.


Official name: Republic of Djibouti

Independence: 27 June 1977 (from France)

Area: 22,000 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Djibouti

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Djiboutian franc (DJF)

Income: US$1,300 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 476,703 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Somali 60%, Afar 35%, French, Arab, Ethiopian, and Italian 5%

Religious groups: Muslim 94%, Christian 6%

Languages: French (official), Arabic (official), Somali, Afar

Literacy: 67.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: reexports, hides and skins, coffee (in transit)

Primary export partners: Somalia 63.8%, Yemen 22.6%, Ethiopia 5% (2004)

Imports: foods, beverages, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products

Primary import partners: Saudi Arabia 19.7%, India 12.4%, Ethiopia 11.8%, China 8.1%, France 5.6%, US 4.8% (2004)

The French first settled the region, which now makes up the Republic of Djibouti, in 1862 as a result of growing French interest in British activity in Egypt. In 1884, France expanded its protectorate to include the shores of the Gulf of Tadjourah and the hinterland, designating the area French Somaliland. The boundaries of the protectorate, marked out in 1897 by France and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, were affirmed further by agreements with Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1945 and 1954.

In July of 1967, a directive from Paris formally changed the name of the territory to the French Territory of Afars and Issas. In 1975, the French government began to accommodate increasingly insistent demands for independence. In June of 1976, the territory’s citizenship law, which had favored the Afar minority, was revised to reflect more closely the weight of the Issa Somali majority. In a May 1977 referendum, the electorate voted for independence, and the Republic of Djibouti was inaugurated on June 27, 1977. A republican form of government followed independence.

Since independence, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, the republic’s first and only president, has led the country. Beginning in the 1980s, however, Gouled’s tenure was marred by political repression, ethnic hostilities, and serious international debt. Opposition to the Gouled government sparked a sizeable Afar resistance movement in the 1990s; negotiations with the government led to a comprehensive treaty in December 1994. When Gouled had to leave the country from December 1995 until February 1996 to seek medical treatment in France, a destabilizing struggle for succession ensued. Upon his return, he suspended the civil rights of prominent opposition leaders and restated his intention to remain in office until his term expires in 1999. Gouled’s ruling party nominated Ismail Omar Guelleh, nephew of the retiring president, to run for Gouled’s post, which he handily won in a face-off with Moussa Ahmed Idriss, who represented a coalition of opposition parties. After his inauguration in May 1999, Omar released a number of political prisoners but still came under fire from human rights organizations for the harassment of journalists, including Moussa Ahmed, who was arrested in September 1999.

In February 2000, Omar’s government signed an agreement with rebel leaders of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Dignity (FRUD) to end nearly a decade of fighting. The following month, Djibouti restored diplomatic relations with Eritrea and also sought to play peacemaker between warring factions in neighboring Somalia. In May 2001, the Omar government reached a peace accord with the radical wing of FRUD, following which FRUD fighters voluntarily disarmed.

The indigenous population of the Republic of Djibouti is divided between the majority Somalis (predominantly of the Issa with minority Ishaak and Gadaboursi representation) and the Afars and Danakils.


Official name: Arab Republic of Egypt

Independence: 28 February 1922 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 1,001,450 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Cairo


Currency: Egyptian pound (EGP)

Income: US$4,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 77,505,756 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Eastern Hamitic stock (Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers) 99%, Greek, Nubian, Armenian, other European (primarily Italian and French) 1%

Religious groups: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian and other 6%

Languages: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes

Literacy: 57.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals

Primary export partners: Italy 11.9%, US 10.8%, UK 7%, Syria 6.2%, Germany 4.7%, Spain 4.2% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels

Primary import partners: US 12.2%, Germany 7%, Italy 6.6%, France 5.7%, China 5.4%, UK 4.7%, Saudi Arabia 4.1% (2004)

Egypt has endured as a unified state for more than 5,000 years, and archaeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society has existed much longer. In about 3100 bc, Egypt was united under a ruler known as Mena, or Menes, who inaugurated the 30 pharaonic dynasties into which Egypt’s ancient history is divided—the Old and Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire.

In 525 bc, the Persians dethroned the last pharaoh of the twenty-sixth dynasty. The country remained a Persian province until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 bc. After Alexander’s death in 323 bc, the Macedonian commander, Ptolemy, established personal control over Egypt, assuming the title of pharaoh in 304 bc. The Ptolemaic line ended in 30 bc with the suicide of Queen Cleopatra. The Emperor Augustus then established direct Roman control over Egypt, initiating almost seven centuries of Roman and Byzantine rule.

Egypt was invaded and conquered by Arab forces in 642 ad and a process of Arabization and Islamization ensued. The French arrived in Egypt in 1798 until an Anglo-Ottoman invasion force drove out the French in 1801. Following a period of chaos, the Albanian Muhammad Ali obtained control of the country.

In 1882, the British occupied Egypt and declared a formal protectorate over Egypt on December 18, 1914. In deference to growing nationalist feelings, Britain uni-laterally declared Egyptian independence on February 28, 1922. King Faud I ruled after independence until 1952, when Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew him. Upon Nasser’s death, Anwar el-Sadat took over the leadership until he was assassinated in 1981 and succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

The Mubarak government has come under increasing fire from Muslim fundamentalists who, in 1992, began launching violent attacks against tourists, Coptic Christians, and government officials. Shortly before parliamentary elections in 1995, Mubarak accused the opposition Muslim Brotherhood of aiding and abetting some of the Muslim fundamentalist groups. A number of members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested and imprisoned. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party won an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary balloting. Since that time, Egypt has refused to release any of the religious zealots, and violence against tourists and Coptic Christians has increased. Yet, Mubarak’s continued reliance on the military and his ban on Islamist political opposition threatens his regime’s stability, particularly when ordinary Egyptians continue to face economic hardship.

The Mubarak government vigorously prosecuted the country’s militant Islamic organizations, in April 1999 sentencing more than 85 members of the al-Jihad organization to a variety of punishments, including lengthy prison terms and execution. The action seemed only to fuel the militants’ determination to continue its jihad (war) against the government. In September 1999, an Islamic militant attempted to assassinate Mubarak but was unsuccessful. Later that same month, Mubarak was reelected to his fourth six-year term as president. Throughout 1999 and well into the new millennium, Mubarak continued his attempts to play mediator in the off and on peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Egyptian population is fairly homogenous—Mediterranean and Arab influences appear in the north, as well as some mixing in the south with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads dispersed in the eastern and western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000–200,000 Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper Egypt.

Equatorial Guinea

Official name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Independence: 12 October 1968 (from Spain)

Area: 28,051 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Malabo

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, CEEAC, CEMAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WToO, WTrO (applicant)

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$2,700 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 535,881 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Bioko (primarily Bubi, some Fernandinos), Rio Muni (primarily Fang), Europeans less than 1,000, mostly Spanish

Religious groups: nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic, pagan practices

Languages: Spanish (official), French (official), pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo

Literacy: 85.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum, timber, cocoa

Primary export partners: US 29.3%, China 22.8%, Spain 16%, Taiwan 14.9%, Canada 6.8% (2004)

Primary import partners: US 26.8%, Cote d’Ivoire 21.4%, Spain 13.6%, France 8.8%, UK 7.8%, Italy 4.4% (2004)

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries brought coastal ethnic groups and the Fang people to the area.

The Portuguese, seeking a route to India, landed on the island of Bioko in 1471. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island and adjacent islets were ceded to Spain. From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the trade in enslaved Africans. The Treaty of Paris settled conflicting claims to the mainland in 1900.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established. In 1963, the name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. In September 1968, Macias Macías Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. A military coup occurred in 1979 deposing Nguema, who was put to death for “crimes against humanity.” Lieutenant Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, leader of the coup that brought down Nguema, succeeded him as president. Although Obiang Nguema’s government made a show of various political reforms over the past few decades, outside observers remain harshly critical of the regime’s repressive policies. In addition, Obiang Nguema’s government has been sharply criticized for the mishandling of the national economy including the oil boom of the 1990s.

Although Equatorial Guinea’s oil production increased sharply during the late 1990s and into the new millennium, making the country’s economy the fastest growing in the world in 2001, the benefits reached relatively few of its citizens. As the health of President Obiang Nguema deteriorated in 2001, many observers felt the scene was set for a power struggle between the president’s two eldest sons, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangué and Gabriel Nguema Lima. However, the family seemed to be leaning toward Gen. Agustin Ndong Ona as a possible successor. In 2002, several prominent opposition

groups withdrew from the presidential elections, citing accusations of fraud. Election observers generally condemned Teodorin Obiang’s subsequent win as fraudulent. In 2004, Mark Thatcher (son of the former British prime minister) and British mercenary, Simon Mann were implicated in an assassination attempt on President Obiang. Over the last several years, there has been relative stability.

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest ethnic group, the Fang, constitutes 80% of the population and is divided into about 67 clans. Those to the north of Rio Benito on Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, and those to the south speak Fang-Okak, two mutually intelligible dialects. The Bubi, who form 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, several coastal groups exist, who are sometimes referred to as “Playeros,” and include the Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and Fernandinos, a Creole community, on Bioko. These groups comprise 5% of the population.


Official name: State of Eritrea

Independence: 24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

Area: 121,320 sq km

Form of government: transitional government

Capital: Asmara (formerly Asmera)

International relations: ACP, Af DB, CCC, ECA, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO

Currency: nakfa (ERN)

Income: US$900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 4,561,599 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%

Religious groups: Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Languages: Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages

Literacy: 58.6% (2003 est.)

Exports: livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufacturers

Primary export partners: Malaysia 26.6%, Italy 17.1%, Japan 8%, Germany 6.6%, China 5%, UK 4.9%, US 4.7%, France 4.4%, Poland 4.2% (2004)

Imports: machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Primary import partners: Ireland 26.6%, US 18.6%, Italy 16.6%, Turkey 6.4% (2004)

As an integral part of the Aksum kingdom, Eritrea shared its destiny with Ethiopia. Islamic colonists became established in the coastal area and dominate the region until the later half of the nineteenth century, when Egyptians settled in the area. Founded in 1890 by the Italians, the colony of Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia after World War II. For years, the Eritrian People’s Liberation Forum waged a struggle for independence that was eventually won on May 25, 1993.

Since independence, neighboring Sudan and Eritrea have frequently swapped charges that one was helping opposition groups seeking the overthrow of the other’s government. This growing enmity resulted in a severing of diplomatic relations between the two in December 1994. In 1996 Eritrea skirmished briefly with both Djibouti over a contested border and with Yemen over ownership of a collection of small Red Sea Islands. Perhaps most seriously though, armed conflict with Ethiopia erupted again in June 1998. The immediate cause of the fighting was again a disputed border, but tensions over trade issues had been building for months. Despite efforts by the United States, the Organization of African Unity, and neighboring African countries to resolve the conflict diplomatically, both sides continued to arm themselves.

Eritrea’s border war with Ethiopia continued throughout 1999, slowing Eritrea’s economic performance significantly. In May 2000, Ethiopian forces occupied previously undisputed areas in central and western Eritrean while consolidating their control over such disputed areas as Badme and Zela Ambesa. In July 2000, the newly established United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) deployed 4,200 peacekeeping forces in the disputed region, and, in December 2000, both countries signed a peace agreement in Algiers. The regime of President Isaias Afwerki came under increasing criticism, some of it from high-profile government officials. Afwerki cracked down viciously on one group of 15 outspoken critics, known as G-15, which helped to increase the disaffection of average Eritreans with their government. In 2004, the U.S. State Department declared that Eritrea’s worsening religious and human rights abuse situation required additional monitoring.


Official name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Independence: oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world—at least 2,000 years

Area: 1,127,127 sq km

Form of government: federal republic

Capital: Addis Ababa

International relations: ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO

Currency: birr (ETB)

Income: US$800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 73,053,286 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Oromo 40%, Amhara and Tigre 32%, Sidamo 9%, Shankella 6%, Somali 6%, Afar 4%, Gurage 2%, other 1%

Religious groups: Muslim 45–50%, Ethiopian Orthodox 35–40%, animist 12%, other 3–8%

Languages: Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)

Literacy: 42.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, gold, leather products, oilseeds, qat

Primary export partners: Djibouti 13.3%, Germany 10%, Japan 8.4%, Saudi Arabia 5.6%, US 5.2%, UAE 5%, Italy 4.6% (2004)

Imports: food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles

Primary import partners: Saudi Arabia 25.3%, US 15.8%, China 6.6% (2004)

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century bc, describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings, and the Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem. Missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity in the fourth century ad Europeans did not make contact with Ethiopia until the Portuguese in 1493.

In 1930, Haile Selassie was crowned emperor. His reign was interrupted in 1935 when Italian fascist forces invaded and occupied Ethiopia. The emperor was eventually forced into exile in England despite his plea to the League of Nations for intervention. Five years later, British and Ethiopian forces defeated the Italians, and the emperor returned to the throne. After a period of civil

unrest, which began in February 1974, the aging Haile Selassie was deposed on September 13, 1974. After deposing Selasie, the military, led by Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, took over the government and nationalized nearly all the country’s economic institutions.

Discontent had been spreading throughout Ethiopian urban elites, and an escalating series of mutinies in the armed forced, demonstrations, and strikes led to the seizure of state power by the armed forces coordinating committee, which later became the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC). The PMAC formally declared its intent to remake Ethiopia into a socialist state. It finally destroyed its opposition in a program of mass arrests and executions known as the “red terror,” which lasted from November 1977 to March 1978. Government forces killed an estimated 10,000 people, mostly in Addis Ababa. Mengistu’s failure to respond to growing national problems—droughts, civil war with Eritrea and Tigray, and declining Soviet aid—ended his rule. Early in 1991, forces of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by Meles Zenawi, forced him into exile in Zimbabwe. In December 2006, Mengistu was convicted in absentia of genocide.

In 1994, the economy stagnated, the government’s heavy regulation of commerce discouraged agricultural production and food distribution, and famine threatened Ethiopia. International assistance saved many lives, however, and, in 1995, the government finally established a process for returning nationalized land to private control. This redistribution of land appeared to improve Ethiopia’s agricultural fortunes: the country enjoyed good harvests in both 1996 and 1997.

In the mid-1990s, Ethiopia also witnessed significant political achievements: delegates to a new legislative body, the Council of People’s Representatives, were elected and a new constitution giving special rights to several ethnic rights was also adopted. The name of the country was officially changed to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in August 1995—the same month that Meles Zenawi was elected prime minister by the new legislature. However, the late 1990s were marked by ethnic strife and violent raids carried out by soldiers discharged at the end of Ethiopia’s long civil war. In 1998, a border dispute with neighboring Eritrea threatened to end Ethiopia’s peaceful recovery from years of warfare. The border conflict expanded in 1999, spreading into areas that were previously undisputed. It was not until June 2000 that a cease-fire agreement was reached between the two countries. In December 2000, a comprehensive peace accord was signed in Algiers.

Political turbulence marked the early years of the new millennium. In the spring of 2001, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition experienced a critical split within its Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) faction. Twelve TPLF members opposing the pro-capitalist policies of the government were ousted from the party and held under house arrest. President Negasso Gidada, siding with the TPLF dissidents, was thrown out as party leader. In October 2001, the country’s parliament elected Girma Wolde-Giorgis president, but the political infighting had left the EPRDF regime decidedly weakened. In May 2005, the country held general elections which the EPRDF decisively won.

Ethiopia’s population is highly diverse. Most of its people speak a Semitic or Cushitic language. The Amhara, Tigreans, and Oromo make up more than three-fourths of the population, but there are more than 40 different ethnic groups within Ethiopia.


Official name: Gabonese Republic

Independence: 17 August 1960 (from France)

Area: 267,667 sq km

Form of government: republic; multiparty presidential regime (opposition parties legalized in 1990)

Capital: Libreville

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, CCC, CEEAC, CEMAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$5,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,389,201 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Include four major ethnic groups (Fang, Eshira, Bapounou, Bateke), other Africans and Europeans 154,000, including 10,700 French and 11,000 persons of dual nationality

Religious groups: Christian 55–75%, animist, Muslim less than 1%

Languages: French (official), Fang, Myene, Bateke, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi

Literacy: 63.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: crude oil 77%, timber, manganese, uranium (2001)

Primary export partners: US 53.3%, China 8.5%, France 7.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, petroleum products, construction materials

Primary import partners: France 43.8%, US 6.3%, UK 5.9%, Netherlands 4% (2004)

Gabon’s first European visitors were Portuguese traders who arrived in the fifteenth century. The coast became a center of enslavement commerce. Dutch, British, and French traders later came in the sixteenth century. France assumed the status of protector by signing treaties with Gabonese coastal chiefs in 1839 and 1841. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. The territories became independent in 1960 as the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon, which was led by Léon M’ba after independence. Upon his death in 1967, Albert (later known as Omar) Bongo took over as head of state. Reelected in 1973, 1979, and 1986, Bongo faced growing opposition inside Gabon as the 1990s began. The Bongo administration moved toward establishment of a multiparty system, but opposition parties that charged Bongo’s regime with fraud rejected early attempts in 1990. A constitution adopted in 1991 formalized the multiparty system, and, in the first elections under the new system in December 1993, Bongo received 51.5% of the presidential vote. Unrest soon broke out in reaction to these widely regarded fraudulent elections. This led to mediation and all opposition parties being brought into the government. In 1996, voters adding a senate to the legislature approved a new constitution.

Reelected as president in December 1998, Bongo in late January 1999 named Jean-Francois Ntoutome-Emane prime minister. The rest of Bongo’s cabinet was dominated by ministers close to the president and included no members from opposition parties. Bongo’s appointments came at a time of violent student protests and was followed shortly thereafter by widespread labor strikes triggered by the drop in world oil prices. The government’s announcement in late 1999 that it would privatize the postal and telecommunications sectors set off further labor unrest. Despite widespread criticism, the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party won 84 of 120 seats up for grabs in December 2001 legislative elections. In November 2005, Bongo was reelected by a wide margin to yet again to another presidential term, making him the longest-serving African head of state. The year before, Gabon entered into an agreement with the IMF to assist the country in improving its fiscal and economic situation.

Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin. Gabon has at least 40 ethnic groups, with separate languages and cultures; the largest group is the Fang. Other groups include the Myene, Bandjabi, Eshira, Bapounou, Bateke/Obamba, and Okande.

Gambia, The

Official name: Republic of the Gambia

Independence: 18 February 1965 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 11,300 sq km

Form of government: republic under multiparty democratic rule

Capital: Banjul

International relations: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMEE, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: dalasi (GMD)

Income: US$1,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,593,256 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: African 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%), non-African 1%

Religious groups: Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1%

Languages: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars

Literacy: 40.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: peanuts and peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels

Primary export partners: India 21.4%, Thailand 15.1%, UK 13.7%, France 12.9%, Germany 8.7%, Italy 7.5% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, manufactures, fuel, machinery and transport equipment

Primary import partners: China 23.7%, Senegal 11.6%, Brazil 5.9%, UK 5.5%, Netherlands 4.5%, US 4.4% (2004)

Gambia was once part of the Empire of Ghana and the Kingdom of Songhai. When the Portuguese visited in the fifteenth century, it was part of the Kingdom of Mali. By the sixteenth century, Portuguese slave traders and gold seekers had settled and had sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambia River to English merchants. During the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century, England and France struggled continuously for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers.

In 1807, trading in enslaved Africans was abolished throughout the British Empire, and the British tried unsuccessfully to end the enslavement traffic in Gambia. An 1889 agreement with France established the present boundaries, and Gambia became a British Crown colony. Gambia achieved independence on February 18, 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth. In 1970, Gambia became a republic. Several attempts were made to establish a post-independence union with Senegal. A contingent of Senegalese soldiers was stationed in Gambia, but the arrangement soured. Coupled with mounting economic problems, the confederation collapsed in 1989, although a new friendship treaty between the two countries was signed in 1991. Sir Dawda K. Jawara, who had led the country since independence in 1965, was overthrown by the military in July 1994. The leaders of the coup set up a provisional ruling council headed by Yayeh Jammeh. Pressured to restore democracy, Jammeh adopted a new constitution in August 1996 that was widely criticized for the restrictions imposed on opposition parties. Jammeh retired from the military and ran successfully for president in September 1996.

Criticism of the Jammeh government in 1999 was being led by Ousainou Darboe of the opposition United Democratic Party. Darboe charged that the Jammeh regime was not only dictatorial but also inefficient. In July 2000, Darboe and other members of his party were charged with murder and put on trial after a supporter of the ruling party was killed during campaigning in the eastern portion of the country. Gambia’s relations with neighboring Senegal deteriorated during 2000. In October 2001, Jammeh won reelection as president, defeating Darboe, who had since been cleared of the murder charge. Jammeh again won reelection in 2006, but vowed to develop only those areas that supported him. Although the elections were judged fair, there are still complaints of journalists being harassed in the country.


Official name: Republic of Ghana

Independence: 6 March 1957 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 238,540 sq km

Form of government: constitutional democracy

Capital: Accra


Currency: cedi (GHC)

Income: US$2,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 21,029,853 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black African 99.8% (major ethnic groups include the Akan 44%, Moshi-Dagomba 16%, Ewe 13%, Ga 8%), European and other 0.2%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 38%, Muslim 30%, Christian 24%, other 8%

Languages: English (official), African languages (including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)

Literacy: 74.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds

Primary export partners: Mexico 69.8%, Netherlands 3.7%, UK 3% (2004)

Imports: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs

Primary import partners: Nigeria 12.6%, China 11.4%, UK 6.6%, US 6.4%, France 4.9%, Netherlands 4.2% (2004)

The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast dates to 1470 when a party of Portuguese arrived. For the next three centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans, and Portuguese controlled various parts of the coastal areas. In 1821, the British government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast. In 1844, Fanti chiefs in the area signed an agreement with the British. Between 1826 and 1900, the British fought a series of campaigns against the Ashantis, whose kingdom was located inland. By 1902, the British had succeeded in colonizing the Ashanti region.

On March 6, 1957, the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togo-land. The Gold Coast and the former British Togoland merged to form what is now Ghana. Focusing on anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism, Ghana became a model for the whole continent. Kwame Nkrumah, which had led Ghana to independence, was idolized throughout the continent. However, in the years that followed, Nkrumah turned increasingly dictatorial. In 1966, he was overthrown and went into exile in nearby Guinea. When Jerry Rawlings, who had masterminded two successful coups in 1979 and 1981, became head of state in 1982, he promised to return the country to pluralism. In 1992, he was elected to the presidency in a multiparty election and won reelection in 1996. With an improved economic and political climate, the appointment of Kofi Annan to head the United Nations in 1997, and U.S. President Clinton’s historic 1998 visit, Ghana’s prominence among African nations has been restored.

President Rawlings announced early in 1999 that he would not run for reelection in 2000. He personally selected Vice President John Evans Atta Mills as his heir apparent, resulting in a split within the ruling National Democratic Congress and the formation of a new party, the National Reform Movement. Mills’ leading opponent at the polls in 2000 was John Kufuor, leader of the New Patriotic Party. In the December 2000 presidential elections, neither Mills nor Kufuor received enough votes to score an outright victory, but, in a later runoff race, Kufuor won handily, with 57% of the vote. Kufuor assumed power in January 2001 and immediately turned his attention to the country’s struggling economy. President Kufor is now in his second and final term as head of state. He will oversee the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration when Ghana celebrates its 50th anniversary in March 2007.

Most Ghanaians descend from migrating groups that probably came down the Volta River valley in the thirteenth century. Ethnically, Ghana is divided into small groups speaking more than 50 languages and dialects. Among the more important linguistic groups are the Akans, which include the Fantis along the coast and the Ashantis in the forest region north of the coast; the Guans, on the plains of the Volta River; the Ga and Ewe-speaking peoples of the south and southeast; and the Moshi-Dagomba-speaking ethnic groups of the northern and upper regions.


Official name: Republic of Guinea

Independence: 2 October 1958 (from France)

Area: 245,857 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Conakry


Currency: Guinean franc (GNF)

Income: US$2,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 9,467,866 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, smaller ethnic groups 10%

Religious groups: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%

Languages: French (official), each ethnic group has its own language

Literacy: 43.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: bauxite, alumina, gold, diamonds, coffee, fish, agricultural products

Primary export partners: France 17.7%, Belgium 14.7%, UK 14.7%, Switzerland 12.8%, Ukraine 4.2% (2004)

Imports: petroleum products, metals, machinery, transport equipment, textiles, grain and other foodstuffs

Primary import partners: Cote d’Ivoire 15.5%, France 9%, Belgium 6.1%, China 6%, South Africa 4.8% (2004)

The empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai spanned the period from about the tenth to the fifteenth centuries. French military penetration into the area began in the mid-nineteenth century. By signing treaties with the French in the 1880s, Guinea’s Malinke leader, Samory Toure, secured a free hand to expand eastward. In 1890, he allied himself with the Toucouleur Empire and Kingdom of Sikasso and tried to expel the French from the area. However, he was defeated in 1898, and France gained control of Guinea and the Ivory Coast (now Côte d’Ivoire).

Guinea became an independent republic in 1958 and voted against entering the French community. Se’kou Touré was the first president until his death in 1984. Shortly after his death, the interim government was ousted in a military coup led by Colonel Lansana Conté, who became president and leader of the Military Committee for National Rectification. He took ambitious steps to democratize the nation and dismantle the existing socialist state. In 1993, Conté was elected president in the country’s first multiparty elections. A military mutiny in 1996 took some 60 lives before the president was able to negotiate a truce with his troops. In an attempt to restore confidence in his ability to improve the financial situation of the country, Conté appointed an economist, Sidya Touré, to the office of prime minister that same year.

In mid-December 1998, Conté was elected to his second term as president. Shortly thereafter, he named Lamine Sadimé as the country’s new prime minister. Border tensions escalated between Guinea and the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. In March 1999, Guinean forces attacked Sierra Leone rebels holding large sections of the Kambia district, prompting a retaliatory attack by the rebels on two Guinean border towns. Guinea responded to the border attacks by launching a counterattack into Sierra Leone. Liberian President Charles Taylor, meanwhile, accused Guinea of harboring Liberian rebels. These continuing conflicts eventually created a refugee problem in Guinea. Efforts by President Conté’s party to modify the constitution to allow a president to serve more than two terms further exacerbated political tensions within the country. Political and social instability in Sierra Leone as well as Liberia have caused tensions and minor border conflicts for Guinea. The country has appealed to UN monitors for support on several occasions, because of refugee problems.

Guinea consists of four main ethnic groups—Peuls (Foulah or Foulani), who inhabit the mountainous Fouta Djallon; Malinkes (or Mandingos), in the savannah regions; Soussous in the coastal areas; and Forestal groups in the forest regions.


Official name: Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Independence: 24 September 1973 (unilaterally declared by Guinea-Bissau); 10 September 1974 (recognized by Portugal)

Area: 36,120 sq km

Form of government: republic, multiparty since mid-1991

Capital: Bissau

International relations: ACCT (associate), ACP, Af DB, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WADB (regional), WAEMU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF); previously, the Guinea-Bissau peso (GWP) was used Income: US$700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,416,027 (July 2005 est.)

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

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%

Languages: Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages

Literacy: 42.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: cashew nuts 70%, shrimp, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber

Primary export partners: India 52.1%, US 22.2%, Nigeria 13.2% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products

Primary import partners: Senegal 44.6%, Portugal 13.8%, China 4.2% (2004)

The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape Verde were one of the first areas in Africa explored by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446. In 1630, a “captaincy-general” of Portuguese Guinea was established to administer the territory. With the assistance of the local people, the Portuguese entered the trade in enslaved Africans, exporting large numbers of them to the New World through Cape Verde. The trade declined in the nineteenth century, and Bissau, originally founded as a fort in 1765, became the major commercial center.

In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Despite the presence of more than 30,000 Portuguese troops, the PAIGC exercised influence over much of the country; the Portuguese were increasingly confined to their garrisons and larger towns. The PAIGC National Assembly declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on December 24, 1973, the same year that PAIGC leader Amilcar Cabral was assassinated by the Portuguese secret police. Portugal granted de jure independence on September 19, 1974, when the United States recognized the new nation. Luís de Almeida Cabral, Amilcar’s brother, became president of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Cape Verde later broke away from Guinea-Bissau and its leader, João Bernardo Vieira, who in November 1980 had overthrown Cabral.

Vieira, who survived a coup attempt in November 1985, was elected to five-year terms as president in 1984, 1989, and 1994. However, his administration was criticized for entrenched corruption. During a five-month civil war in 1998, rebel forces seized most of the country and part of Bissau. In November 1998, Vieira agreed to a peace accord that called for new elections and the disarmament of the presidential guard. After the presidential guard refused to disarm though, a breakaway army faction drove Vieira from office in May 1999. He first sought refuge in the Portuguese Embassy but was later allowed to leave the country.

After Vieira left office, he was replaced by interim President Malam Bacai Sanhá, president of the national assembly and leader of an anti-Vieira faction of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). In a runoff presidential election in January 2000, however, Sanhá was defeated by Kumba Ialá of the Party for Social Renewal (PRS). In early 2001, the coalition between the PRS and the Guinea-Bissau Resistance-Bah Fatah Movement collapsed. In the wake of the coalition’s breakup, the government’s credibility eroded, and calls mounted for the resignation of Ialá and his cabinet. Ialá also came under fire for his treatment of the Ahmadiyya Islamic group, the leaders of which he deported in 2001. Public dissatisfaction with Ialá’s rule mounted as 2001 neared an end. In 2003, there was a bloodless coup that removed Ilala for not solving the country’s worsening economic situation, and installed Henrique Rosa. However, the country continues to suffer from a weak economy despite IMF intervention.

The population of Guinea-Bissau comprises several diverse ethnic groups, each with its own language, customs, and social organization. The Fula and Mandinka in the north and northeast of the country are mostly Muslim. 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.


Official name: Republic of Kenya

Independence: 12 December 1963 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 582,650 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Nairobi


Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES)

Income: US$1,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 33,829,590 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%

Religious groups: Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, indigenous beliefs 26%, Muslim 7%, other 1%

Languages: English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages

Literacy: 85.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: tea, coffee, horticultural products, petroleum products, fish, cement

Primary export partners: Uganda 13.3%, UK 11.4%, US 10.6%, Netherlands 8.2%, Egypt 4.9%, Tanzania 4.5%, Pakistan 4.3% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, iron and steel

Primary import partners: UAE 12.6%, Saudi Arabia 9.1%, South Africa 8.8%, US 7.7%, India 7.2%, UK 6.7%, China 6.4%, Japan 5% (2004)

The Cushitic-speaking people, who occupied the area that is now Kenya around 1000 bc, were known to have maintained contact with Arab traders during the first century ad. Arab and Persian settlements were founded along the coast as early as the eighth century ad. By then, Bantu and Nilotic peoples also had moved

into the area. The Portuguese followed the Arabs in 1498, by Islamic control under the Imam of Oman in the 1600s, and by British influence in the nineteenth century. In 1885, European powers first partitioned East Africa into spheres of influence. In 1895, the British government established the East African Protectorate.

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency, arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule. While Mau Mau was not successful militarily, it galvanized the indigenous population against colonialism as never before. The first direct elections for Africans to the legislative council took place in 1957, and then Kenya became fully independent on December 12, 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, and head of the Kenya African National Union, became Kenya’s first president. He adopted a moderate, pro-Western policy and pursued capitalism internally, allowing Kenya to achieve a higher level of economic prosperity than its neighbors. Kenyatta died in 1978 and was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi, who, in his first few years as president, pursued a populist course. However, in 1982, the constitution was modified to make the country a one-party state. Mounting opposition to his repressive rule through the 1980s put increasing pressure on Moi, who, in December 1991, agreed to legalize opposition political parties. Moi was reelected in 1992, although he continued to be the target of criticism from opposition parties upset by cumbersome restrictions on their activities. In December 1997, Moi was again returned to office, leading to widespread violence and continual accusations of corruption, ethnic favoritism, and human rights abuses.

Criticism of Moi’s leadership increased in 1999. His appointment of Francis Masakhalia as finance minister and his reinstatement of George Saitoti as vice president particularly incensed Moi’s critics. Former Energy Minister Chris Okemo eventually replaced Masakhalia in August 1999. Concern over high-level corruption within the Kenyan government was the dominant theme of 2000 as well. In January 2001, Moi joined with the leaders of Tanzania and Uganda to launch a new East African Economic Community. In March 2001, Richard Leakey resigned as head of the Kenyan Civil Service, giving rise to fears that it might signal an end to efforts to root out government corruption, which had been led by Leakey. Even more alarming to Moi’s opponents was his engineering of a merger between his ruling Kenya African National Union and the National Development Party, the country’s second-largest opposition party. The opposition fired back in June 2001 by forming a new party, the National Party of Kenya.

Constitutionally barred from running for the presidency, Moi stepped down and was replaced as president in 2002 by his former minister Mwai Kibaki who headed the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). The election and succession was relatively smooth and marked a triumph for democracy for the country and the continent. In 2005, the Kibaki administration met with defeat when a new constitution amendment was rejected. General elections are scheduled for December 2007.


Official name: Kingdom of Lesotho

Independence: 4 October 1966 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 30,355 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Capital: Maseru

International relations: ACP, Af DB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ISO (subscriber), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR) Income: US$3,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,867,035 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%

Religious groups: Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

Languages: Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa

Literacy: 84.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: manufacturers 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals (2000)

Primary export partners: US 97%, Canada 2.1%, UK 0.3% (2004)

Imports: food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products

Primary import partners: Hong Kong 46.8%, China 25.5%, South Korea 5.6%, Germany 4.8% (2004)

Until the end of the sixteenth century, the Qhuaique, perjoratively referred to as “bushmen,” sparsely populated Basutoland, now Lesotho. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, refugees from surrounding areas gradually formed the Basotho ethnic group. In 1818, Moshoeshoe I consolidated various Basotho groupings and became king. During his reign from 1823 to 1870, a series of wars with South Africa resulted in the loss of extensive lands, now known as the “Lost Territory.” Moshoeshoe appealed to Queen Victoria for assistance, and, in 1868, the country was placed under British protection.

In 1955, the Basutoland Council asked that it be empowered to legislate on internal affairs and, in 1959, a new constitution gave Basutoland its first elected legislature. On October 4, 1966, the new Kingdom of Lesotho attained full independence. Three years later, Leabua Jonathan became the head of state and embarked on repressing internal opposition. Years later, when he appeared to be losing the presidential elections, he seized power in order to retain his leadership. In 1986, Jonathan was overthrown by the military. On an interim basis, executive and legislative powers were vested in King Moshoeshoe II, although a military council exercised most powers. Moshoeshoe II was exiled in March 1990 and replaced by his son, who was enthroned as Letsie III. After Letsie came under increasing criticism from leaders of neighboring states, he abdicated in 1995 and returned the crown to his father, Moshoeshoe II. The following year, Moshoeshoe was killed in an auto accident, and Letsie III returned to the throne.

Violent anti-government protests prompted South Africa and Botswana to send troops into Lesotho in September 1998. Although those troops were withdrawn by late spring 1999, the impact of their intervention continued to be felt long after their departure. The intervention left the Lesotho Congress for Democracy government of Prime Minister Bathuel Pakalitha Mosisili in power, but it set up the Interim Political Authority (IPA), made up of representatives from the country’s 12 major political parties. This set up a conflict between the LCD government and the IPA over what form the country’s future electoral system should take. This debate continued until February 2001 when all parties endorsed a plan drafted by the Independent Election Commission for the holding of elections. Elections were held in 2002 and the LCD won handily with 54% of the vote.

In 2006, Lesotho embarked on an ambitious HIV program of testing everyone in a “know your status” campaign. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have committed funds to addressing the severity of the pandemic in the country.


Official name: Republic of Liberia

Independence: 26 July 1847

Area: 111,370 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Monrovia

International relations: ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO

Currency: Liberian dollar (LRD)

Income: US$900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,482,211 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: indigenous African groups 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella), AmericoLiberians 2.5% (descendants of African American immigrants from the United States), Congo People 2.5% (descendants of Caribbean immigrants)

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%

Languages: English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence

Literacy: 57.5% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: diamonds, iron ore, rubber, timber, coffee, cocoa

Primary export partners: Denmark 29.5%, Germany 18.9%, Poland 14.3%, US 8.9%, Greece 8% (2004)

Imports: fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; rice and other foodstuffs

Primary import partners: South Korea 38.8%, Japan 21.2%, Singapore 12.2%, Croatia 5.3%, Germany 4.2% (2004)

It is believed that the forebears of many present-day Liberians migrated into the area from the north and east between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. Portuguese explorers visited Liberia’s coast in 1461, and, during the next 300 years, European merchants and coastal Africans engaged in trade.

The history of modern Liberia dates from 1816, when the American Colonization Society, a private organization, was given a charter by the United States Congress to send formerly enslaved Africans to the west coast of Africa. The United States government, under President James Monroe, provided funds and assisted in negotiations with native chiefs for the ceding of land for this purpose. The first settlers landed at the site of Monrovia in 1822. In 1838, the settlers united to form the Commonwealth of Liberia, under a governor appointed by the American Colonization Society.

In 1847, Liberia became Africa’s first independent republic. The republic’s first 100 years have been described as a “century of survival” due to attempts by neighboring colonial powers, particularly France and Britain, to encroach on Liberia. Independence gave power to the so-called Americo-Liberians who formed an elite class. The excluded indigenous population lacked the access and the opportunities of the Americo-Liberians and this created social tension. In 1980, Sargent Samuel Doe and his Council of Popular Redemption came to power in a bloody coup and sustained power through planned and random violent acts. Doe leaned on the Soviet Union and established himself as a dictator. He was gruesomely executed, however, in a videotaped killing in 1990. The National Patriotic Front, a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, led the insurrection that ousted Doe. Taylor’s group pitted itself against the Liberian army, a monitoring group from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), a group made up of former Doe allies. Several attempts at ending the civil war were unsuccessful, and the strife continued well into the 1990s. Finally, in 1997, a program to disarm warring factions was declared a success (with the backing of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi). In July of that year, Taylor was elected president by a landslide. He worked to rebuild the nation’s economy, which had been shattered by years of civil war.

Taylor’s government came under fire in early 1999 from a number of its neighbors, who charged that Liberia was supporting Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor’s denials failed to satisfy opposition members of the country’s National Assembly or Britain and the United States, both of which threatened to suspend aid shipments. Although the country’s civil war officially ended in January 1999, Liberia continued to experience extensive political instability. The unrest exploded in fighting in the northern part of the country, where government troops battled against rebels. Relations with Guinea deteriorated nearly to the point of war after Taylor charged Guinea with supporting the northern rebels. Similarly strained were relations with western governments. The European Union in June 2000 suspended aid to Liberia, and, in October, the United States imposed diplomatic sanctions on Taylor and his associates. Foreign approbation grew in March 2001 when the UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions on Liberia unless it halted its support for RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. The military was kept busy throughout 2001 battling rebels in the northern region.

An estimated 200,000 people died in these civil wars, but peace was still not at hand. By 2003, rebel activity reached Monrovia as Taylor’s support diminished. That year he was forced to resign and accepted asylum in Nigeria after US Naval ships positioned themselves off the shores of the country. In November 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a U.S.-educated former minister, won a runoff election and became the first woman elected as a head of state on the African continent. One of her early actions was to request the extradition of Charles Taylor from Nigeria which was granted in 2006. He is scheduled to the tried for war crimes in 2007 as Johnson-Sirleaf confronts the numerous economic and political challenges she inherited.


Official name: Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Independence: 24 December 1951 (from Italy)

Area: 1,759,540 sq km

Form of government: Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in fact, a military dictatorship

Capital: Tripoli


Currency: Libyan dinar (LYD)

Income: US$6,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 5,765,563 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Berber and Arab 97%, Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, Tunisians

Religious groups: Sunni Muslim 97%

Languages: Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities

Literacy: 82.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: crude oil, refined petroleum products

Primary export partners: Italy 37%, Germany 16.6%, Spain 11.9%, Turkey 7.1%, France 6.2% (2004)

Imports: machinery, transport equipment, food, manufactured goods

Primary import partners: Italy 25.5%, Germany 11%, South Korea 6.1%, UK 5.4%, Tunisia 4.7%, Turkey 4.6% (2004)

In the seventh century ad, Arabs conquered the area that is now Libya. In the following centuries, most of the inhabitants adopted Islam and the Arabic language and culture. The Ottoman Turks then conquered the country in the sixteenth century. Libya remained part of their empire (although, at times, virtually autonomous) until Italy invaded in 1911 and, after years of resistance, incorporated Libya as its colony.

King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led a Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya. On November 21, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951.

In a military coup of 1969, King Idris was overthrown by Muammar al-Qaddafi, who nationalized all the petroleum resources and embarked on a program of support for international terrorism against Western countries. Some of Qaddafi’s activities have also created friction with neighboring countries, and, in 1986, the United States bombed Tripoli and Benghazi. Five years later, during the Persian Gulf War, Libya opposed Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait as well as the use of force against Iraq by the United States and its allies. In 1992, the United Nations imposed sanctions against Libya for its refusal to extradite two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. Those sanctions were lifted in 1999 when Libya turned the suspects over to the U.N. for trial by a Scottish court. Despite five unsuccessful coup attempts and considerable international animosity, Qaddafi remains firmly in office as leader of Libya.

Qaddafi in the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium seemed to moderate his harsh attitude toward the West and particularly toward the United States. Most significantly, it appears that Qaddafi’s Libyan regime has distanced itself from terrorism in the years since the imposition of U.N. sanctions in 1992. Nowhere was this change in policy more evident than in Qaddafi’s response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The Libyan leader called the attacks “horrifying” and urged Muslim charitable agencies to provide aid to the United States. The Libyan regime also has reportedly shared intelligence with U.S. officials about Libyan Islamist militants with ties to al-Qaeda.

Since 2003, Libya abandoned its weapons of mass destruction, and paid compensation to the families killed in the Pan Am flight in the 1990s. It is expected that the country will normalize relations with the United States as well as the European Union in the near future.


Official name: Republic of Madagascar

Independence: 26 June 1960 (from France)

Area: 587,040 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Antananarivo

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, InOC, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Malagasy franc (MGF)

Income: US$800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 18,040,341 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry—Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%

Languages: French (official), Malagasy (official)

Literacy: 68.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar; cotton cloth, chromite, petroleum products

Primary export partners: Italy 37%, Germany 16.6%, Spain 11.9%, Turkey 7.1%, France 6.2% (2004)

Imports: intermediate manufactures, capital goods, petroleum, consumer goods, food

Primary import partners: Italy 25.5%, Germany 11%, South Korea 6.1%, UK 5.4%, Tunisia 4.7%, Turkey 4.6% (2004)

Located east of the African mainland in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is home to people who arrived from Africa and Asia during the first five centuries AD. Three major kingdoms ruled the island—Betsimisaraka, Merina, and Sakalava. In the seventh century ad, Arabs established trading posts in the coastal areas of what is now Madagascar. Portuguese sighted the island in the sixteenth century and, in the late seventeenth century the French established trading posts along the east coast.

In the 1790s, the Merina rulers succeeded in establishing hegemony over the major part of the island including the coast. The Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius concluded a treaty abolishing the trade in enslaved Africans, which had been important in Madagascar’s economy, and, in return, the island received British military assistance. British influence remained strong for several decades. The British accepted the imposition of a French protectorate over Madagascar in 1885. France established control by military force in 1895, and the Merina monarchy was abolished. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence in 1960.

Madagascar pursued a moderate policy after independence, and collaboration with France continued until 1972 when a military coup installed a socialist government headed by General Gabriel Ramanantsoa. Ramanantsoa, who aligned his government with the East Bloc, was ousted and replaced by Lieutenant Commander Didier Ratsiraka in 1975. Late that year, the country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Madagascar. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Ratsiraka’s government faced growing opposition, and, in August 1991, the government promised to make democratic reforms. A year later, a new constitution was approved by popular vote. Albert Zafy defeated Ratsiraka in a presidential runoff election in 1993. Zafy was impeached in 1996 for failure to reach agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the Malagasy franc’s exchange rate, stepped down in October 1996, and ran unsuccessfully against Ratsiraka for the presidency in December 1996.

Vanguard of the Malagasy Revolution, the country’s ruling party, in 1999 faced a new challenger in the form of the Gó Alliance, a coalition of opposition parties. All parties to the new opposition coalition were united in their dissatisfaction with the policies of President Ratsiraka but remained divided on other key issues, including the economy. In the December 2001 presidential elections, Ratsiraka trailed opponent Marc Ravalomanana, mayor of the capital city, but since neither candidate had a majority, the outcome of the election remained in question. The upshot was a political struggle between Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana that split the country. In May 2002, a court declared Ravalomanana winner of the election, but Ratsiraka rejected the court ruling and continued to press his claim to power. Ravalomanana initiated anti-corruption changes and was reelected handily in December 2006.

Madagascar’s population is predominantly of Asian and African origin. The largest groups are the Betsimisaraka (one million), the Tsimihety (500,000), and the Sakalava (500,000).


Official name: Republic of Malawi

Independence: 6 July 1964 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 118,480 sq km

Form of government: multiparty democracy

Capital: Lilongwe

International relations: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIK, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Malawian kwacha (MWK)

Income: US$600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 12,158,924 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European

Religious groups: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs

Languages: English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally

Literacy: 62.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products

Primary export partners: South Africa 13.5%, US 12%, Germany 11.6%, Egypt 8.4%, UK 6.6%, Mozambique 4.5% (2004)

Imports: food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment

Primary import partners: South Africa 37.3%, India 8.1%, Mozambique 7.7%, Zimbabwe 7.2%, Tanzania 4.6%, Germany 4.1% (2004)

Hominid remains and stone implements dating back more than one million years have been identified in Malawi. Early humans are believed to have inhabited the area surrounding Lake Malawi 50,000–60,000 years ago.

Malawi derives its name from the Maravi, the group that came from the southern Congo about 600 years ago. By the sixteenth century, the two divisions of the ethnic group had established a kingdom stretching from north of today’s Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River in the south and from Lake Malawi in the east to the Luangwa River in Zambia in the west.

The Portuguese first reached the area in the sixteenth century. David Livingston reached the shore of Lake Malawi in 1859. By 1878, a number of traders, mostly from Scotland, formed the African Lakes Company to supply goods and services to the missionaries. In 1891, the British established the Nyasaland Protectorate. Nyasaland joined with northern and southern Rhodesia in 1953 to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Throughout the 1950s, pressures were exerted within Nyasaland for independence. In July 1958, Dr. Hastings Kamazu Banda returned to the country after a long stay in the United States (where he had obtained his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in 1937), the United Kingdom, and Ghana. He assumed leadership of the Nyasaland African Congress, which later became the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1959, Banda was sent to Gwele Prison for his political activities, but was released in 1960.

On April 15, 1961, the MCP won an overwhelming victory in elections for a new legislative council. In a second constitutional conference in London in November of 1962, the British government agreed to give Nyasaland self-governing status the following year. Dr. Banda became prime minister on February 1, 1963, although the British still controlled Malawi’s financial security and judicial systems. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasa-land was dissolved on December 31, 1963, and Malawi became fully independent on July 6, 1964. Two years later, Malawi adopted a new constitution and became a republic with Dr. Banda as its first president. In 1994, in the country’s first multiparty elections, Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front and a former cabinet minister, defeated Banda. Muluzi freed political prisoners and closed three prisons. In 1995, Banda and a top aide went on trial for the 1983 murders of four government officials: both were acquitted in December 1995. Banda died two years later in South Africa reportedly at 101 years old.

Twice postponed, presidential elections were finally held on June 15, 1999. President Muluzi managed to hold on to the presidency, defeating his nearest opponent, Gwanda Chakuamba, by the narrowest of margins. In October 2000, the president dismissed his entire cabinet after a report implicated cabinet ministers in widespread corruption. The government continued to root out corruption in 2001, arresting a total of six government officials in February on charges of embezzlement from the Ministry of Education. In 2004, another multi-party election was held and Bingu wa Mutharika won the presidency in a largely free and fair contest.

The Chewas constitute 90% of the population of the central region; the Nyanja predominates in the south and the Tumbuka in the north. In addition, significant numbers of the Tongas live in the north; Ngonis—an off-shoot of the Zulus who came from South Africa in the early 1800s—live in the lower northern and lower central regions; and the Yao, who are mostly Muslim, live along the southeastern border with Mozambique.


Official name: Republic of Mali

Independence: 22 September 1960 (from France)

Area: 1.24 million sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Bamako

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, FZ, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary),


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 12,291,529 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke, Soninke), Peul 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg and Moor 10%, other 5%

Religious groups: Muslim 90%, indigenous beliefs 9%, Christian 1%

Languages: French (official), Bambara 80%, numerous African languages

Literacy: 46.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: cotton 50%, gold, livestock

Primary export partners: China 31.6%, Pakistan 10%, Italy 6.9%, Thailand 5.8%, Germany 5.1%, India 4.8%, Bangladesh 4.5%, Taiwan 4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, construction materials, petroleum, foodstuffs, textiles

Primary import partners: France 14.5%, Senegal 9.8%, Cote d’Ivoire 7.6% (2004)

Mali is the cultural heir to succession of ancient African empires, Ghana, Malinke, and Songhai, that occupied the West African savanna. The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier, was a powerful trading state from about 700 to 1075 ad. The Malinke kingdom of Mali, from which the republic takes its name, had its origins on the upper Niger River in the eleventh century. Expanding rapidly in the thirteenth century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and Gao. The Songhai Empire expanded its power from its center in Gao during the period of 1465 to 1530. At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It was destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591.

French military penetration of the area began around 1880. A French civilian governor of Soudan (the French name for the area) was appointed in 1893, but resistance to French control was not abrogated until 1898 when the Malinke warrior, Samory Toure, was defeated after seven years of war. In January 1959, Soudan joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The federation collapsed on August 20, 1960, when Senegal seceded. On September 22, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.

The first head of state, Modibo Keita, followed a socialist orientation and gradually increased his authoritarian leadership. In 1968, the Military Committee of National Liberation coup overthrew Keita’s government and set up a ruling junta led by Lieutenant Moussa Traoré. Although the Traoré government did little to advance the country’s economy, Traoré was returned to office in 1979 and 1985. However, a military coup in March 1991 deposed Traoré. In January 1992, a new constitution was adopted and Alpha Oumar Kounaré was elected president in multiparty elections in April 1992. He was reelected to office in May 1997.

Former President Traoré, his wife, and his brother-in-law were sentenced to death in January 1999 after being convicted of economic crimes. However, in September, President Konaré commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment. The government also launched a drive in September to root out government inefficiency and corruption. On May 7, 2001, Mali and Namibia became the first two OAU member states to join the Pan-African Parliament, a key component of the new organization scheduled to replace the OAU. President Konaré canceled a December 2001 referendum that would have given him immunity from prosecution after widespread criticism of this proposed reform. In 2002, Amadou Toure, a retired general, succeeded him as president.

Mali’s population consists of diverse sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions. Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Moors, desert nomads, who are related to the North African Berbers.


Official name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Independence: 28 November 1960 (from France)

Area: 1,030,700 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Nouakchott

International relations: ABEDA, ACCT (associate), ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CAEU, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: ouguiya (MRO)

Income: US$1,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,086,859 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mixed Maur/black 40%, Maur 30%, black 30%

Religious groups: Muslim 100%

Languages: Hasaniya Arabic (official), Pular, Soninke, Wolof (official), French

Literacy: 41.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: iron ore, fish and fish products, gold

Primary export partners: Japan 13.1%, France 11%, Spain 9.7%, Germany 9.7%, Italy 9.6%, Belgium 7.5%, China 6.1%, Russia 4.6%, Cote d’Ivoire 4.1% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods

Primary import partners: France 14.1%, US 7.6%, China 6.4%, Spain 5.8%, UK 4.6%, Germany 4.3%, Belgium 4.2% (2004)

Archaeological evidence suggests that Berber and Negroid Mauritanians lived beside one another before the spread of the desert drove them southward. Migration of these people increased during the third and fourth centuries ad, when Berber groups arrived seeking pastureland for their herds and safety from political unrest and war in the north. The Berbers established a loose confederation, called the Sanhadja, and trading towns to facilitate the trade of gold, ivory, and those enslaved.

In the tenth century, conquests by warriors of the Soudanese Kingdom of Ghana broke up the Berber confederation. By the eleventh century, the conquest of the Western Sahara regions by the Berbers firmly established Islam throughout Mauritania. They conquered the Ghanaian kingdom; however, Arab invaders defeated them in the sixteenth century.

French military penetration of Mauritania began early in the twentieth century. However, the area did not come under French control until about 1934. Until independence, the French governed the country largely by relying on the authority of the local chiefs, some of whom, such as the Emirs of Trarza and Adrar, had considerable authority. Under French occupation, enslavement was legally abolished.

Mauritania became a French colony in 1920. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania was proclaimed in November 1958. Mauritania became independent on November 28, 1960, and withdrew from the French Community in 1966.

Mokhtar Ould Daddah, leader of the Mauritian People’s Party was the first head of state, but a series of coups took place: the first, in 1978, replaced Daddah with Col. Moustabpha Ould Mohammed Salek, who was then replaced by Prime Minister Mohammed Khouma Ould Haidalla. In 1984, another coup, this one led by Haidalla deputy Maawiya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, unseated Haidalla. Under increasing pressure to democratize, Taya in 1991 adopted a new constitution creating a multiparty state. In a disputed January 1992 election, Taya was chosen executive president. Even though important U.S. aid had been cut off due to a poor human rights record and allegations of slave trading, Taya was returned to office in 1996.

President Taya’s ruling party and its allies easily won control of all local councils in two-stage local elections held in early 1999, largely because the balloting was boycotted by major opposition parties. In March of that year, prominent opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah, runner-up to Taya in the 1992 election, was charged with inciting intolerance and seeking to disrupt public order. In 2001 legislative elections, the ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party won 64 of 81 seats in the National Assembly. In late 2001, oil deposits were discovered; however, the country continues to suffer from a poor human rights record as well as a somewhat bleak economy record.

Moors, heterogeneous groups of Arab-Berber people who speak Hassaniya dialects, make up an estimated three-quarter of the population and are traditionally nomadic pastoralists. The country’s black population, the Toucouleur, Soninke, Bambara, and Wolof, are mainly cultivators and are concentrated along the Senegal River.


Official name: Republic of Mauritius

Independence: 12 March 1968 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 1,860 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Port Louis

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, InOC, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SADC, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Mauritian rupee (MUR)

Income: US$12,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,230,602 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, SinoMauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Religious groups: Hindu 52%, Christian 28.3% (Roman Catholic 26%, Protestant 2.3%), Muslim 16.6%, other 3.1%

Languages: English (official), Creole, French, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bojpoori

Literacy: 85.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses

Primary export partners: UK 33.1%, France 20.4%, US 14.8%, Madagascar 5.1%, Italy 4.1% (2004)

Imports: manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals

Primary import partners: South Africa 11.3%, China 9.4%, India 9.3%, France 9.2%, Bahrain 5.3%, Japan 4.1% (2004)

Portuguese sailors first visited Mauritius in the early sixteenth century, although Arabs and Malays knew the island much earlier. Dutch sailors, who named the island in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, established a small colony in 1638, but abandoned it in 1710. The French claimed Mauritius in 1715, renaming it Ile de France. In 1810, the British, whose possession of the island was confirmed four years later by the Treaty of Paris, captured Mauritius. After enslavement was abolished in 1835, indentured laborers from India brought an additional cultural influence to the island. Mauritius achieved independence on March 12, 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, head of the Mauritius Labor Party (MLP), led the country for the first 14 years of independence. The opposition Mauritian Military Movement (MMM), under the leadership of Aneerood Jugnauth, came to power in 1982. Pushed from power in an internal MMM struggle, Jugnauth formed a new opposition party, the Mauritian Socialist Movement (MSM). The MSM joined with the MLP in 1983 to win a parliamentary majority. The MSM-MLP coalition was again victorious in both 1987 and 1991. In 1992, the country became a republic, and the national assembly elected Cassam Uteem president. In December 1995, Navin Ramgoolam, son of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, replaced Jugnauth as prime minister.

The island was rocked in early 1999 by three days of rioting by members of the Creole community, triggered by the death of a popular reggae singer in police custody. An opposition alliance of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and the Mauritian Socialist Movement (MSM) won a sweeping victory in September 2000 legislative elections, capturing all but eight of the 62 legislative seats. The opposition’s victory brought MSM leader Sir Anerood Jugnauth into the prime minister’s office. Under the terms of the alliance between the MSM and MMM, Paul Berenger, leader of the MMM, was to take over the final two years as prime minister after Jugnauth had served the first three. Despite rumors of mounting tensions between Jugnauth and Berenger, their ruling coalition remained intact throughout 2001.

Twenty-seven percent of Mauritians are of mixed European and African descent, tracing their origins to the plantation owners and enslaved Africans who were the first to exploit the island’s potential for growing sugar. Descendants of the Indian immigrants constitute 68% of the population and are the principal laborers in the sugar industry.

Mayotte (Mahoré)

Official name: Territorial Collectivity of Mayotte

Independence: none (territorial collectivity of France)

Area: 374 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Mamoutzou

International relations: FZ

Currency: French franc (FRF); euro (EUR)

Income: US$2,600 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 193,633 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: NA

Religious groups: Muslim 97%, Christian (mostly Roman Catholic)

Languages: Mahorian (a Swahili dialect), French (official language) spoken by 35% of the population

Literacy: NA

Exports: ylang-ylang (perfume essence), vanilla, copra, coconuts, coffee, cinnamon

Primary export partners: France 80%, Comoros 15%, Reunion (2000)

Imports: food, machinery and equipment, transportation equipment, metals, chemicals

Primary import partners: France 66%, Africa 14%, Southeast Asia 11% (2000 est.)

Part of the Comoros archipelago, Mayotte shares its history with the Comoros Federal Islamic Republic. When Comoros declared independence in 1975, Mayotte voted to remain an overseas territory of France. Although Comoros has since claimed Mayotte, the French have promised the islanders that they may remain French citizens for as long as they wish. Both the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, however, have recognized Mayotte as part of the Comoros.


Official name: Kingdom of Morocco

Independence: 2 March 1956 (from France)

Area: 446,550 sq km

Form of government: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Rabat

International relations: ABEDA, ACCT (associate), AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CCC, EBRD, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

Income: US$4,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 32,725,847 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99.1%, other 0.7%, Jewish 0.2%

Religious groups: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%

Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy

Literacy: 51.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: phosphates and fertilizers, food and beverages, minerals

Primary export partners: France 33.6%, Spain 17.4%, UK 7.7%, Italy 4.7%, US 4.1% (2004)

Imports: semi-processed goods, machinery and equipment, food and beverages, consumer goods, fuel

Primary import partners: France 18.2%, Spain 12.1%, Italy 6.6%, Germany 6%, Russia 5.7%, Saudi Arabia 5.4%, China 4.2%, US 4.1% (2004)

Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the seventh century ad, bringing with them Arab civilization and Islam. Morocco’s location and resources led to early competition among Europeans in Africa, beginning with successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the fifteenth century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. The Treaty of Fez (1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones. The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956, and by agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958.

Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara, also known as Spanish Sahara, is based largely on the historical argument of traditional loyalty of the Saharan traditional leaders to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. The International Court of Justice, to which the issue was referred, delivered its opinion in 1975 that while historical ties exist between the inhabitants of the Western Sahara and Morocco, they are insufficient to establish Moroccan sovereignty.

Morocco, however, exerted pressure on Spain in 1974 and 1975 to relinquish the Western Sahara. When the Spanish left the territory in 1976, they ceded the northern two-thirds to Morocco and the southern one-third to Mauritania. However, the Polisario Front, a nationalist guerrilla organization, disputed the disposition of the territory. Polisario declared the territory an independent nation. All claimants skirmished over the territory for years, until a cease-fire was declared in 1991. The dispute, however, continued to simmer late into the 1990s. In 1998, the United Nations scheduled a referendum for self-determination for Western Sahara, which is currently occupied by U.N. peacekeeping forces.

King Hassan II ruled Morocco from 1961 until his death in July 1999. Although he offered strong support for the Arab cause during the 1967 war with Israel, Arab extremists identified Hassan as soft on Israel, and several attempts were made on his life. In the late 1990s, Islamic extremists forced Hassan to create a new parliamentary body. Upon his death, Hassan’s son, Mohamed VI, assumed the throne.

One of the first indications of the shape Mohamed VI’s rule would take came in 1999, when he began to strip power from Interior Minister Driss Basri, his father’s closest adviser. By November 1999, the new king had dismissed Basri from office altogether. Mohamed VI’s proposals in 2000 for a new family code met strong opposition from the country’s Islamist movements. They were particularly outraged by plans to outlaw polygamy and give women greater equality with men. The progress of political liberalization slowed significantly during 2001, signaled by a crackdown on the press and the king’s cancellation of a scheduled meeting with officials of the International Federation for Human Rights. In 2004, Morocco signed free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. In 2006, the country celebrated its 50th anniversary as an independent state.


Official name: Republic of Mozambique

Independence: 25 June 1975 (from Portugal)

Area: 801,590 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Maputo

International relations: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNTAET, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: metical (MZM)

Income: US$1,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 19,406,703 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: indigenous 99.66% (Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena, Makua, and others), Europeans 0.06%, Euro-Africans 0.2%, Indians 0.08%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

Languages: Portuguese (official), indigenous dialects

Literacy: 47.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: prawns 40%, cashews, cotton, sugar, citrus, timber; bulk electricity

Primary export partners: Netherlands 60.9%, South Africa 12.9%, Malawi 3.3% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, foodstuffs, textiles

Primary import partners: South Africa 41.4%, Netherlands 11%, Portugal 3.3% (2004)

Mozambique’s first inhabitants were Bushmanoid hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples.

During the first four centuries ad, waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River Valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast for several centuries. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the hinterland seeking gold and enslaved Africans.

After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the concept that Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions were “overseas provinces.” In 1962, several Mozambican anti-Portuguese political groups formed the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) that, in September 1964, initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule. After 10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975.

Samora Machel led Frelimo to independence in 1975 and immediately faced civil war with RENAMO (Mozambique National Resistance). More than 600,000 people were killed in the civil war, while farms, roads, and railways were destroyed and half of the population was dislocated. After Samora was killed in an air crash, Joaquím Chissano became head of state. A cease-fire was reached with RENAMO in 1992, and the country’s first multiparty elections were held in October 1994. Chissano was elected president, and FRELIMO, his party, won 129 of 250 assembly seats. A United Nations peace-keeping force, which had been deployed in December 1992, was withdrawn from Mozambique in early 1995. Privatization of industries has led to massive foreign investment by international corporations and the World Bank.

President Chissano won reelection in presidential elections held in late 1999. Opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, head of RENAMO, however, disputed the results. In 2000, RENAMO struck back at Chissano by charging that the president was responsible for the painfully slow arrival of foreign relief after massive flooding caused by Cyclone Eline earlier in the year. Widespread political unrest and sporadic fighting followed. Late in the year, Chissano and Dhlakama met in an effort to resolve the differences between the government and RENAMO. Floods struck Mozambique again in early 2001. In 2004, the government approved new general election laws, which governed the presidential contest that year. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated as president in early 2005.

The 10 major ethnic groups living in Mozambique are divided into subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and history; the largest are the Majua and Tsonga.


Official name: Republic of Namibia

Independence: 21 March 1990 (from South African mandate)

Area: 825,418 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Windhoek

International relations: AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNTAET, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Namibian dollar (NAD); South African rand (ZAR)

Income: US$7,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 2,030,692 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black 87.5%, white 6%, mixed 6.5%

Religious groups: Christian 80% to 90% (Lutheran 50% at least), indigenous beliefs 10% to 20%

Languages: English 7% (official), Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population, German 32%, indigenous Languages: Oshivambo, Herero, Nama

Literacy: 84% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium; cattle, processed fish, karakul skins

Primary export partners: EU 79%, US 4% (2001)

Imports: foodstuffs; petroleum products and fuel, machinery and equipment, chemicals

Primary import partners: US 50%, EU 31% (2001)

In 1878, the United Kingdom annexed Walvis Bay on behalf of Cape Colony, and the area was incorporated into the Cape of Good Hope in 1884. In 1883, a German trader, Adolf Luderitz, claimed the remainder of the coastal region after negotiations with a local chief. German administration ended during World War I, when South African forces occupied the territory in 1915.

On December 17, 1920, South Africa undertook the administration of South West Africa under the terms of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and a mandate agreement confirmed by the League Council. The mandate agreement gave South Africa full power of administration and legislation over the territory as an integral part of South Africa. During the 1960s, as other African nations gained independence, pressure mounted on South Africa to do so in South West Africa.

In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly revoked South Africa’s mandate. Also in 1966, the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) began guerrilla attacks on Namibia, infiltrating the territory from bases in Zambia. In a 1971 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice upheld United Nation authority over Namibia, determining that the South African presence in Namibia was illegal and that South Africa, therefore, was obligated to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately. In 1977, the United Nations approved Security Council Resolution 435 that called for the holding of elections in Namibia under U.N. supervision and the cessation of hostile acts by all parties. South Africa agreed to cooperate in achieving implementation of Resolution 435. Nevertheless, in December 1978, in defiance of the U.N. proposal, it unilaterally held elections in Namibia that were boycotted by SWAPO and other political parties.

Intense discussions between the concerned parties continued during the 1978–1988 period. In May 1988, a U.S. mediation team brought negotiators from Angola, Cuba, and South Africa and observers from the Soviet Union together in London. On April 1, the Republic of South Africa agreed to withdraw its troops. Implementation of Resolution 435 officially began on April 1, 1989. The elections held November 7–11, 1989, were certified as free and fair by the special representative, with SWAPO taking 57% of the vote; the Democratic Turn-halle Alliance, the principal opposition party, received 29% of the vote. By February 9, 1990, the constituent assembly had drafted and adopted a constitution. March 21 of that same year was set as the date for independence. SWAPO’s Sam Nujoma won elections, and he became the first head of state in 1990. For the next four years, until February 1994, South Africa continued to administer a small Namibian enclave containing the nation’s major seaport, Walvis Bay. In 1994 elections, SWAPO won 53 of 72 seats in the National Assembly. However, dissatisfaction with SWAPO and Nujoma has increased. The international community has criticized Nujoma’s plans to run for a third term as president (which the constitution does not permit) as well as his government’s lavish spending habits. Meanwhile, Namibia’s strong labor unions have prevented significant cuts in the large state bureaucracy.

In December 1999 presidential elections, Nujoma won reelection to a third term in a landslide, capturing more than 75% of the votes cast. His nearest rival in the election was Ben Ulenga, whose party, the Congress of Democrats, took over in early 2000 as the main opposition party. Nujoma’s decision to allow Angolan armed forces to operate in the northern part of Namibia ensnared the country in the Angolan civil war. The resulting destabilization of northern Namibia continued through most of 2001. Nujoma backed his political ally, Hifikepunye Pohamba in the country’s next round of presidential elections and Pohamba was inaugurated as Namibia’s second president in 2005.

Namibia is one of the least populated countries in Africa. Namibia’s indigenous Africans are of diverse linguistic and ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, mixed race (“Colored” and Rehoboth Baster), white (Afrikaner, German, and Portuguese), Nama, Caprivian (Lozi), Bushman, and Tswana. The minority white population is primarily of South African, British, and German descent. Approximately 60% of the white population speaks Afrikaans (a variation of Dutch), 30% German, and 10% English.


Official name: Republic of Niger

Independence: 3 August 1958 (from France)

Area: 1.267 million sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Niamey


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 11,665,937 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Hausa 56%, Djerma 22%, Fula 8.5%, Tuareg 8%, Beri Beri (Kanouri) 4.3%, Arab, Toubou, and Gourmantche 1.2%, about 1,200 French expatriates

Religious groups: Muslim 80%, remainder indigenous beliefs and Christians

Languages: French (official), Hausa, Djerma

Literacy: 17.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, onions

Primary export partners: France 41%, Nigeria 22.4%, Japan 15.3%, Switzerland 6%, Spain 4.1%, Ghana 4% (2004)

Imports: consumer goods, primary materials, machinery, vehicles and parts, petroleum, cereals

Primary import partners: France 14.4%, US 10.3%, French Polynesia 9.4%, Nigeria 7.8%, Cote d’Ivoire 7.5%, Japan 5.2%, China 5.1%, Thailand 4.1% (2004)

Considerable evidence indicates that, about 600,000 years ago, humans inhabited what has since become the desolate Sahara of northern Niger. Niger was an important economic crossroads, and the empires of Songhei, Mali, Gao, Kanem, and Bornu, as well as a number of Hausa states, claimed control over portions of the area.

During recent centuries, the nomadic Taureg formed large confederations, pushed southward and, siding with various Hausa states, clashed with the Fulani empire of Sokoto, which had gained control of much of the Hausa territory in the late eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the first European explorers reached the area searching for the mouth of the Niger River.

Although French efforts at colonization began before 1900, dissident ethnic groups, especially the desert Taureg, were not defeated until 1922. On December 4, 1958, after the establishment of the Fifth French Republic, Niger became an autonomous state within the French Community. Following full independence on August 3, 1960, however, membership was allowed to lapse. Hamani Diori was overthrown in a military coup and replaced by Col. Seyni Kountché as president. Thirteen years later, Ali Saibou succeeded him. More recently, Ibrahim Barré Mainassara in July 1996 was confirmed in elections as president, a post he had assumed in January of 1996 after ousting Mahamane Ousmane.

President Mainassara was assassinated outside Niamey in early April 1999, after which the military assumed control of the country. Major Daouda Malam Wanké, commander of the presidential guard suspected of gunning down Mainassara, was named military ruler, and he promised an early return to civilian rule. In presidential elections later that year, retired Army Colonel Tandja Mamadou was elected the new civilian president. In early 2000, Mamadou installed a 24-member government and called for emergency action to revitalize the country’s economy. The country experienced extensive civil unrest throughout 2001, much of it traceable to the continuing food crisis and the government’s decision to reduce grants for university students. Mamadou was returned to the presidency for another term in 2004. That year, however, locust attacks caused a food crisis which the government is struggling with.

The two largest ethnic groups in Niger are the Hausa, who also constitute the major ethnic group in northern Nigeria, and the Djerma-Songhai. Both groups are farmers who live in the arable, southern tier. The rest of the population consists of nomadic or semi-nomadic livestock-raising peoples, which include the Fulani, Tuareg, Kanouri, and Toubou.


Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Independence: 1 October 1960 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 923,768 sq km

Form of government: republic transitioning from military to civilian rule

Capital: Abuja; note: on 12 December 1991, the capital was officially transferred from Lagos to Abuja; most federal government offices have now made the move to Abuja


Currency: naira (NGN)

Income: US$1,000 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 128,771,988 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Religious groups: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%

Languages: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani

Literacy: 68% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum and petroleum products 95%, cocoa, rubber

Primary export partners: US 47.5%, Brazil 10.7%, Spain 7.1% (2004)

Imports: machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food and live animals

Primary import partners: China 9.4%, US 8.4%, UK 7.8%, Netherlands 5.9%, France 5.4%, Germany 4.9%, Italy 4% (2004)

Evidence shows that, more than 2,000 years ago, the Nok people, who lived in what is now the Plateau state, worked iron and produced sophisticated terra cotta sculpture. In the centuries that followed, the Hausa

kingdom and the Bornu Empire near Lake Chad prospered as important terminals of north-south trade between North African Berbers and forest people who exchanged those enslaved, ivory, and kola nuts for salt, glass beads, coral, cloth, weapons, brass rods, and cowrie shells used as currency. In the southwest, the Uoruba kingdom of Oyo, which was founded about 1400 and reached its height between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, attained a high level of political organization and extended as far as modern Togo. In the south-central part of present-day Nigeria, as early as the fifteenth century, the kingdom of Benin had developed an efficient army, an elaborate ceremonial court, and artisans whose works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass are prized throughout the world today.

Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. In 1855, British claims to a sphere of influence in that area received international recognition, and, in the following year, the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900, the company’s territory came under the control of the British government. In 1914, the area was formally united as the “Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.” Nigeria was granted full independence on October 1, 1960, as a federation of three regions.

Since independence, Nigeria has faced numerous coups and political turmoil. The Ibos tried to secede after the country’s first coup d’etat in 1966. This led to tensions among various ethnic groups and ultimately to a disastrous civil war (1967–1970). The presence of oil in the Southeastern, however, allowed the country to recover from the war. Murtala Mohammed, followed by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, overthrew Yakubu Gowon, who had managed to stay in power, in 1976. A return to civilian rule came in 1979 under Shehu Shagari; however the military returned in 1984 under Mohammed Buhari and then again under Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Defense Minister Sani Abacha ascended to power on November 17, 1993: his government was internationally denounced for widespread human rights abuses including numerous executions. Under increasing domestic and international pressure, Abacha promised to implement a new constitution (drafted by a constitutional commission

in 1995) following presidential elections in October 1998. However, Abacha died of a heart attack in June 1998. His successor, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, met with several opposition and foreign diplomats, promised to respect the election timetable, and released many political prisoners. Following riots due to the death of famed political prisoner Moshood Abiola, Abubakar announced a new transition program that called for the military’s withdrawal in May 1999.

In the country’s first democratic elections in years, held in late May 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo, leader of the People’s Democratic Party, was elected president. As his first order of business, Obasanjo focused on rooting out widespread government corruption. To help hasten Nigeria’s transition to democracy, Obasanjo in 2000 continued his assault on government corruption and announced a major reform of the country’s military. Ethnic and religious violence was widespread from 2000 throughout 2001. In April 2001, Obasanjo replaced the leaders of all of the branches of Nigeria’s armed forces. Elections are scheduled for 2007, but the spectre of corrupt politicians continues to mar a positive outcome. Obasanjo’s dismissed vice president, Atiku Abubakar, was among 135 politicians ruled as too corrupt to stand in the upcoming elections. The other struggle that Nigeria continues to struggle with is the Christian-Muslim divide, which has resulted in violent riots on several occasions in recent years.

The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for one-quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s people. The dominant ethnic group in the northern two-thirds of the country is the Hausa-Fulani, most of whom are Muslims. Other major ethnic groups of the north are the Nupe, Tiv, and Kanuri. The Yoruba people are predominant in the southwest. About half of the Yorubas are Christian and half are Muslim. The predominately Catholic Ibos are the largest ethnic group in the southeast, with the Efik, Ibibio, and Ijaw comprising a substantial segment of the population in that area as well.


Official name: Department of Reúnion

Independence: none (overseas department of France)

Area: 2,512 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Saint-Denis

International relations: FZ, InOC, WFTU

Currency: French franc (FRF); euro (EUR)

Income: US$6,000 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 776,948 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: French, African, Malagasy, Chinese, Pakistani, Indian

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 86%, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist

Languages: French (official), Creole widely used

Literacy: 88.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: sugar 63%, rum and molasses 4%, perfume essences 2%, lobster 3% Primary export partners: France 74%, Japan 6%, Comoros 4% (2000)

Imports: manufactured goods, food, beverages, tobacco, machinery and transportation equipment, raw materials, and petroleum products

Primary import partners: France 64%, Bahrain 3%, Germany 3%, Italy 3% (2000)

The island of Reünion, located in the Indian Ocean, remained uninhabited until 1654, when the French East India Company established bases and brought in those enslaved from Africa and Madagascar. France governed the island as a colony until 1946, when it was granted department status. In 1974, France changed Reünion’s status to that of administrative region. Reünion sends five directly elected representatives to the French National Assembly and three indirectly elected representatives to the Senate. Although groups have occasionally called for the island’s independence, the proposals have generally received little support from Réunion citizens who are well aware of the economic advantages gained through territorial ties to France.

The population of Reünion is of mixed African, French, Indian, and Chinese origin.


Official name: Rwandese Republic

Independence: 1 July 1962 (from Belgium-administered UN trusteeship)

Area: 26,338 sq km

Form of government: republic; presidential, multiparty system

Capital: Kigali

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, CEEAC, CEPGL, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Rwandan franc (RWF)

Income: US$1,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 8,440,820 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmoid) 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 52.7%, Protestant 24%, Adventist 10.4%, Muslim 1.9%, indigenous beliefs and other 6.5%, none 4.5% (1996)

Languages: Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers

Literacy: 70.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, tea, hides, tin ore

Primary export partners: Indonesia 64.2%, China 3.6%, Germany 2.7% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, cement and construction material

Primary import partners: Kenya 24.4%, Germany 7.4%, Belgium 6.6%, Uganda 6.3%, France 5.1% (2004)

Hutus farmed the area that is now Rwanda until the fifteenth century when Tutsi herders settled in the area. In 1899, the court of Mwami submitted to a German protectorate with resistance. Belgian troops from the Congo occupied Rwanda in 1916, and, after World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its southern neighbor, Burundi, to Belgium as the Territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations trust territory with Belgium as the administering authority. The Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming victory in a U.N. supervised referendum.

The PARMEHUTU government, formed as a result of the September 1961 election, was granted internal autonomy by Belgium on January 1, 1962. A United Nations General Assembly resolution terminated the Belgian trusteeship and granted full independence to Rwanda (and Burundi) effective July 1, 1962. Gregiore Kayibanda, leader of the PARMEHUTU Party, became Rwanda’s first elected president.

While ethnic clashes continued with neighboring Burundi, Gen. Juvenal Habyarimana, who had been a military head of state, returned to power in the presidential elections of 1978 and 1983 (having been the only candidate in both). In 1994, shortly after ending peace talks with the Tutsi-backed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), President Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira were killed together when their plane was shot down near Kigali. Rwanda exploded in ethnic violence, and the Hutu-dominated Rwandan army went on a rampage, reportedly killing close to one million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis and Hutus sympathetic to the Tutsi cause. The murders were often arbitrary and brutal. Recruited hooligans carried many out many of the killings. Forces of the RPF and the Rwandan army soon were in a full-blown civil war. A cease-fire was established in July 1994, and a government backed by the RPF was installed in Kigali. Promises of amnesty failed to convince many of the Hutus, who had fled into the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), to return.

Regional instability continued to threaten Rwanda’s recovery, as exhibited by the renewed fighting along the Democratic Republic of the Congo border in mid-1998. Many Tutsi on both sides of the border aided LaurentDésiré Kabila to oust then-Zaire’s President Mobutu. But Kabila, facing pressure within his own country, purged his military of Rwandan and Congolese Tutsi in 1997. This breach of trust, combined with the continuing agitation of Hutu refugees in Congo, led Rwanda’s government to support an armed rebellion against Kabila’s government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during 1998.

Rwanda remained caught up in the conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo throughout 1999. The Rwanda government, led by President Pasteur Bizimungu, repeatedly accused Congo President Laurent Kabila of sheltering and supporting Rwanda’s extremist Hutu militia. Rwanda vowed to fight with anti-Kabila rebels to overthrow the Kabila regime. In March 2000, after conflicts with the predominantly Tutsi ruling party over cabinet appointments, President Bizimungu, himself a moderate Hutu, resigned and was replaced by Major General Paul Kagame. In May 2001, ethnic violence flared up again when Hutu rebels launched attacks in Rwanda’s northwest. The government was successful in putting down the insurgency. Several prominent leaders of the genocide were tried through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Several lower level participants were returned to communities that they terrorized in order to be identified by those whom they committed violent acts against. In 2003, a new constitution, which forbids any political discrimination, based on ethnicity or religion was put into place. Reconciliation efforts continue more than a decade after the genocide.

The indigenous population consists of three ethnic groups. The Tutsi (14%) are a pastoral people of Nilotic origin. The Hutus, who comprise the majority of the population (85%), are farmers of Bantu origin. The Twa (1%) are thought to be the remnants of the earliest settlers of the region.

Saint Helena

Official name: none

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 410 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Jamestown

International relations: ICFTU

Currency: Saint Helenian pound (SHP)

Income: US$2,500 (1998 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 7,460 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: African descent 50%, white 25%, Chinese 25%

Religious groups: Anglican (majority), Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic

Languages: English

Literacy: 97% (age 20 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: fish (frozen, canned, and salt-dried skipjack, tuna), coffee, handicrafts

Primary export partners: Tanzania 30.3%, US 23.8%, Japan 10.4%, UK 7.1%, Spain 6.3% (2004)

Imports: food, beverages, tobacco, fuel oils, animal feed, building materials, motor vehicles and parts, machinery and parts

Primary import partners: UK 35.7%, US 17.6%, South Africa 17.5%, Tanzania 10.4%, Australia 5.5%, Spain 4.1% (2004)

The islands of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha lie about one-third of the way from Africa to South America in the South Atlantic Ocean. The islands remained uninhabited until they were first explored by the Portuguese navigator, João de Nova, in 1502. In 1659, the British East India Company established a settlement on Saint Helena and, in 1673, was granted a charter to govern the island. Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena from 1815 until his death in 1821.

Säo Tomé and Príncipe

Official name: Democratic Republic of Säo Tomé and Príncipe

Independence: 12 July 1975 (from Portugal)

Area: 1,001 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Säo Tomé

International relations: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CEEAC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsigna-tory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OAU, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: dobra (STD)

Income: US$1,200 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 187,410 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mestico, Angolares (descendants of enslaved Angolans), Forros (descendants of those who had been freed), Servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), Tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese)

Religious groups: Christian 80% (Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist)

Languages: Portuguese (official)

Literacy: 79.3% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: cocoa 90%, copra, coffee, palm oil

Primary export partners: Netherlands 35.9%, China 12.3%, Belgium 7.4%, Germany 6.3%, Poland 5.1%, France 4.8%, Thailand 4.1% (2004)

Imports: machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products

Primary import partners: Portugal 52.3%, Germany 9.5%, US 6%, Netherlands 4.8%, South Africa 4.3%, Belgium 4.1% (2004)

Portuguese navigators first visited these uninhabited islands between 1469 and 1472. The first successful settlement of Säo Tomé was established in 1493. Príncipe was settled in 1500. By the mid-1500s, with the help of slave labor, the Portuguese settlers had turned the islands into Africa’s foremost exporter of sugar. Säo Tomé and Príncipe were taken over and administered by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573, respectively. By 1908, Säo Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa, still the country’s most important crop.

The rocas system, which gave the plantation managers a high degree of authority, led to abuses against the African farm workers. Although Portugal officially abolished enslavement in 1876, the practice of forced paid labor continued. Sporadic labor unrest and dissatisfaction continued well into the twentieth century, culminating in an outbreak of riots in 1953 in which several hundred African laborers were killed.

By the late 1950s, a small group of Säo Tomés had formed the Movement for the Liberation of Säo Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP). In 1974, Portuguese representatives met with the MLSTP in Algiers and worked out an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty. After a period of transition, Säo Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence on July 12, 1975, choosing as its first president the MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa. Four years after independence, da Costa consolidated his power by eliminating the position of prime minister and assuming those duties himself. He served until 1991, when Miguel Trovoada was elected as president. A coup by military officers on August 15, 1995, removed Trovoada from office, but only briefly. He was reinstated as president seven days later after he agreed to amnesty for the officers engineering the coup. In 1996, he was reelected to a five-year term.

In March 1999, Prime Minister Guilherme Posser da Costa pledged the government to a renewed program of economic stability, aimed principally at reducing inflation, which was running at a rate of more than 20 percent in early 1999. In May 2000, da Costa reshuffled his cabinet after two ministers resigned. Although President Trovoada of the Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party was unable to run for a third term in the country’s July 2001 presidential election, ADI candidate Fradique de Menezes won the race. Shortly after taking office, de Menezes called for a cabinet reshuffle. When da Costa balked at some of the new president’s suggestions, Evaristo Carvalho replaced him as prime minister.

Säo Tomé and Príncipe’s population consists of people descended from groups that have migrated to the islands since 1485. Six groups are identifiable: mestizo, of mixed-blood, descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought to the islands during the early years of settlement from Benin, Gabon, Congo, and Angola. There were also the Anglares, reputedly descendants of enslaved Angolans who survived a 1540 shipwreck and subsequently earned their livelihood fishing. There were the Forros, and the Servicais, who were contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde, living temporarily on the islands; Tongas, children of servicais born on the islands; and Europeans, primarily Portuguese.


Official name: Republic of Senegal

Independence: 4 April 1960 (from France); complete independence was achieved upon dissolution of federation with Mali on 20 August 1960

Area: 196,190 sq km

Form of government: republic under multiparty democratic rule

Capital: Dakar


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US$1,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 11,126,832 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%

Religious groups: Muslim 92%, indigenous beliefs 6%, Christian 2% (mostly Roman Catholic)

Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Literacy: 40.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: fish, ground nuts (peanuts), petroleum products, phosphates, cotton

Primary export partners: India 14.4%, Mali 13.1%, France 9.8%, Italy 7.3%, Spain 6.6%, Guinea-Bissau 5.6%, Gambia, The 4.8% (2004)

Imports: foods and beverages, consumer goods, capital goods, petroleum products

Primary import partners: France 24.8%, Nigeria 11.9%, Thailand 6.1% (2004)

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley during the eleventh century. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the area came under the influence of the great Man-dingo empires to the east, during which the Jolof Empire of Senegal was founded. The Empire comprised the states of Cayor, Baol, Oualo, Sine, and Soloum until the sixteenth century, when they revolted for independence.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to trade in Senegal, arriving in the fifteenth century. The Dutch and French soon followed them. During the nineteenth century, the French gradually established control over the interior regions and administered them as a protectorate until 1920 and as a colony thereafter.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the federation broke up on August 20, 1960; Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) each proclaimed separate independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, an internationally renowned poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal’s first president in August of 1960. Senghor guided the nation and instituted a multiparty system in 1976. Senghor stepped down in 1980, naming Abdou Diouf, prime minister since 1970, as his successor. Senegal joined with Gambia in 1982 to form the confederation of Senegambia, headed by Diouf. The confederation collapsed at the end of the 1980s, although the two countries in 1991 signed a new treaty of cooperation. Over time, the Senegalese public became increasingly disenchanted with Diouf and his Socialist Party’s grip on power. In 1991, Diouf initiated electoral reforms, though the changes failed to satisfy opposition leaders. Diouf was again elected to a seven-year term as president in 1993. President Bill Clinton’s 1998 visit to Senegal signaled a greater U.S. interest in the country.

Presidential elections in February 2000 produced no clear-cut victor, forcing a runoff election between incumbent Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade, a longtime opposition leader. Wade easily defeated Diouf and assumed the presidency on April 1, 2000. Just over a year later, on April 29, 2001, Wade led a coalition of 40 parties to victory in parliamentary elections, winning 89 of 120 seats in the National Assembly. Senegal is regarded regionally and internationally as the most stable democracy in Africa. The successive governments have addressed human rights issues, and often played a critical role in continental and international peacekeeping efforts.


Official name: Republic of Seychelles

Independence: 29 June 1976 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 455 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Victoria

International relations: ACCT, ACP, Af DB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, InOC, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Seychelles rupee (SCR)

Income: US$7,800 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 81,188 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Seychellois (mixture of Asians, Africans, Europeans)

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 90%, Anglican 8%, other 2%

Languages: English (official), French (official), Creole

Literacy: 91.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: fish, cinnamon bark, copra, petroleum products (reexports)

Primary export partners: UK 27.7%, France 15.8%, Spain 12.6%, Japan 8.6%, Italy 7.5%, Germany 5.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals

Primary import partners: Saudi Arabia 15.5%, Spain 13.3%, France 10.3%, Singapore 7%, South Africa 6.8%, Italy 6.7%, UK 4.7% (2004)

In 1742, the French governor of Mauritius sent an expedition to the islands. A second expedition in 1756 reasserted formal possession by France. The Seychelles Islands were captured and freed several times during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, then passed officially to the British under the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Negotiations with the British resulted in an agreement by which Seychelles became a sovereign republic on June 29, 1976. After independence, Seychelles had a multiparty government, but, one year later, Albert René instituted his People’s Progressive Front as the only party. Despite several coup attempts during the 1980s, René was able to hold onto power, and, in 1991, the government turned toward a multiparty state. René was elected to a fourth term in 1993. Since then, René has begun to implement a number of free-market reforms, promoting the islands as a center for offshore banking. In addition, several national industries have been privatized.

Guy Morel, a former governor of the central bank, announced the formation of a new political party, the Social Democratic Party, in April 1999. Morel, formerly a member of the ruling Seychelles People’s Progressive Front, said the government’s failure to deal effectively with economic problems was the primary motivation for his move. President René managed to hold on to his office in September 2001 presidential elections in which the country’s faltering economy was the key issue.

Most Seychellois are descendants of early French settlers and the enslaved African brought to the Seychelles in the nineteenth century by the British, who freed them from ships on the East African coast. Indians and Chinese account for the other permanent inhabitants.

Sierra Leone

Official name: Republic of Sierra Leone

Independence: 27 April 1961 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 71,740 sq km

Form of government: constitutional democracy

Capital: Freetown

International relations: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: leone (SLL)

Income: US$600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 6,017,643 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: 20 native African groups 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole 10% (descendants of freed Jamaican who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-eighteenth century), refugees from Liberia’s recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians

Religious groups: Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

Languages: English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

Literacy: 29.6% (age 15 and over can read and write English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic; 2000 est.)

Exports: diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish

Primary export partners: Belgium 61.6%, Germany 11.8%, US 5.4% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals

Primary import partners: Germany 14%, Cote d’Ivoire 10.7%, UK 9.1%, US 8.4%, China 5.6%, Netherlands 5%, South Africa 4.1% (2004)

Sierra Leone was one of the first West African British colonies. Foreign settlement did not occur for another two centuries, when the British laid plans for a refuge within the British Empire for freed persons. In 1787, the site of Freetown received the first 400 freedmen from Great Britain. Disease and hostility from the indigenous people almost eliminated this first group. Five years later, however, another group of settlers, 1,000 freed men and women who had fled from the United States to Nova Scotia during the American Revolution, arrived under the auspices of the newly formed British Sierra Leone Company. In 1800, about 550 blacks arrived from Jamaica via Nova Scotia; these were the maroons and runaways who maintained their independence in the mountains of Jamaica.

The 1951 constitution provided the framework for decolonization. Independence came in April 1961, and Sierra Leone became a parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth. In April 1971, it adopted a republican constitution, cutting the link to the British monarchy but remaining with the Commonwealth. Siaka Stevens, who fought for government control of the country’s major resources, namely iron and diamonds, led the country until his retirement in November 1985. Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh succeeded him as president in January 1986. Guerrillas, spilling over into Sierra Leone from the Liberian civil war, captured some border towns in 1991. These border skirmishes eventually evolved into a civil war within Sierra Leone. Momoh was ousted by a military coup in April 1992 and was replaced by Captain Valentine Strasser. Strasser, criticized for the brutality of his regime, was removed from office in a 1996 bloodless coup. Ahmed Tehan Kabbah was elected president in late February 1996. A military junta deposed Kabbah in May 1997, but he was restored to office in March 1998. However, fighting between the government and rebel forces continued into the new millennium.

U.N. peacekeeping forces arrived in Sierra Leone late in 1999 to monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement reached in Lomé, Togo, earlier in the year. However, the failure of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to disarm soon rendered the Lomé agreement effectively meaningless. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) tried throughout 2001 to put into effect a peace accord based on the Lomé agreement and did manage to suppress fighting in several areas of the country. However, violence continued in some regions. The country’s next general election is scheduled for 2007.

Eighteen ethnic groups make up the indigenous population of Sierra Leone. The Temne in the north and the Mende in the south are the largest. About 60,000 are Creoles, descendants of black settlers from Great Britain or North America.


Official name: none

Independence: 1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland, which became independent from the United Kingdom on 26 June 1960, and Italian Somaliland, which became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1960, to form the Somali Republic)

Area: 637,657 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary

Capital: Mogadishu

International relations: ACP, Af DB, AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Somali shilling (SOS)

Income: US$600 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 8,591,629 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Somali 85%, Bantu, Arabs 30,000

Religious groups: Sunni Muslim

Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English

Literacy: 37.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2001 est.)

Exports: livestock, bananas, hides, fish (2005)

Primary export partners: UAE 39.3%, Thailand 24.3%, Yemen 12.2%, Oman 4.7% (2004)

Imports: manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials

Primary import partners: Djibouti 30.1%, Kenya 13.7%, India 8.6%, Brazil 8.5%, Oman 4.4%, UAE 4.2% (2004)

The British East India Company’s desire for unrestricted harbor facilities led to the conclusion of treaties with the sultan of Tajura as early as 1840. It was not until 1886, however, that the British gained control over northern Somalia through treaties with various Somali chiefs. The boundary between Ethiopia and British Somaliland was established in 1897 through treaty negotiations between British negotiators and Emperor Menelik II.

In 1855, Italy obtained commercial advantages in the area from the sultan of Zanzibar and, in 1889, concluded agreements with the sultans of Obbia and Caluula, who placed their territories under Italy’s protection. Between 1897 and 1908, Italy made agreements with the Ethiopians and the British that marked out the boundaries of Italian Somaliland. In June 1940, Italian troops overran British Somaliland and drove out the British garrison. In 1941, British forces began operations against the Italian East African Empire and quickly brought the greater part of the Italian Somaliland under British control.

From 1941 to 1950, while Somalia was under British military administration, transition toward self-government had begun. Elections for the Legislative Assembly were held in February 1960. The protectorate became independent on June 26, 1960; five days later, on July 1, it joined Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre led a military coup in 1969 and established a Marxist political system. Years later, Barre concentrated power in his own family and clan. In 1991, he was toppled, but opposing factions continued fighting for power. After years of civil war and severe drought, the United Nations, with U.S. leadership, introduced forces into Somalia in late 1992 in an attempt to restore order and feed the country’s many starving inhabitants. Attempts failed in the late 1990s to gather hundreds of warring clan leaders in an effort to hammer out some sort of truce. Pakistani forces took over the leadership of the U.N. mission, which finally retreated in March 1995.

Somalia remained without a functioning government until late in 2000. In May, a reconciliation conference, meeting in nearby Djibouti, agreed on a plan for a three-year transitional government (TNG) and a transitional national assembly. The transitional government was finally seated in October with Abdiqassim Salad Hassan as president and Ali Khalif Galaid as prime minister. Although the country now had a nominal government, it seemed largely unable to deal with the continuing tensions between clans, some of which supported TNG, while others bitterly opposed it. In December 2001, an agreement was signed between warring factions in Nairobi, Kenya, but it too failed to bring to an end the country’s long-simmering internal conflicts.

In 2002, several southwestern provinces sought to secede from the rest of the country. Although the announced secession was put down, it was one of several skirmishes that have hampered Somalia’s progress. In December 2004, tsunamis struck the country and close to 160 lives were lost along with significant property damage. However, Somalia continues to struggle with civil conflict and instability. As recently as the end of 2006, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia declared that the nation was in a state of war. There appears to be little positive progress in the immediate future.

The Somali people are herders and farmers. The largest group in the country is the Somali, who are nomadic or semi-nomadic herders. The remaining population consists of Jiiddu, Tunni, and Maay.

South Africa

Official name: Republic of South Africa

Independence: 31 May 1910 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 1,219,912 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Pretoria; note: Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center


Currency: rand (ZAR)

Income: US$11,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 44,344,136 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2001 census) Religious groups: Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%

Languages: 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

Literacy: 86.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: gold, diamonds, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment

Primary export partners: US 10.2%, UK 9.2%, Japan 9%, Germany 7.1%, Netherlands 4% (2004)

Imports: machinery, foodstuffs and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments

Primary import partners: Germany 14.2%, US 8.5%, China 7.5%, Japan 6.9%, UK 6.9%, France 6%, Saudi Arabia 5.6%, Iran 5% (2004)

Of the present inhabitants of South Africa, the earliest were Bushmen and Hottentots who are members of the Khoisan language group. In 1488, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope. Permanent white settlement began when the Dutch East India Company established a provisioning station in 1652. In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, Dutch, and Germans settled in the Cape area to form the Afrikaner segment of the modern population.

Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the eighteenth century. Partly to escape British political rule and preserve cultural hegemony, many Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration (the “Great Trek”) beginning in 1836. This movement brought them into contact with several African groups, the most formidable of which were the Zulu. Under their powerful leader, Shaka (1787–1828), the Zulu conquered most of the territory between the Drakensberg Mountains and the sea (now Natal). The Zulu were defeated at the Battle of Blood River in 1838.

The independent Boer republics of the Transvaal (the South African Republic) and the Orange Free State were created in 1852 and 1854. Following the two Boer wars from 1880 to 1881 and 1899 to 1902, British forces conquered the Boer republics and incorporated them into the British Empire. A strong resurgence of Afrikaner nationalism in the 1940s and 1950s led to a decision, through a 1960 referendum among whites, to give up dominion status and establish a republic. The republic was established on May 31, 1961. The National Party extended racial segregation, or the policy of apartheid, through passage of a number of legislative acts. In the 1960s and the 1970s, other laws were passed to further restrict every black African.

The African National Congress (ANC), a predominantly black South African political and eventually a paramilitary organization founded in 1912, is the oldest organization opposing legalized racism and white rule in South Africa. Between 1960 and 1990, the South African government banned the organization and forced it to operate underground.

In December 1988, under great international pressure, the government commuted the death sentences of the Sharpeville Six, who were convicted of murder for their presence in a crowd that killed a black township official. President F. W. de Klerk took several steps, beginning in 1989, to demonstrate his commitment to ending apartheid, including the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela, imprisoned in 1962 and sentenced to life in 1964 for treason and sabotage, and other political prisoners and detainees; and removing the bans against the ANC and 32 other anti-apartheid organizations.

The tide of social and political changes instigated by de Klerk led to a new constitution and eventually multi-party elections in April 1994 that put Mandela in power as the first democratically elected president of the nation with de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki serving as his two deputy presidents. In April 1996, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the body responsible for investigating crimes committed during the apartheid era in South Africa, began its hearings. Despite misgivings about both its impartiality and its effectiveness, most observers agree that the TRC, which continued to work past its original 18-month deadline, has helped reconcile the new South Africa with its past.

In late 1997, Mandela retired as head of the ANC and was replaced by Thabo Mbeki. Mandela. The former had announced the year before he would not seek a second term as president and Mbeki was his choice to succeed him. Mbeki won the 1999 election, and the ANC was able to form a coalition to give it a two-thirds majority, which is necessary to amend the constitution.

Early on, it became clear that Mbeki was very much his own man, putting his focus on “transformation” rather than the “reconciliation” that had been Mandela’s major goal. However, it was also readily apparent that Mbeki lacked the incredible charisma of Mandela, coming under fire from both domestic and international quarters by 2000. His position on HIV was an example. Taking a cue from those in denial about AIDS, Mbeki maintained that the virus was not the sole cause of the disease. This position brought Mbeki widespread criticism. The new president’s push for privatization brought him and the ANC into increasing conflict with their traditional allies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party. In 2001, in addition to his continuing privatization drive, Mbeki vowed to combat corruption within his government. In 2004, Thabo Mbeki and the ANC won the elections by a 69%. As this is Mbeki’s final term by status and he has yet to name a successor, a struggle for the organization has begun. In January 2007, the ANC celebrated its 95th anniversary as the oldest political organization on the African continent. The country continues to struggle, however, with an alarming HIV/AIDS rate.

The largest African ethnic groups are the Zulu (nearly six million) and Xhosa (about 5.8 million). The white population consists primarily of descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German settlers, with smaller mixtures of other European peoples, and constitutes about 14% of the total population. “Coloreds” are mostly descendants of indigenous peoples and the earliest European and Malay settlers in the area. Coloreds comprise 9% of the population and live primarily in Cape Province. Asians, mainly descendants of the Indian workers brought to South Africa in the mid-nineteenth century to work as indentured laborers on sugar estates in Natal, constitute about 3% of the population.


Official name: Republic of the Sudan

Independence: 1 January 1956 (from Egypt and United Kingdom)

Area: 2,505,810 sq km

Form of government: transitional—ruling military junta took power in 1989; members of Sudan’s National Islamic Front (NIF), a fundamentalist political organization, which uses the National Congress Party (NCP) as its legal front, dominate government

Capital: Khartoum

International relations: ABEDA, ACP, Af DB, AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Sudanese dinar (SDD)

Income: US$1,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 40,187,486 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 52%, Arab 39%, Beja 6%, foreigners 2%, other 1%

Religious groups: Sunni Muslim 70% (in north), indigenous beliefs 25%, Christian 5% (mostly in south and Khartoum)

Languages: Arabic (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, English

Literacy: 61.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts, gum arabic, sugar

Primary export partners: China 66.9%, Japan 10.7%, Saudi Arabia 4.4% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, medicines and chemicals, textiles

Primary import partners: China 13%, Saudi Arabia 11.5%, UAE 5.9%, Egypt 5.1%, India 4.8%, Germany 4.5%, Australia 4.1%, Japan 4% (2004)

From the beginning of the Christian era until 1820, Sudan existed as a collection of small, independent states. In 1881, a religious leader named Mohammed Ahmed ibn Abdalla proclaimed himself the Mahdi, or “expected one,” and began to unify groups in western and central Sudan. The Mahdi led a nationalist revolt culminating in the fall of Khartoum in 1885. He died shortly thereafter, but his state survived until overwhelmed by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1898. In 1899, Sudan was proclaimed a condominium under Anglo-Egyptian administration. In February 1953, the United Kingdom and Egypt concluded an agreement providing for Sudanese self-government. Sudan achieved independence on January 1, 1956. In 1969, Col. Gaafar Muhammad al-Nimeiry, leading a group of army officers, seized power and set up government under a revolutionary council. Elected president in 1972, Nimeiry first turned to the Soviet Union and Libya for support. However, after several coup attempts, allegedly backed by Libya and local communists, Nimeiry turned to Egypt and the West for assistance. Nimeiry was elected to a third term as president in 1983 but was removed from office two years later in a bloodless coup. After a year of military rule, Sadiq alMahdi was elected prime minister. Mahdi’s regime was toppled in June 1989 by a military coup led by Omar Hassan al-Bashir. In 1993, Bashir took some steps toward establishment of a multiparty state, most of which were dismissed as cosmetic by the opposition. In 1996, Bashir and his party swept presidential and legislative elections. Meanwhile, a civil war continued to rage between the Arab peoples of the north and the black Africans in the south of Sudan.

Despite widespread skepticism, Sudan’s introduction of multiparty politics at the beginning of 1999 showed early signs of success. A number of longtime opposition leaders were quick to form their own political parties. In December 1999, President Hassan al-Bashir declared a state of emergency, fearing his authority was under threat from former ally Hassan al-Turaibi. The state of emergency continued in force through 2001, although alTuraibi, the president’s principal foe, was arrested in February 2001 for allegedly signing a memorandum of understanding with rebels of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.

In 2005, the government and rebel forces signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which granted Southern Sudan six years of autonomy and would subsequently take up an independence referendum. In a major setback, the south’s co-vice president, John Garang died in a helicopter accident a few weeks after being sworn in, which set off a new round of rioting.

In what has become one of the African continent’s most dire conflicts, the genocide in Southern Sudan’s Darfur region has attracted worldwide attention. Dating back to the 1970s, the central government in Khartoum ignored the Darfur region economically leaving it vulnerable to attacks. Armed Arab militias known as Janjaweed, routinely carry out attacks on the indigenous inhabitants. The fighting has displaced more than 1 million people and has caused severe refugee problems in neighboring countries. In 2004 the conflict was formally referred to as genocide. In 2006, the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) signed the Darfur Peace Agreement. The agreement called for the disarming of the notorious Janjaweed and the SLM and other rebel groups. As of early 2007, not all parties involved have signed. There continue to be reports of widespread violence by the government and the rebel forces.


Official name: Kingdom of Swaziland

Independence: 6 September 1968 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 17,363 sq km

Form of government: monarchy; independent member of Commonwealth

Capital: Mbabane; note: Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital


Currency: lilangeni (SZL)

Income: US$5,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,173,900 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: African 97%, European 3%

Religious groups: Protestant 55%, Muslim 10%, Roman Catholic 5%, indigenous beliefs 30%

Languages: English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)

Literacy: 81.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: soft drink concentrates, sugar, wood pulp, cotton yarn, refrigerators, citrus and canned fruit

Primary export partners: South Africa 59.7%, EU 8.8%, US 8.8%, Mozambique 6.2% (2004)

Imports: motor vehicles, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals

Primary import partners: South Africa 95.6%, EU 0.9%, Japan 0.9%, Singapore 0.3% (2004)

The people of the present Swazi nation migrated south before the sixteenth century to what is now Mozambique. After a series of conflicts with people living in the area that is now Maputo, the Swazi settled in northern Zululand in about 1750. Unable to match the growing Zulu strength there, the Swazi moved gradually northward in the early 1800s and established themselves in the area of modern Swaziland. The Swazi consolidated their hold in this area under several able leaders. The most important of these was Mswati, from whom the Swazi derive their name. Under his leadership in the 1840s, the Swazi expanded their territory to the northwest and stabilized the southern frontier with the Zulus.

The first Swazi contact with the British came early in Mswati’s reign when he asked the British agent general in South Africa for assistance against Zulu raids into Swaziland. Agreements made between the British and the Transvaal (South Africa) governments in 1881 and 1884 provided that Swaziland should be independent. In 1903, Britain formally took over the administration of Swaziland.

Sobhuza II became head of the Swazi Nation in 1921. By the 1960s, political activity intensified, partly in response to events elsewhere in Africa. Several political parties were formed that agitated for independence. The traditional Swazi leaders, including King Sobhuza and his council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement. In 1966, the British agreed to hold talks on a new constitution. The constitutional committee, consisting of representatives of the king and of the Swazi National Council, other political parties, and the British government agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow parliamentary elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent on September 6, 1968. In 1973, Sobhuza II repealed the constitution, dissolved the political parties, and assumed full power until his death in 1982. Mswati III became king in 1986.

In 1993, Mswati III called for Swaziland’s first general election in 20 years, though he retained a great deal of political power; pro-democratic forces viewed the elections as inadequate. More recently, Swaziland has been affected by waves of general strikes, most of them organized by the Swazi Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). The last major strike, in early 1996, led to the formation of a Constitutional Review Commission, which Mswati promised would deliver several democratic reforms. But Mswati limited membership on the commission to his own appointees, prompting the SFTU and its allies to reject the commission and call for further strikes.

Political unrest increased in 1999 as opposition groups calling for the establishment of a multiparty democracy grew more militant. Bombings of a number of government facilities were credited to these opposition groups. In August 2001, after years of delay, the Constitutional Review Commission submitted its recommendations to the king. The report was intended to provide a framework for the writing of a new constitution. Toward the end of 2001, the government eased its restrictions on political activities, allowing the public promotion of campaigns for local elections.

With a staggering 38% infection rate, Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV crisis. The problem was only recently acknowledged and the country has taken aggressive actions (such as offering men free circumcisions, which has proven to reduce the spread of the virus) to stem the spread of the disease.


Official name: United Republic of Tanzania

Independence: 26 April 1964; Tanganyika became independent 9 December 1961 (from United Kingdom-administered UN trusteeship); Zanzibar became independent 19 December 1963 (from United Kingdom); Tanganyika united with Zanzibar 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar; renamed United Republic of Tanzania 29 October 1964

Area: 945,087 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Dar es Salaam; note: legislative offices have been transferred to Dodoma, which is planned as the new national capital; the National Assembly now meets there on regular basis


Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TZS)

Income: US$700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 36,766,356 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mainland—native African 99% (of which 95% are Bantu consisting of more than 130 ethnicities), other 1% (consisting of Asian, European, and Arab); Zanzibar—Arab, native African, mixed Arab and native African

Religious groups: mainland—Christian 45%, Muslim 35%, indigenous beliefs 20%; Zanzibar—more than 99% Muslim

Languages: Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguju (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), many local languages

Literacy: 78.2% (age 15 and over can read and write Kiswahili (Swahili), English, or Arabic; 2003 est.)

Exports: gold, coffee, cashew nuts, manufactures cotton

Primary export partners: India 9.1%, Spain 8.3%, Netherlands 6.4%, Japan 5.8%, UK 5%, China 4.8%, Kenya 4.7% (2004)

Imports: consumer goods, machinery and transportation equipment, industrial raw materials, crude oil

Primary import partners: South Africa 13.1%, China 8.1%, India 6.6%, Kenya 5.6%, UAE 5.5%, US 4.9%, UK 4.8%, Bahrain 4.1% (2004)

The area that is now Tanzania is believed to have been inhabited originally by ethnic groups using a click-tongue language similar to that of southern Africa’s Bushmen and Hottentots. Although remnants of these early groups still exist, most were gradually displaced by Bantu farmers migrating from the west and south and by Nilotes and related Northern peoples.

The coastal area first felt the impact of foreign influence as early as the eighth century. By the twelfth century, traders and immigrants had come from as far away as Persia (now Iran) and India. The Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, first visited the East African coast in 1498 on his voyage to India, and, by 1506, the Portuguese claimed control over the entire coast. This control was nominal, however, for the Portuguese did not attempt to colonize the area or explore the interior. By the early eighteenth century, Arabs from Oman had assisted the indigenous coastal dwellers in driving out the Portuguese from the area north of the Ruvuma River. They established their own garrisons at Zanzibar, Pemba, and Kilwa and carried on a lucrative trade in other Africans and ivory.

German colonial interests were first advanced in 1884. Karl Peters, who formed the Society for German Colonization, concluded a series of treaties by which traditional chiefs in the interior accepted German protection. In 1886 and 1890, Anglo-German agreements were negotiated that delineated the British and German spheres of influence in the interior of East Africa. In 1891, the German government took over direct administration of the territory from the German East Africa Company and appointed a governor with headquarters at Dar es Salaam. German colonial administration provided African resistance, culminating in the Maji Maji rebellion of 1905–1907. German colonial domination of Tanganyika ended with World War I. Control of most of the territory passed to the United Kingdom under a League of Nations mandate.

In the following years, Tanganyika moved gradually toward self-government and independence. In 1954, Julius

K. Nyerere, a schoolteacher educated abroad, organized the Tanganyika African Union (UANU). In May 1961, Tanganyika became autonomous, and Nyerere became prime minister under a new constitution. Full independence was achieved on December 9, 1961. On April 26, 1964, Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, renamed the United Republic of Tanzania on October 29, 1964. Nyerere in November 1985 became one of the few leaders on the continent to retire peacefully. Ali Hassan Mwinyi succeeded him as president. Opposition parties were legalized in 1992, paving the way for Tanzania’s first multiparty elections in October 1995. The Revolutionary Party’s Benjamin Mkapa was elected president and his party won the majority of the seats in the National Assembly. Continuing strife in countries bordering Tanzania fueled a surge in the flow of refugees into the country during the mid-1990s. In 1997, Tanzania began a repatriation plan to return the refugees to their homelands.

Continuing economic weakness forced Tanzanian officials in 1999 to reconsider its hesitancy to endorse the proposed revival of the East African Community with neighboring Kenya and Uganda. In November 1999 Tanzania and its neighbors agreed to reestablish the community but put off a decision on a timetable for the commencement of free trade between the member states of the community. Former President Julius Nyerere died in October 1999. President Mkapa was reelected in a landslide in October 2000 elections. The Tanzanian islands of Pemba and Zanzibar experienced an explosion of civil unrest in late January 2001. Members of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party calling for new presidential elections led the protests. Tensions continued between CUF and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party throughout 2001, despite a peace accord signed by both parties in October.

Tanzania’s population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups, of which only the Sukuma has more than one million members. The majority of Tanzanians, including the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi, are of Bantu stock. Groups of Nilotic or related origin include the nomadic Masai and the Luo, both of which are found in greater numbers in neighboring Kenya. Two small groups speak languages of the Khoisan family peculiar to the Bushman and Hottentot peoples. Cushitic-speaking peoples, originally from the Ethiopian highlands, reside in a few areas of Tanzania.


Official name: Togolese Republic

Independence: 27 April 1960 (from French-administered UN trusteeship)

Area: 56,785 sq km

Form of government: republic under transition to multiparty democratic rule

Capital: Lome


Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF)

Income: US $1,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 5,681,519 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: native African (37 indigenous groups: largest and most important are Ewe, Mina, and Kabre) 99%, European and Syrian-Lebanese less than 1%

Religious groups: indigenous beliefs 59%, Christian 29%, Muslim 12%

Languages: French (official and the language of commerce), Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south), Kabye (sometimes spelled Kabiye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north)

Literacy: 60.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: cotton, phosphates, coffee, cocoa

Primary export partners: Burkina Faso 16.4%, Ghana 15.1%, Benin 9.4%, Mali 7.6%, China 7.5%, India 5.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products

Primary import partners: China 25.5%, India 13.3%, France 11.5% (2004)

The Ewe people first moved into the area that is now Togo from the Niger River Valley between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Portuguese explorers and traders visited the coast. For the next 200 years, the coastal region was a major raiding center for Europeans in search of Africans to enslave, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “the Slave Coast.”

In a 1884 treaty signed at Togoville, Germany declared a protectorate over the area. In 1914, Togoland was invaded by French and British forces and fell after a brief resistance. Following the war, Togoland became a League of Nations mandate divided for administrative purposes between France and the United Kingdom. By statute in 1955, French Togo became an autonomous republic within the French Union. In 1957, the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana. On April 27, 1960, Togo severed its juridical ties with France, shed its United Nations trustee-ship status, and became fully independent. The first president, Sylvanus Olympia, was overthrown three years after independence. Nicholas Grunitzky headed the government for a short period and, in 1976, Col. Gnassingbé Eyadéma seized power and instituted a one-party state. Reelected in 1979 and 1986, Eyadéma in August 1991 agreed to share power with a transitional government until multiparty elections could be scheduled. Though troops loyal to Eyadéma reportedly tried repeatedly to overthrow the interim regime, Eyadéma was reelected in multiparty elections in 1993, which were boycotted by the main opposition groups. This further led to sanctions from the European Union.

Since 1994, the Togolese economy has seen a partial recovery. But the current political scene is less promising: in 1997, Eyadéma’s government blocked the creation of an independent electoral commission, and, after military harassment of opposition leaders marred the 1998 presidential campaign, Eyadéma’s claim to have won reelection for another five years led to opposition protests and rioting. Political unrest stemming from the disputed 1998 presidential election intensified during 1999. Most opposition parties boycotted March 1999 parliamentary elections, giving the ruling Rally of the Togolese People party all but two of the 81 seats in parliament.

With tensions rising between the government of President Eyadéma and major opposition parties, the government in early 2000 limited freedom of the press, subjecting any journalist found guilty of defaming the head of state to heavy fines and three months imprisonment. Shortly after Prime Minister Eugene Koffi Adoboli lost a vote of confidence in August 2000, he resigned and was replaced by Gabriel Agbéyomé Kodjo, speaker of the national assembly. In January 2001, the government announced that new parliamentary elections would be held later in the year, but the promised legislative vote was postponed at the last minute. In 2002, parliamentary elections were held and were again boycotted by the main opposition. That year, the country’s constitution was amended to allow President Eyadema to seek a third term, which he easily won in 2003. Two years later, he died in office and the military faction placed his son, Faure Gnassingbé, in the office, contrary to

constitutional mandate that the president be succeeded by the speaker of parliament in the event of such an occur-rence. Parliament quickly adjusted the constitution to allow the action. International protest caused Gnassingbé to step down, while an interim president was appointed. When elections were held, Gnassingbé was declared the winner, but it sparked charges of mass voter fraud and riots. In 2006, there was an agreement to appoint Yawovi Agboyibo as prime minister with a mandate to bring about pull together a national unity government.

Togo’s population is composed of about 21 ethnic groups. The two major ones are the Ewe in the south and the Kabye in the north.


Official name: Republic of Tunisia

Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)

Area: 163,610 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Tunis

International relations: ABEDA, ACCT, Af DB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, BSEC (observer), CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OIC, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Tunisian dinar (TND)

Income: US$7,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 10,074,951 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Religious groups: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)

Literacy: 74.3% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: textiles, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, agricultural products, hydrocarbons

Primary export partners: France 33.1%, Italy 25.3%, Germany 9.2%, Spain 6.1% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, food

Primary import partners: France 25.1%, Italy 19%, Germany 8.5%, Spain 5.3% (2004)

Tunisians are descended mainly from indigenous Berber and Arab groups that migrated to North Africa during the seventh century ad. Recorded history in Tunisia began with the arrival of Phoenicians, who founded Carthage and other North African settlements. In the seventh century, the Muslim conquest transformed North Africa and Tunisia became a center of Arab culture until its assimilation in the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. In 1881, France established a protectorate there, only to see a rise of nationalism lead to Tunisia’s independence in 1956.

One year after independence, Habib Bourguiba deposed the president and instituted a socialist system, later declaring himself president for life. In late 1987, Bourguiba was declared senile, and he was replaced as president by Prime Minister Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who took steps to democratize the country. In April 1989 elections, Ben Ali was elected to a full term as president. In 1994, he ran unopposed for president and was reelected. Ben Ali continued to crack down on growing Muslim fundamentalism throughout the 1990s.

President Ben Ali won a resounding reelection victory in October 1999. Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s founding father, died at the age of 96 in April 2000. Ben Ali’s government in 2000 and 2001 came under increasing criticism for its record on human rights. Under growing pressure from within and outside the country, the president in 2001 promised to improve his record on human rights and, as a step in that direction, introduced a liberalized press law in August 2001. Even so, at year’s end, Tunisia was listed as one of the 10 countries most hostile to a free press.


Official name: Republic of Uganda

Independence: 9 October 1962 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 236,040 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Kampala


Currency: Ugandan shilling (UGX)

Income: US$1,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 27,269,482 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: Baganda 17%, Karamojong 12%, Basogo 8%, Iteso 8%, Langi 6%, Rwanda 6%, Bagisu 5%, Acholi 4%, Lugbara 4%, Bunyoro 3%, Batoro 3%, non-African (European, Asian, Arab) 1%, other 23%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 16%, indigenous beliefs 18%

Languages: English (official national language, taught in grade schools, used in courts of law, and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications in the capital and may be taught in school), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic

Literacy: 69.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, fish and fish products, tea; electrical products, iron and steel

Primary export partners: Kenya 15%, Netherlands 10.7%, Belgium 9%, France 4.4%, Germany 4.4% (2004)

Imports: vehicles, petroleum, medical supplies; cereals

Primary import partners: Kenya 32.3%, UAE 7.3%, South Africa 6.5%, India 5.8%, China 5.6%, UK 5.1%, US 4.8%, Japan 4.8% (2004)

Arab traders moving inland from Indian Ocean coastal enclaves reached the interior of Uganda in the 1830s and found several African kingdoms, including the Buganda kingdom, that had well-developed political institutions dating back several centuries.

In 1888, the royal charter assigned control of the emerging British sphere of interest in East Africa to the Imperial British East Africa Company, an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda. In 1894, the Kingdom of Uganda was placed under a formal British protectorate. The British protectorate period began to change formally in 1955 when constitutional changes leading to Uganda’s independence were adopted. The first general elections in Uganda were held in 1961, and the British government granted internal self-government to Uganda on March 1, 1962, with Benedicto Kiwanuka as the first prime minister.

In February of 1966, Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution, assumed all government powers, and removed the president and vice president. On January 25, 1971, Obote’s government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander, Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself president, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power. Idi Amin’s eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. In 1978, Tanzanian forces pushed back an incursion by Amin’s troops. Backed by Ugandan exiles, Tanzanian forces waged a war of liberation against Amin. On April 11, 1979, the Ugandan capital was captured, and Amin and his remaining forces fled. He eventually settled in Libya and remained there until his death in 2003. There followed a chaotic year or so, during which three provisional presidents led the shattered country. In December 1980, Obote was once again elected to the presidency and then again overthrown by military coup. The military regime that followed was short-lived. In January 1986, National Resistance Army leader Yoweri Museveni seized power.

Within a year of Museveni’s rise, the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) under the self-proclaimed spirit medium, Alice Lakwena, emerged. Alice raised an army of more than 10,000,000 followers (mostly Acholis) with promises that if the followers remained pure they would repel government soldiers’ bullets. The HSM came within 50 miles of Kampala before being repelled by government forces. Alice fled to Kenya and remained there until her death in early 2007. The successor rebel movement to the HSM was the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony. He has been linked to child kidnappings over the last 20 years. There have been recent attempts to resolve differences between the government and the LRA forces.

Museveni, most recently elected president in 1996 in the country’s first presidential elections in 16 years, has done much to nurse Uganda’s economy back to health.

Widely praised for its progress in revitalizing the economy, Uganda’s government in 1999 received pledges of $2.2 billion in additional foreign aid over the following three years. Early in 2000, the presidents of Uganda and Sudan signed an agreement pledging to halt aid to rebels fighting against each country, but the accord proved largely ineffective. Despite a credible challenge mounted by Kiiza Besigye, a former associate of President Museveni, the incumbent won a resounding reelection victory in March 2001 presidential elections. General elections were again held in 2006. Although there were some charges of irregularities, Museveni again won out over Besigye.

Museveni has received international praise for his handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Uganda. Through the assistance of grassroots organizations like The Aids Support Organization (TASO), the country has addressed the spread and in many cases reversed the increase in numbers.

Bantu, Nilotic, and Nilo-Hamitic peoples constitute most of Uganda’s population. The Bantu are the most numerous and include the Baganda, with more than one million members. The Nilo-Hamitic Iteso is the second-largest group, followed by the Banyankole and Basoga, both of Bantu extraction.


Official name: Republic of Zambia

Independence: 24 October 1964 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 752,614 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Lusaka


Currency: Zambian kwacha (ZMK)

Income: US$900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 11,261,795 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: African 98.7%, European 1.1%, other 0.2%

Religious groups: Christian 50–75%, Muslim and Hindu 24–49%, indigenous beliefs 1%

Languages: English (official), major vernaculars include Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages

Literacy: 80.6% (age 15 and over can read and write English; 2003 est.)

Exports: copper, cobalt, electricity, tobacco

Primary export partners: South Africa 25.6%, UK 17%, Switzerland 16%, Tanzania 7.4%, Democratic Republic of the Congo 7%, Zimbabwe 5.8% (2004)

Imports: machinery, transportation equipment, fuels, petroleum products, electricity, fertilizer; foodstuffs, clothing

Primary import partners: South Africa 46.2%, UK 14.2%, UAE 7.1%, Zimbabwe 6% (2004)

About 2,000 years ago, the indigenous hunter-gatherer occupants of Zambia began to be displaced or absorbed by more advanced migrating groups. By the fifteenth century, the major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants arrived, with the greatest influx occurring between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. These groups came primarily from the Luba and Lunda of southern Zaire and northern Angola but were joined in the nineteenth century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy.

Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries until the mid-nineteenth century, when European explorers, missionaries, and traders penetrated it. In 1888, Northern and Southern Rhodesia were proclaimed British spheres of influence. In 1953, both Rhodesias were joined with Nyasaland to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Northern Rhodesia was the center of much of the turmoil and crises that characterized the federation in its last years. At the core of the controversy were insistent African demands for greater participation in government. A two-stage election held in October and December 1962 resulted in an African majority in the Legislative Council. The council passed resolutions calling for Northern Rhodesia’s secession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government. On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964. Led by Kenneth Kaunda for nearly 30 years, the country in 1991 held its first multiparty elections. Frederick Chiluba, leader of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy, defeated Kaunda by a wide margin. In 1996, a new constitution prevented Kaunda from running for president, as it introduced a provision that a candidate’s parents had to be Zambian-born (Kaunda’s parents were Malawian). Chiluba’s party easily won elections that same year, amidst widespread student riots and widespread popular dissent.

In March 2000, former President Kaunda announced that he was retiring from politics and stepping down as leader of the United National Independence Party. Francis Nikhoma, a former governor of the central bank, succeeded Kaunda as party leader. President Chiluba’s ruling party’s regulations had forbidden a party member from seeking more than two terms as president, but, in April 2001, the rules were changed to permit Chiluba to run for a third term in late 2001 elections. Only a month later, however, Chiluba reversed himself and said he would not run for reelection, largely in response to growing opposition within his own party. Lawyer Levy Mwanawasa was named the ruling party’s candidate, and he handily won election to the presidency in late 2001. The elections were results were challenged, but they were sustained by the courts after consideration for over a year.

Zambia’s population comprises more than 70 Bantu-speaking groups. Some are small, and only two have enough people to constitute at least 10% of the population.


Official name: Republic of Zimbabwe

Independence: 18 April 1980 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 390,580 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Harare


Currency: Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD)

Income: US$1,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 12,746,990 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: African 98% (Shona 71%, Ndebele 16%, other 11%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than 1%

Religious groups: syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%

Languages: English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele), numerous but minor dialects

Literacy: 90.7% (age 15 and over can read and write English; 2003 est.)

Exports: tobacco 29%, gold 7%, ferroalloys 7%, cotton 5%

Primary export partners: South Africa 31.5%, Switzerland 7.4%, UK 7.3%, China 6.1%, Germany 4.3% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transport equipment 35%, other manufactures 18%, chemicals 17%, fuels 14%

Primary import partners: South Africa 46.9%, Botswana 3.6%, UK 3.4% (2004)

Archaeologists have found Stone Age implements and pebble tools in several areas of Zimbabwe, suggesting human habitation for many centuries. The ruins of stone buildings also provide evidence of early civilization.

In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to attempt colonization of south-central Africa, but the hinterland lay virtually untouched by Europeans until the arrival of explorers, missionaries, and traders some 300 years later. In 1888, the area that became Southern and Northern Rhodesia was proclaimed a British sphere of influence. The British South Africa Company was chartered in 1889, and the settlement of Salisbury (now Harare) was established in 1890.

In 1895, the territory was formally named Rhodesia. In 1923, Southern Rhodesia’s white settlers were given the choice of being incorporated into the Union of South Africa or becoming a separate entity within the British Empire. The settlers rejected incorporation, and Southern Rhodesia was formally annexed by the United Kingdom. In September 1953, Southern Rhodesia was joined with the British protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963 after much crisis and turmoil with Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland became the independent states of Zambia and Malawi in 1964.

Although prepared to grant independence to Rhodesia, the United Kingdom insisted that the authorities at Salisbury first demonstrate their intention to move toward eventual majority rule. Desiring to keep their dominant position, the white Rhodesians refused to give such assurance. On November 11, 1965, after lengthy and unsuccessful negotiations with the British government, Prime Minister Ian Smith issued a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom. The British government considered the UDI unconstitutional and illegal, but made it clear that it would not use force to end the rebellion. The British government imposed unilateral economic sanctions on Rhodesia and requested other nations to do the same. On December 16, 1966, the United Nations Security Council, for the first time in its history, imposed mandatory economic sanctions on a state.

In the early 1970s, informal attempts at settlement were renewed between the United Kingdom and the Rhodesia administration. In 1974, the major African nationalist groups—the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which split away from ZAPU in 1963—were united into the “Patriotic Front” and combined their military forces. In 1976, the Smith government agreed in principle to majority rule and to a meeting in Geneva with Black Nationalist leaders. Blacks represented at the Geneva meeting included ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo, ZANU leader Robert Mugabe, UANC chairman Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and former ZANU leader, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. However, the meeting failed.

On March 3, 1978, the Smith administration signed an internal settlement agreement in Salisbury with Bishop Muzorewa, Rev. Sithole, and Chief Jeremiah Chirau. The agreement provided for qualified majority rule and elections with universal suffrage. Following elections in April 1979, in which his UANC part won a majority, Bishop Muzorewa assumed office on June 1, becoming Zimbabwe’s first black prime minister. However, the installation of the new black majority government did not end the guerrilla conflict that had claimed more than 20,000 lives.

The British and the African parties began deliberations on a Rhodesian settlement in London on September 10, 1979. On December 21, the parties signed an agreement calling for a cease-fire, new elections, a transition period under British rule, and a new constitution implementing majority rule while protecting minority rights. The British government supervised the elections. Robert Mugabe’s ZANU Party won an absolute majority and was asked to form Zimbabwe’s first government. The British government formally granted independence to Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980. In 1985, Mugabe’s party won by a landslide in the country’s first general election since independence. He was reelected in 1990 and 1996.

Zimbabwe’s population is divided into two major language groups, which are subdivided into several indigenous groups. The Mashona (Shona speakers), who constitute about 80% of the population, have lived in the area the longest and are the majority language groups. The Matabele (Sindebele speakers), representing about 19% of the population and centered in the southwest near Bulawayo, arrived within the last 150 years. An offshoot of the South African Zulu group, they had maintained control over the Mashona until the white occupation of Rhodesia.

President Mugabe came under fire in early 1999 for his aggressive land-reform and black-empowerment programs, particularly his threats to seize farms owned by absentee British owners and turn them over to black Zimbabweans. His Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) government sought to institute a new constitution that would allow for major land reform, but the move opposed by the newly created party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

When the constitutional amendment was rejected by the voters, Mugabe embarked on a radical land distribution which violently forced white farmers off of their land. These actions were supposedly carried out by “war veterans,” but were generally believed to have been thugs ordered to carry out government violence. In 2000, legislative elections were held, and despite a very rigorous contest by ZANU-PF and MDC, the former won. The elections were marred by extensive violence against MDC supporters.

In March 2002, elections that many observers contended were conducted in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, Mugabe claimed victory once again. Shortly thereafter, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe for 12 months after the group’s observers accused Mugabe of using his powers as incumbent to steal the election.

In 2005, the ZANU-PF government with the stated intention of clearing the capital of unauthorized housing and informal markets launched “Operation Murambatsvina.” The net effect, however, was to forcibly remove urban inhabitants who formed the basis of Mugabe’s greatest opposition.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing an unprecedented food crisis resulting in significant food insecurity for many of it people. This is especially ironic after it had once been the breadbasket of the region. To compound this scenario, the country’s HIV/AIDS infection rate is among the world’s worst.


Official name: none

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 91 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: The Valley

International relations: CARICOM (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), OECS (associate), ECLAC (associate)

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$7,500 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 13,254 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black (predominant) 90.1%, mixed, mulatto 4.6%, white 3.7%, other 1.6% (2001 census)

Religious groups: Anglican 40%, Methodist 33%, Seventh-Day Adventist 7%, Baptist 5%, Roman Catholic 3%, other 12%

Languages: English (official)

Literacy: 95% (age 12 and over can read and write; 1984 est.)

Exports: lobster, fish, livestock, salt

Primary export partners: UK, US, Puerto Rico, Saint-Martin (2000)

Imports: fuels, foodstuffs, manufactures, chemicals, trucks, textiles

Primary import partners: US, Puerto Rico, UK (2000)

According to legend, this slender island, named in Spanish for the eel its shape suggests, got that name from no less a figure than Christopher Columbus, who is said to have sailed through this area of the Caribbean on one of his early voyages of contact at the end of the fifteenth century. Some historians dismiss this story as fanciful and contend that the French were the first Europeans to visit these shores. Whatever the story, it is certain that the British established the first colonial settlement in 1650. Unlike many other islands in the region, Anguilla remained under the power of the British for the entire colonial period.

The British settlers quickly established farms on the island, although these agricultural holdings were less expansive than the plantation-size holdings found on some of the other Caribbean islands held by the British. This was because the island itself was relatively small and its soil less fertile than on other British-held islands. To work these farms, however, the British imported enslaved Africans. Because the island was

small, the British decided in the early nineteenth century to link its colonial administration with that of Saint Christopher, better known as Saint Kitts, and Nevis, both of which lie to the south of Anguilla. The three-island colony’s local administration was located on Saint Kitts, the largest of the islands.

The British abolished enslavement in all of its colonial holdings in 1834, but most of those who formerly been enslaved continued to work in farming or fishing for many years thereafter. In time, the harvesting of salt emerged as another major occupation for the freed people. One of the enslavement traditions that lives on in contemporary celebrations is known as the “jollification.” In this observance, Anguillans of both sexes, dressed as field workers, parade together to a location where a field is planted. Songs of Afro-Caribbean origins are sung as they proceed along their route and begin their field work.

In the late 1960s, as Saint Kitts and Nevis clamored for their independence from Britain, Anguillans decided their future would be brighter if they became a separate dependent territory tied to Britain. In 1967, the island issued a unilateral declaration of independence from Saint Kitts and Nevis, triggering a mini-invasion by British troops to quell the rebellion. In the early 1970s, the island was accorded the British crown colony status that it sought.

In March 1999, the ruling coalition of the Anguilla United Party and the Anguilla Democratic Party retained power, when each party won two of the seven seats in the National Assembly. The opposition Anguilla National Alliance party won the remaining three seats.

Antigua and Barbuda

Official name: none

Independence: 1 November 1981 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 442 sq km (Antigua 281 sq km; Barbuda 161 sq km)

Form of government: constitutional monarchy with United Kingdom-style parliament

Capital: Saint John’s

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM (observer), OAS, OECS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$11,000 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 68,722 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black, British, Portuguese, Lebanese, Syrian

Religious groups: Anglican (predominant), other Protestant, some Roman Catholic

Languages: English (official), local dialects

Literacy: 89% (age 15 and over has completed five or more years of schooling)

Exports: petroleum products 48%, manufactures 23%, machinery and transport equipment 17%, food and live animals 4%, other 8%

Primary export partners: Poland 47.8%, UK 24.6%, Germany 8.7% (2004)

Imports: food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, oil

Primary import partners: China 19.5%, US 18.7%, Singapore 14.8%, Poland 8.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.7% (2004)

Christopher Columbus first visited the islands of Antigua and Barbuda in 1493. Missionaries attempted to settle on the island, but were hindered by the fierce Carib Indians, who inhabited the islands, and the absence of natural freshwater springs. In 1632, the British successfully established a colony. Sir Christopher Codrington established the first large sugar estate in Antigua in 1674, bringing enslaved men and women from Africa’s West Coast to work the plantations. Although Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834, they remained bound to their plantation owners. Economic opportunities for the new freemen were limited by a lack of surplus farming land, no access to credit, and an economy built on agriculture rather than manufacturing.

The majority of modern-day Antiguans are descended from the enslaved Africans imported by the British to work the island’s sugar plantations. Although the sugar estates were extremely profitable for both their owners and Britain, generating more wealth in the 1780s than all of Britain’s New England colonies combined, life for the island’s enslaved population was very harsh indeed. The harshness of life and work on the sugar plantations led to riots including one in 1831, just three years before the British ended enslavement on the island.

Led by Chief Minister Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., Anti-gua began to push for independence in the late 1960s. There was a separate push by Barbudans for their independence, but neither the Antiguan nor the British government supported this movement. Antigua and Barbuda became a single, fully independent nation in 1981. Anti-gua and Barbuda entered the twenty-first century ruled by its black majority.

The ruling Antigua Labor Party of Prime Minister Lester Bird won the general election in March 1999, ensuring Bird another five-year term in office. In May 2001, Bird fired Attorney General Errol Cort and Health Minister Bernard Percival for “a lapse of good judgment” in handling the government’s medical benefits scheme. Throughout 2000 and 2001, the country was widely criticized from abroad for its lax attitude toward the problem of money laundering.


Official name: Argentine Republic

Independence: 9 July 1816 (from Spain)

Area: 2,766,890 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Buenos Aires


Currency: Argentine peso (ARS)

Income: US$12,400 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 39,537,943 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: white (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, mestizo, Amerindian, or other nonwhite groups 3%

Religious groups: nominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%

Languages: Spanish (official), English, Italian, German, French

Literacy: 97.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: edible oils, fuels and energy, cereals, feed, motor vehicles

Primary export partners: Brazil 15.3%, Chile 10.7%, US 10.2%, China 8.7%, Spain 4.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, metal manufactures, plastics

Primary import partners: Brazil 36.2%, US 16.6%, Germany 5.7%, China 4.3% (2004)

Though traditionally known for its early Spanish and nineteenth-century Italian and German heritage, Argentina had a large black population during much of the colonial and independence periods. Today, the AfroArgentine population is estimated at a few thousand.

The first enslaved Africans were brought into Argentina in the final two decades of the sixteenth century. By 1680, nearly 23,000 Africans had been imported legally, although those brought into the country illegally would certainly swell that figure considerably. Most of the enslaved brought into Argentina originated in what is now the Congo and Angola. Although the local government banned the importation of Africans in 1813, illegal activity, however, continued for nearly 30 more years until a treaty with Britain in 1840 finally cut off this commerce in human cargo. As in most of the Americas, the enslaved Africans brought into Argentina were employed as farm workers or domestic servants.

Until relatively recently, Argentina’s African heritage has received little attention, due perhaps in part to the scarcity of Afro-Argentines. The limited number of blacks in the country has allowed the country’s historians and sociologists to indulge in a bit of revisionism, insisting that blacks are of little historical relevance in Argentina. Regrettably, racist attitudes are not uncommon in modern-day Argentina. When the country’s soccer team has faced opposing teams made up largely of blacks, headlines in the sports pages have sometimes referred to these opponents in a derogatory and decidedly racist manner. A handful of contemporary scholars have attempted to preserve the history of the African contributions to the development of Argentina.

Through most of the 1980s, the country’s economy stagnated and was battered by high levels of inflation. The 1989 election of Carlos Menem, a member of the Partido Justicialista, better known as the Peronist party, brought a period of rapid economic growth for several years. However, the Menem administration’s failure to deepen economic reforms eventually led to a period of economic decline and paved the way for the election in 1999 of Fernando de la Rua. The new president was unable to halt the economic decline, and his government collapsed after two years in a climate of growing civil unrest. At the beginning of 2002, in the midst of an economic crisis, Peronist Eduardo Duhalde was appointed president. Yet, Argentina defaulted on its international debt and spiraling inflation. After a year of fluctuation, the economy began to stabilize and Nestor Kircher was elected president in 2003. Over the last several years, he has stabilized the economic situation in the country, but there continues to be an undercurrent of political instability.


Official name: none

Independence: none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Area: 193 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Oranjestad

International relations: CARICOM (observer), ECLAC (associate), Interpol, IOC, UNESCO (associate), WCL, WToO (associate)

Currency: Aruban guilder/florin (AWG)

Income: US$28,000 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 71,566 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 8%, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian, Jewish

Languages: Dutch (official), Papiamento (a Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English dialect), English (widely spoken), Spanish

Literacy: 97%

Exports: live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment

Primary export partners: Netherlands 28.5%, Panama 17.5%, Venezuela 14.7%, Netherlands Antilles 11.2%, Colombia 10.7%, US 10.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and electrical equipment, crude oil for refining and reexport, chemicals; foodstuffs

Primary import partners: US 55.5%, Netherlands 14.1%, Venezuela 3.3% (2004)

Aruba is one of the few Caribbean islands whose people are still largely descended from an original indigenous population. More than 85% of Arubans are of mixed Arawak Indian and European ancestry. A majority of the remaining 15% are black immigrants from other Caribbean islands who have come to Aruba to fill some of the many available jobs in thriving tourist and oil industries.

The island’s arid climate and relatively barren soil prevented the development of any major agricultural cultivation. This lack of large-scale farming helps to explain the absence of any significant African enslavement heritage on the island. When the first oil refineries began to spring up on Aruba in the 1930s, workers, many of them black, were imported from other islands in the Caribbean.

Though their numbers are relatively small, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of the Caribbean as a whole, the blacks of Aruba have made significant contributions to the island’s culture in the relatively short time they have been present on the island. Papiamento, the local language, draws on elements of several European languages, the native Arawak tongue, and several African dialects.

In 1997, the legislature of Aruba was dissolved when a conflict broke out between the senior and junior members of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Henny Eman. However, in elections in December 1997, the coalition retained power in the legislature with a 12 to nine majority over the opposition People’s Electoral Movemement (MEP). Four years later, the opposition party wrested power from the coalition, taking 12 of the 21 seats in the legislature and bringing MEP leader Nelson Oduber to power as prime minister.

Bahamas, The

Official name: Commonwealth of the Bahamas

Independence: 10 July 1973 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 13,940 sq km

Form of government: constitutional parliamentary democracy

Capital: Nassau

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (observer)

Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD)

Income: US$17,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 301,790 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%

Religious groups: Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%

Languages: English, Creole (among Haitian immigrants)

Literacy: 95.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: pharmaceuticals, cement, rum, crawfish, refined petroleum products

Primary export partners: US 40.2%, Poland 13.3%, Spain 11.6%, Germany 5.9%, France 4.3% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, manufactured goods, crude oil, vehicles, electronics

Primary import partners: US 22.4%, South Korea 18.9%, Brazil 9.2%, Japan 7.9%, Italy 7.8%, Venezuela 6.6% (2004)

Christopher Columbus first visited the islands of the Bahamas in 1492 when he landed in the Western Hemisphere, either at Long Bay, Samana Cay, San Salvador Island, or one of a number of other islands. In 1647, the first permanent European settlement was founded. In 1717, the islands became a British crown colony. Most of these British colonists were not large landowners, so African enslavement developed more slowly in the Bahamas than in several nearby islands. But it did develop, and, over time, Africans came to dominate the islands, accounting today for about 85% of the total population.

Britain’s abolition of enslavement in all its territories set free some 10,000 African slaves scattered across the Bahamas. Under the terms of the British edict ending enslavement in 1834, the newly freed people were apprenticed to their former owners and required to remain with those owners as apprentices for a period of four years. Many of the emancipated men and women continued to pursue occupations in farming and fishing, even after their apprenticeships had ended. Eventually a black middle class developed on the islands as individual blacks managed to obtain a higher education and enter such professions as doctors, lawyers, and educators.

Eighty-five percent of Bahamians are of African descent. Many of their ancestors arrived in the Bahamas when it was a staging area for the trade in human cargo and when Bermuda forced out free blacks and slaves. Later, the thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War brought many blacks into the islands.

The twentieth-century boom in South Florida and the promise of better-paying jobs lured many black Bahamians to the United States, despite the racial discrimination they encountered upon their arrival. A psychological and cultural barrier developed between those Bahamians who left their homeland in an attempt to better themselves and those who chose to remain in the islands. A similar division was seen between those who were attracted to Nassau and the more rapidly developing islands and those who opted for the quiet life on the outer islands.

The Bahamas were granted self-government through a series of constitutional and political steps, culminating in independence on July 10, 1973. The Progressive Liberal Party led the Bahamas to independence and remained in power until the early 1990s. In August 1992, the Free National Movement (FNM) won parliamentary elections, and its leader, Hubert Ingraham, became prime minister. In March 1997 elections, Ingraham and the FNM were reelected.

The Ingraham government’s privatization policy hit a snag in the spring of 1999 when telecommunications workers rejected the government’s retrenchment package. Also troublesome for the Bahamian economy was the country’s high crime rate, a potential threat to the country’s critically important tourism industry. In 2000, the country’s offshore banking business was rocked by charges that it was not moving aggressively enough against money laundering, triggering a new government effort to step up its cooperation with other jurisdictions. In May 2002, the ruling Free National Movement, with Tommy Turnquest now at its helm, replacing retiring Ingraham, lost in parliamentary elections to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which won 29 of 40 seats in the House of Assembly. The election brought PLP leader Perry Christie to power as prime minister.


Official name: none

Independence: 30 November 1966 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 430 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth

Capital: Bridgetown


Currency: Barbadian dollar (BBD)

Income: US$16,400 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 279,254 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 80%, white 4%, other 16%

Religious groups: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%

Languages: English

Literacy: 99.7% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 2003 est.)

Exports: sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components, clothing

Primary export partners: US 20.6%, UK 14.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 13.9%, Saint Lucia 6.9%, Jamaica 6.6%, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5.1% (2004)

Imports: consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, electrical components

Primary import partners: US 35.2%, Trinidad and Tobago 20%, UK 5.6%, Japan 4.3% (2004)

It should hardly come as a surprise that Barbados is considered the most British of the Caribbean islands. For more than 300 years, the island was under the control of the British, whose institutions became firmly entrenched in the Barbadian culture and economy. The first British colonists arrived in 1627, bringing with them ten enslaved Africans. That enslaved population remained relatively limited for the first few years, as most colonists were unable to afford to purchase such human labor and instead worked the land themselves or with the help of indentured servants from Europe. Although the number of those enslaved on the island was small, their role in the island’s economy was pivotal. Enslaved Africans, along with some of the native Amerindian people who had been enslaved, were forced to handle the most challenging tasks by their owners.

With the rise of the sugar industry, beginning in the 1640s, Barbados became more heavily involved in the trade of Africans. Between 1645 and 1685, the number of Africans on the island skyrocketed from about 5,700 to nearly 60,000. By 1700, the enslaved population on Barbados was estimated at close to 135,000. Drawn mostly from West Africa, these bonded men and women spoke a variety of languages and represented a staggering number of ethnic groups including the Fon, Fante, Ga, Asante, and Yoruba peoples. By the early eighteenth century, many of the European-born indentured servants who had carried much of the workload in the colony’s early years began leaving Barbados in waves. This aggravated the problem of racial imbalance, worrying the white landowners and resulting in tough, new regulations to control the captive population.

Despite the imposition of strong regulations to prevent unrest among the huge enslaved population, Barbados experienced three major rebellions in 1649, 1675, and 1692. Colonial justice was harsh. Those who rebelled were tortured in an attempt to get them to name confederates. Of those captured and tried, most were sentenced to be executed, often by somewhat barbarous methods including being burned alive. Little resistance was recorded in the eighteenth century, but the British Parliament’s 1807 ban on the international trade in humans, the Haitian Revolution that brought blacks to power and the visits of abolitionists to the island culminated in the so-called Easter Rebellion in 1816. As many as 1,000 black men and women were killed in the fighting, nearly 150 were executed after the rebellion was put down, and others were deported from the island. So shaken by the uprising was the British government that it pressured Barbadian colonists to relax their hold on the enslaved population. In 1833, the British Parliament voted to end African enslavement in all British territories.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of 10 members of the West Indies Federation. Barbados negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. The country attained self-rule on November 30, 1966. Since that time, Barbados has been a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and has assumed a leadership role in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Owen Arthur, a member of the Barbados Labour Party, assumed the prime ministership in 1994, after former Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford lost a vote of confidence in the National Assembly. Leading contemporary Afro-Barbadians include George Lamming, a novelist, critic, essayist, and educator.

The ruling Barbados Labour Party emerged victorious from January 1999 legislative elections, winning all but two of the 28 seats in the National Assembly. A move was made in early 2000 to modernize the country’s constitution, moving the government to a republican form of government. Prime Minister Arthur in August 2001 proposed measures to stimulate economic growth, aimed principally at reducing the country’s high rate of unemployment, hovering in 2002 at about 10%.

Ethnically, the population of Barbados is 80% African, 16% mixed, and 4% European.


Official name: none

Independence: 21 September 1981 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 22,966 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Belmopan

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Currency: Belizean dollar (BZD)

Income: US$6,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 279,457 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo 43.7%, Creole 29.8%, Maya 10%, Garifuna 6.2%, other 10.3%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 30% (Anglican 12%, Methodist 6%, Mennonite 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3%, Pentecostal 2%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1%, other 2%), none 2%, other 6%

Languages: English (official), Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna (Carib), Creole

Literacy: 94.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood

Primary export partners: US 37.2%, UK 26.8%, Jamaica 4.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods; food, beverages, tobacco; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals

Primary import partners: US 30.1%, Mexico 12%, Guatemala 7.4%, Cuba 7.2%, China 4.2%, Japan 4.1% (2004)

Belize, known until 1973 as British Honduras, is the only country in Central America in which blacks have made up a majority of the population throughout the twentieth century. The country did not achieve full independence until September 21, 1981. Originally peopled largely by a succession of Native American peoples, including the Maya, Belize passed between British and Spanish control throughout the seventeenth century. A treaty between the two countries in 1765 maintained Spain’s claim to the land, but recognized the British right to maintain coastal settlements for the harvesting of log-wood, which was valued for its use in producing dyes. As the British log-harvesting efforts expanded, enslaved Africans were brought to the Caribbean to assist with the effort.

Once the presence of the British wood-harvesting enclave had been established by treaty, the woodcutters graduated from cutting logwood and began to go after mahogany. The nature of this work had a profound effect on Africans living in the colony. Those who were trusted roamed the forests of the land, often with little or no supervision, hunting for mahogany trees to be felled. Once found, they were reported to axmen, who came in to cut down the trees. Although those enslaved employed in mahogany harvesting enjoyed somewhat more freedom to range through the rain forest, the treatment was not noticeably more humane than those involved in agriculture.

The British established the colony of British Honduras in 1840; it became a crown colony in 1862. Self-government was granted in January 1964. The official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June of 1973, and full independence was granted on September 21, 1981, with George C. Price of the People’s United Party installed as the head of government. In December 1984 elections, voters elected Manuel Esquivel prime minister. Five years later, Price was again elected prime minister, a post that was recaptured by Esquivel in 1993 elections. Leading contemporary Afro-Belizeans include Zee Edgell, a writer who has concentrated her writings on the Belizean independence movement, the nation’s multiethnic traditions, and the lives of women in Belize.

In August 1998 elections, the ruling United Democratic Party was soundly defeated by the People’s United Party, bringing Said Musa to power as prime minister. Esquivel, who had served for 15 years as prime minister, stepped down August 31, 1998. Musa, in his September 1999 state of the union message, pointed to the progress made in building up Belize’s economic infrastructure during his first year in office. In March 2000 municipal elections, the governing People’s United Party retained control of six of the country’s seven municipalities. The country was hit hard in 2000 and 2001 by hurricanes Keith and Iris, respectively, both of which left thousands homeless. In 2005, the government’s announcement of significant tax increases precipitated riots throughout the country with calls for Said Musa’s resignation. As of 2006, there continue to be border disputes between Belize and Guatemala that remain unresolved.

Most Belizeans are of multiracial descent. Nearly 40–45% of the population is of African ancestry; more than 25% is of mixed local Indian and European descent (mestizo). Another one-fifth of the population is composed of Carib, Mayan, or other Amerindian ethnic groups.


Official name: none

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 58.8 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary British overseas territory with internal self-government

Capital: Hamilton

International relations: CARICOM (observer), CCC, ICFTU, Interpol (subbureau), IOC

Currency: Bermudian dollar (BMD)

Income: US$33,000 (2000 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 65,365 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 58%, white 36%, other 6%

Religious groups: non-Anglican Protestant 39%, Anglican 27%, Roman Catholic 15%, other 19%

Languages: English (official), Portuguese

Literacy: 98% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1970 est.)

Exports: reexports of pharmaceuticals

Primary export partners: France 73.2%, UK 6.2%, Spain 2.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, chemicals, food, and live animals

Primary import partners: Kazakhstan 39.2%, France 16.2%, Japan 13.1%, Italy 9.2%, South Korea 8.8%, US 6.4% (2004)

Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 650 miles east of North Carolina, Bermuda is relatively isolated. The first Europeans to visit Bermuda were Spanish explorers in 1503. In 1609, a group of British explorers became stranded on the islands and their reports aroused great interest about the islands in England. In 1612, British colonists arrived and founded the town of Saint George, the oldest, continuously inhabited English-speaking settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Enslaved Africans were brought to Bermuda soon after the colony began. Although the island’s soil and area were ill-suited for large-scale farming, they were put to work as fishermen, tradesmen, and, to a limited extent, as field hands. The enslaved Africans of Bermuda rose up against their masters on several occasions, most notably in 1730, after which the accused ringleader, Sarah Bassett, was burned at the stake. Thirty years later, between 600 and 700 enslaved were accused of plotting a large-scale rebellion. A number of those were tried and subsequently executed. The trade in humans was outlawed in Bermuda in 1807, and those in bondage were freed in 1834.

Unfortunately for the newly freed Africans of the island nation, employment opportunities in the tobacco, shipbuilding, and salt mining industries, all of which had been mainstays of the Bermudian economy, began to shrink dramatically as those industries themselves started to end. The island economy got a temporary shot in the arm during the U.S. Civil War when Union ships blockaded the ports of the Confederacy. Southern importers arranged to have their incoming goods offloaded at Bermuda and then smuggled through the blockade in smaller ships. However, with the end of the war, this temporary economy boost disappeared. Bermudians, with an area of less than 21 square miles, turned to small-scale agricultural ventures to produce income. The cultivation of onions, potatoes, and Easter lilies eventually proved so successful and profitable that indentured servants had to be brought in from Portugal to help handle part of the workload.

For most of its first 300 years, the government of Bermuda was composed exclusively of wealthy white landowners or appointees of the British Crown. Not until 1963 were the protests of black Bermudians heeded and universal adult suffrage introduced. Landowners still had an edge, however, as the law provided them each with two votes. A new constitution in 1868 gave the locally elected government complete control over Bermuda’s affairs. Sentiment against independence for Bermuda remains strong, as reflected in the most recent referendum on the issue; 73% voted against independence in 1995.

Defeated in the November 1998 general election by the Progressive Labour Party for the first time in 30 years, the opposition United Bermuda Party, led by former Prime Minister Pamela Gordon, worked in 1999 to broaden its appeal to voters. In October 2001, Gordon stepped down as leader of the United Bermuda Party. In 2002, John Vereker was appointed as governor.

Nearly two-thirds of the Bermudians are of African descent. An estimated 7,000 U.S. citizens live on the island; approximately 2,800 of them are military personnel and their dependents. Tourism is a major economic draw to the island and there is a large infrastructure to support it.


Official name: Republic of Bolivia

Independence: 6 August 1825 (from Spain)

Area: 1,098,580 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: La Paz (seat of government); Sucre (legal capital and seat of judiciary)


Currency: boliviano (BOB)

Income: US$2,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 8,857,870 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Quechua 30%, Aymara 25%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, white 15%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist)

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)

Literacy: 87.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: soybeans, natural gas, zinc, gold, wood

Primary export partners: Brazil 40%, US 13.9%, Colombia 8.7%, Peru 6.3%, Japan 4.5% (2004)

Imports: capital goods, raw materials and semi-manufactures, chemicals, petroleum, food

Primary import partners: Brazil 29.7%, Argentina 17.6%, US 10.8%, Chile 7.7%, Peru 7.3% (2004)

Although those of African ancestry make up only about 2% of Bolivia’s population, their history extends back to the first half of the sixteenth century when they arrived as enslaved persons into the country. These blacks were imported from Peru to help supplement the labor of the indigenous Native American population, many of whom had succumbed to diseases introduced by European settlers. The African origins of the enslaved is the subject of debate, with some contending that they came from an area of the West African coast between the Senegal and Niger rivers, while others maintain they were brought from Angola. This question of the earliest AfroBolivians’ origins is unlikely ever to be resolved, since Spain maintained no West African trading centers and thus drew African captives from a wide area and also because the record-keeping of those moving them left much to be desired. Frequently, there was an assumption that the captives came from an area close to their port of embarkation in Africa, but often this was not the case.

Those of African origin brought into Bolivia did not fare well at high elevations and under the stressful working conditions of the mines. By 1554, most of the enslaved Africans had been replaced in the country’s silver mines by indigenous labor. The blacks were then put into other lines of work, including as domestic servants. Some were even apprenticed to artisans skilled in the crafting of silver and other metals. The majority of the Africans were moved to rural areas and pressed into service as cultivators of crops to feed the country’s growing population. Within Bolivia, many of the blacks eventually mixed with other ethnic groups. Children of mixed African and European ancestry were sometimes classified as mulattos, while those of African and Native American descent were called zambos. Calculating the African or African-mixed population in Bolivia’s past is difficult because of the haphazard manner in which records were kept.

Although their numbers were few, Afro-Bolivians joined the country’s struggle to win its independence from Spain. Independence was achieved in 1825, and soon thereafter the country’s founding constitution called for the emancipation of all its African captives. However, not all blacks and Native Americans in bondage were set free. As of 1831, the country’s constitution contained a “free-womb” statute that decreed that no one born after independence could be considered enslaved, but continued to recognize those previously in bondage as slaves. Complete liberation of the Africans did not come until 1851.

Never particularly active on the political front, AfroBolivians have had some impact on contemporary culture, given their dwindling numbers. In the early 1980s, a group of students from Coroico, Nor Yungas, formed a dance troupe to preserve some of the original Afro-Bolivian dance forms of the region. Called the Grupo Afroboliviano, the troupe performed throughout the country, helping to create awareness among their countrymen of the distinct Afro-Bolivian culture. This, in turn, has sparked a number of efforts to preserve this culture.

Dissatisfaction with the administration of President Hugo Bánzer erupted into nationwide protests in April 2000. Bánzer’s plan to privatize water service in Cochabamba was the principal cause of the protests. The president on April 8, 2000, declared a state of emergency, which was lifted on April 20. Shortly thereafter, Bánzer replaced his finance and defense ministers. Protests over the government’s policies continued, however, well into 2001. In poor health, Bánzer resigned on August 6, 2001, and was replaced by Jorge Quiroga Ramirez, a former IBM executive.


Official name: Federative Republic of Brazil

Independence: 7 September 1822 (from Portugal)

Area: 8,511,965 sq km

Form of government: federative republic

Capital: Brasilia

International relations: AfDB, BIS, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, NAM (observer), NSG, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMOP,


Currency: real (BRL)

Income: US$8,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 186,112,794 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: white (includes Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish) 55%, mixed white and black 38%, black 6%, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic (nominal) 80%

Languages: Portuguese (official), Spanish, English, French

Literacy: 86.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: manufactures, iron ore, soybeans, footwear, coffee

Primary export partners: US 20.8%, Argentina 7.5%, Netherlands 6.1%, China 5.6%, Germany 4.1%, Mexico 4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, chemical products, oil, electricity

Primary import partners: US 18.3%, Argentina 8.9%, Germany 8.1%, China 5.9%, Nigeria 5.6%, Japan 4.6% (2004)

Brazil was formally claimed in 1500 by the Portuguese and was ruled from Lisbon as a colony until 1808. Brazil successfully declared independence on September 7, 1922. Four major groups make up the Brazilian Population: indigenous Indians of Tupi and Guarani language stock; the Portuguese; Africans brought to Brazil enslaved; and various European and Asian immigrant groups that have settled in Brazil since the mid-nineteenth century.

African enslavement was introduced into Brazil in the 1530s and expanded greatly when sugar became important. It grew rapidly between 1580 and 1640, when Spain controlled the country. Estimates of the total number of enslaved Africans brought to Brazil varies from six million to twenty million. Enslavement did not finally end in Brazil until 1888. Though the practices in Brazil were often extremely brutal, and the death rate of blacks on sugar, coffee, and cotton plantations was enormous, large numbers of Africans achieved freedom. About 25% of Brazil’s Africans were free during enslavement.

During the nineteenth century, free blacks intermarried so rapidly that their numbers fell from about 400,000 in 1800 to 20,000 by 1888, when African enslavement was finally abolished.

In the early twentieth century, a new black consciousness emerged in response to the appearance of a number of Afro-Brazilian publications. Also springing up during this period were a number of organizations that aspired to right some of the wrongs faced by the nation’s black population. White Brazilians in the years following the abolition of African enslavement embarked on a policy of “whitening” (branqueamento) the country’s population through intermixing with Afro-Brazilians. The Brazilian program of branqueamento was based on the notion that the presence of European blood in an individual was sufficient to make him or her white. It was against the discrimination and poverty stemming from this racist policy that the Afro-Brazilian organizations fought in the early twentieth century.

The black population of Brazil is the largest in the Americas. Only Nigeria in Africa has a larger population of blacks. The African influences on both the population and the culture of Brazil are all-pervasive. Perhaps no single event better illustrates the scope of the African contribution to Brazilian life than Carnival. However, behind the laughter and goodwill of this annual four-day celebration, the truth is somewhat less reassuring for those who would assume that racism is long dead in Brazil. In fact, Brazilians of African descent lack clout on both the political and the economic levels. AfroBrazilians lag behind their fellow countrymen in terms of education, housing, employment, and health. Activists within the Afro-Brazilian community continue the struggle to achieve complete equality for everyone in the country, regardless of race. Leading contemporary AfroBrazilians include: musicians Jorge Benjor, Carlinhos Brown, Gilberto Gil, husband and wife duo Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, and Milton Nascimento; literary figure Abdias do Nascimento; and internationally recognized sports figure Pelé.

After years of military rule, democracy returned to Brazil in 1985. Three years later, a new constitution was drafted. In the presidential elections of October 1998, Fernando Henrique Cardoso won a second term as president. One of Cardoso’s first moves in his second term was to order a devaluation of the real in January 1999 and link it to the US dollar. The country’s economy showed signs of recovery in 1999 and 2000. However, a difficult external environment in 2001 limited growth and worsened public solvency indicators. In 2002, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency after several attempts and was elected to a second term in 2006. However, the government has continued to receive complaints of corruption. Brazil is also being forced to confront its legacy of racial exclusion, much in the same way as the United States was forced.


Official name: none

Independence: 1 July 1867 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 9,976,140 sq km

Form of government: confederation with parliamentary democracy

Capital: Ottawa

International relations: ABEDA, ACCT, Af DB, APEC, ARF (dialogue partner), AsDB, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE (observer), EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECLAC, ESA (cooperating state), FAO, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURCA, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIKOM, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)

Income: US$31,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 32,805,041 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Amerindian 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 40%, other 18%

Languages: English 59.3% (official), French 23.2% (official), other 17.5%

Literacy: 97% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1986 est.)

Exports: motor vehicles and parts, newsprint, wood pulp, timber, crude petroleum, machinery, natural gas, aluminum, telecommunications equipment, electricity

Primary export partners: US 85.2%, Japan 2.1%, UK 1.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, crude oil, chemicals, motor vehicles and parts, durable consumer goods, electricity

Primary import partners: US 58.9%, China 6.8%, Mexico 3.8% (2004)

People of African ancestry make up a tiny portion—only about 2%—of Canada’s total population, but their contributions to the country’s founding and its history far outweigh their meager numbers. Africans are believed to have participated in a number of the early exploratory missions to the country. Legend holds that one of the crewmembers on Jacques Cartier’s expedition was an African. However, it is known that Mathieu de Coste (sometimes rendered as da Costa) served the governor of Acadia as an interpreter to the local Micmac indigenous peoples. Early records indicated that the first African brought directly to Canada was a child, brought to Quebec in 1628 by Englishman David Kirke and sold to a local resident upon Kirke’s departure the following year. The child was baptized Olivier Le Jeune in May 1633. According to records, he died in 1654.

Between 1628 and the British conquest of 1759, New France imported 1,132 enslaved of Africans. Most of them came from the French West Indies or the British colonies elsewhere in North America. A governor of New France had petitioned Paris to permit a trade in Africans but was turned down, so there was no direct importation of Africans from the continent. The number of those enslaved living in the British-held colonies of Canada was relatively small until the time of the American Revolution. Loyalists fleeing the new American republic brought with them some 2,000 blacks. About 1,200 of that number went to the Maritimes including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Of the remaining 800, about 300 went to Lower Canada, as Quebec was then known, and 500 went to Upper Canada (Ontario). Even more influential in Canada’s development was the arrival of some 3,500 free black Loyalists, who fled to Canada following the American Revolution. Most of these black Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Slave codes were more severe in the British-held territories than in New France, where those slaved could marry, own property, and maintain parental rights. However, the British were not to sustain enslavement for long. London had divided Canada into two governments, Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The governor of Upper Canada, Colonel James Simcoe, an ardent abolitionist, induced the area’s legislature to pass laws forbidding importation of enslaved Africans and freeing every enslaved person born in the area by the age of 25. As a result, slavery in Upper Canada soon collapsed.

Similar legislation was not enacted in Lower Canada. However, by 1800, the courts, through complex legal decisions, established the principle that an enslaved person could leave his owner whenever he wished. In the Maritime Provinces, courts also acted to eliminate African enslavement in fact if not in theory. African enslavement was formally abolished in Canada in 1833.

Meanwhile, starting slowly in the eighteenth century, Canada was becoming a haven for runaways fleeing across her southern borders. Those who had served with the British in the American War for Independence came to Halifax from New York in large numbers in 1782 and 1783. Though many were to migrate to Freetown on the West Coast of Africa, others stayed. In 1826, Canada defied the United States and formally refused to return fugitives. In 1829, the legislature of Lower Canada announced that every runaway that entered the province was immediately free, a declaration that gave impetus to the Underground Railroad and stimulated moves for resettlement by blacks in Canada.

The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 meant that any escapee who remained in the United States was to be returned to his owner. Within a year after passage of the law, some 10,000 American runaways arrived in Canada, welcomed by a majority of Canadians who provided communities and services for them.

African Americans were accepted into the mainstream of Canadian life, were allowed to choose separate or integrated schools, and were elected to local office and served as officers in the Canadian Army. Black laborers contributed substantially to the expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, as immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe were to contribute to the development of railroads in the United States. Black skilled laborers were much in demand. By 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, there were 50,000 blacks in Canada. However, after the Civil War, feelings of fear among white Canadians led to discrimination in employment and schools. Many African Americans re-emigrated to the United States, feeling that, with enslavement outlawed there, a bright future awaited them. By 1871, the black population of Canada dipped to about 20,000.

Canada, the most sparsely populated country in the world with 1.5 persons per square mile, has become a haven for so many refugees that it has earned awards for outstanding achievement from human rights organizations. In fact, so many immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere have moved to Canada, that the established British-Caucasian population has expressed fears it will become extinct (assimilated) within 100 years. Toronto alone has become one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities with more than 100 cultural or ethnic groups.

Although Canada is officially a constitutional monarchy with the governor-general acting as Canadian representative of the British crown, the nation’s House of Commons is actually the sovereign. The Liberal Party has won Canada’s last three general elections, in October 1993, June 1997, and November 2000, and its leader, Jean Chretien, serves as the country’s prime minister. The next general election was scheduled for November 2005. In 2006, Stephen Harper of the recently formed Conservative Party was sworn in as Canada’s twenty-second prime minister. Despite minor disagreements, Canada remains the United States’ most reliable economic and political ally.

Cayman Islands

Official name: none

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 259 sq km

Form of government: British crown colony

Capital: George Town

International relations: CARICOM (observer), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, UNESCO (associate)

Currency: Caymanian dollar (KYD)

Income: US$32,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 44,270 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mixed 40%, white 20%, black 20%, expatriates of various ethnic groups 20%

Religious groups: United Church (Presbyterian and Congregational), Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Church of God, other Protestant

Languages: English

Literacy: 98% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 1970 est.)

Exports: turtle products, manufactured consumer goods

Primary export partners: mostly US

Imports: foodstuffs, manufactured goods

Primary import partners: United States, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Netherlands Antilles, Japan

During his fourth visit to the Caribbean in 1503, Christopher Columbus sighted these islands and dubbed them Las Tortugas for the large number of sea turtles he saw in the area. Later in the sixteenth century, Europeans passing through the area began calling the islands Las Caymanas, the Carib Amerindian term for crocodiles. However, it is believed that it was the islands’ many iguanas, rather than real crocodiles, that inspired this name change. In any case, apart from brief visits to pick up fresh water and turtle meat, Europeans had little to do with these islands until the middle of the seventeenth century when the first European settlement was made. The earliest settlements on the islands were made by a rather disreputable blend of characters including pirates, army deserters, debtors, and shipwrecked sailors. Under the Treaty of Madrid, the Caymans came under British control in 1670. It was more than 60 years before the British established their first permanent settlement, made up largely of planters who had previously been located on Jamaica. Because of this relationship between Jamaica and the Caymans, the islands were considered dependencies of the former until 1962.

These earliest of British settlers first imported enslaved Africans into the islands, using them largely as domestic servants, fishermen, and subsistence farmers. The islands, not particularly fertile, were not considered an ideal setting for farming, so the large-scale agricultural undertakings the planters had enjoyed in Jamaica could not be duplicated in the Caymans. The absence of a plantation-type system and the relative proximity within which the planters and the newly imported Africans lived led, in time, to a good deal of intermarriage between the two groups. Nearly half of the population of the Cay-mans today is made up of islanders of mixed European and African descent.

When Jamaica won its independence in 1962, the Caymans became a directly held colony of Britain. Under the new arrangements with the United Kingdom, the islanders were given a new constitution and a larger measure of control over their internal affairs. A tourist board launched in 1966 proved extremely successful in attracting tourists to the islands. By 1994, more than one million tourists, close to 70% of them from the United States, were visiting the islands annually. Another major source of income for the Caymans came from offshore banking. Shortly after its change in status with Jamaica, Cayman Islanders enacted new legislation to encourage company registration, offshore banking, and trust-company formation in the islands. Today, more than 500 banks do business in the Caymans, and the companies registered there number in the thousands. Prospering under existing conditions, islanders have made no major push for independence.

Long a major center for offshore banking, the Cay-mans came under increasing scrutiny in 1999 after accusations that the islands’ government knowingly abetted tax evasion. Despite vehement denials by government officials, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklisted the Caymans as one of several countries around the world that had been determined to be uncooperative on matters of money laundering. In June 2001, the FATF eventually relented and removed the islands from its money laundering blacklist. In September 2004, the islands were hit by Hurricane Ivan, which devastated many buildings and the economy. Although it was the worse hurricane to hit the island in nearly 100 years, its recovery has been relatively swift.


Official name: Republic of Chile

Independence: 18 September 1810 (from Spain)

Area: 756,950 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Santiago


Currency: Chilean peso (CLP)

Income: US$10,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 15,980,912 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: white and white-Amerindian 95%, Amerindian 3%, other 2%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, Jewish

Languages: Spanish

Literacy: 96.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: copper, fish, fruits, paper and pulp, chemicals

Primary export partners: US 14%, Japan 11.4%, China 9.9%, South Korea 5.5%, Netherlands 5.1%, Brazil 4.3%, Italy 4.1%, Mexico 4% (2004)

Imports: consumer goods, chemicals, motor vehicles, fuels, electrical machinery, heavy industrial machinery, food

Primary import partners: Argentina 17%, US 14%, Brazil 11.2%, China 7.4% (2004)

Africans first came to Chile with the expedition of Spanish explorer Diego de Almagro in 1536. Some served the expedition as enslaved crewmembers, while others served as soldiers. One such member of the expedition was Juan Valiente from Mexico, who was permitted to join Almagro as a soldier. He later distinguished himself in battle and in time rose to captain of the expedition’s infantry. The earliest enslaved Africans brought into Chile were used to supplement the labors of indigenous workers in construction, farming, and the mining of gold. Relatively hard-strapped for money, Chile could not afford to import large numbers of captive Africans.

Despite the economic limits on the importation of Africans, the country’s black population, both free and enslaved, grew steadily during the final three decades of the sixteenth century. From a population of 7,000 among a total Chilean population of 624,000, the number of blacks surged by 1590 to a total of 20,000, among an overall population of 586,000. Both in the rural countryside and in Chile’s growing cities, free and enslaved blacks found livelihoods. In the cities, most Africans worked as domestic servants, while outside the cities, they toiled as miners, sheepherders, and cowboys. Free blacks drove coaches, made saddles, and reportedly even served as executioners. Even though the colonial Spanish law accorded blacks the lowest status possible, local authorities often saw fit to circumvent the Spanish crown and gave some enslaved Africans positions with supervisory responsibility. A select number of black had so distinguished themselves as soldiers that they received land grants. Juan Valiente from Mexico who served the Almagro expedition as a soldier, became the first black in the Americas known to receive such a land grant.

At about the same time, Chileans first declared their independence from Spain in 1810, talk of an abolition of enslaved began to surface. It was not until 1823, however, that Chile became the first Spanish American republic to totally abolish African enslavement. Since the time of emancipation, the influence of the Afro-Chilean on the country’s culture and development seems to have virtually disappeared. Unlike what has happened in many neighboring countries, there has been no Afro-Chilean cultural revival nor any organized involvement in politics by Afro-Chileans. The Chilean census of 1940 revealed a population of only 1,000 blacks and 3,000 mulattos. Some observers and scholars of the Chilean social scene suggest that continuing intermarriage and intermixing have combined to virtually wipe out the black population of the country.

In a December 1988 referendum, longtime military ruler Augusto Pinochet failed to win the majority he needed to remain in office for another eight years. A year later, Patricio Aylwin, leader of the center-left Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia coalition, was democratically elected to the presidency for a term of four years. Concertacion candidate Eduardo Frei, who was elected to a six-year term, succeeded him in early 1994. Ricardo Lagos, also a Concertacion candidate, in turn, replaced Frei, in March 2000. After an election and runoff in 2006, Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party was elected as the country’s first woman president.


Official name: Republic of Colombia

Independence: 20 July 1810 (from Spain)

Area: 1,138,910 sq km

Form of government: republic; executive branch dominates government structure

Capital: Bogota

International relations: BCIE, CAN, CARICOM (observer), CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-3, G-11, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Colombian peso (COP)

Income: US$6,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 42,954,279 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 90%

Languages: Spanish

Literacy: 92.5% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum, coffee, coal, apparel, bananas, cut flowers

Primary export partners: US 42.1%, Venezuela 9.7%, Ecuador 6% (2004)

Imports: industrial equipment, transportation equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels, electricity

Primary import partners: US 29.1%, Venezuela 6.5%, China 6.4%, Mexico 6.2%, Brazil 5.8% (2004)

The diversity of ethnic origins in Colombia results from the intermixture of indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and imported Africans. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the vice-royalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Total independence was proclaimed in 1813, and, in 1819, the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.

The African contributions to the population and culture of Colombia are many and varied. The high rate of intermarriage has resulted in a racially diverse population with close to 70% of its people classified as mestizos. The terminology used to refer to people of African ancestry or of mixed ancestry is somewhat complicated. The term black, or negro in Spanish, is common but avoided by many Colombians because of its sometimes disparaging connotations. More common are the terms Moreno (brown) and gente de color (colored people). In the rural area of the country near the Pacific coast, some of the people of African ancestry refer to themselves as libres, or free people, terminology that dates back to colonial times. Some people refer to blacks as costenos since many of the country’s coastal residents are Afro-Colombians.

Enslaved Africans were first imported into communities along the northern coast of New Granada, a portion of which later became Colombia, in the 1520s. The port of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast developed into the principal trading port. The Africans brought into New Granada were used mostly in mining gold, although some saw service as domestic servants and farm workers. The supply of Native Americans, who had first been pressed into service in the mines, was rapidly being depleted, and the importation of Africans was deemed necessary to keep the mines operating.

Even during the years of African enslavement, there was a considerable amount of intermarriage and intermixing between the peoples of colonial New Granada. It is estimated that by the 1770s about 60% of the population was classified as “free people of color.” As in most territories where Africans were held captive, masters sometimes decided to set some or all of their captives free, which turned out often to be a mixed blessing for those who could not find work on their own. Colombia won its independence in 1819, but enslavement was not officially abolished until 1851. In the late twentieth century, Colombia’s black population was concentrated in three main areas of the country: the upper central portion of the Cauca Valley, which is heavily planted in sugar cane; the Pacific coast; and the Caribbean coastal region. In the 1990s, Pledad Corboda de Castro became the first black woman to be elected to the Colombian Senate in the 1990s. In 1993, she wrote a law instituting equal rights for Afro-Colombians. Other leading contemporary Afro-Colombians include Totó la Momposina, a singer, dancer, and performer of traditional rhythms, and Manuel Zapata Olivella, a writer, physician, anthropologist, diplomat, and leading intellectual and artist of twentieth-century Latin America.

For much of its history as a republic, Colombia has experienced intermittent periods of violence. Some of the earlier violence was reduced in the early 1960s after the country’s liberals and conservatives struck power-sharing agreements. However, the peaceful interval was short indeed as new political factions, now marginalized by such agreements, took to guerrilla warfare to press for their various goals. Economic growth spurted in the early 1990s after economic liberalization measures were enacted in 1991, but the country’s tight monetary policy and low business confidence significantly slowed growth in the latter half of the decade. President Andrés Pastrana Arango, the first conservative chief executive after 12 years of liberal leadership, faced increasing pressure from leftist guerrilla groups from the late 1990s into the new millennium. Valiant attempts by Pastrana to advance the country on multiple fronts were either frustrated or doomed to failure by the country’s continuing preoccupation with violence in the countryside.

Costa Rica

Official name: Republic of Costa Rica

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 51,100 sq km

Form of government: democratic republic

Capital: San Jose

International relations: BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Costa Rican colon (CRC)

Income: US$9,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 4,016,173 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, other Protestant 0.7%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.3%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%

Languages: Spanish (official), English spoken around Puerto Limon

Literacy: 96% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, bananas, sugar; pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment

Primary export partners: US 46.9%, Netherlands 5.3%, Guatemala 4.4% (2004)

Imports: raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum

Primary import partners: US 46.1%, Japan 5.9%, Mexico 5.1%, Brazil 4.2% (2004)

In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area. Settlement of Costa Rica began in 1522. In 1821, Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. Unlike most of their Central American neighbors, Costa Ricans are largely of European rather than mestizo descent, and Spain is the primary country of origin. The indigenous population today numbers no more than 25,000. Blacks, descendants of nineteenth-century Jamaican immigrant workers, constitute a significant English-speaking minority of about 30,000, concentrated around the Caribbean port city of Limon.

The greatest influx of enslaved Africans into Costa Rica began during the late 1700s when Spanish colonists began importing slaves from neighboring colonies and directly from Africa to replace the dwindling labor force of indigenous Amerindian peoples, many of whom had contracted and died from diseases introduced by Europeans. The census of 1801, the first to provide figures on the black population, reported that 17% of the colony’s population was made up of blacks or those of mixed-black descent, including mulattos, the result of black-white intermixing, and zambos of black and Amerindian descent.

More significant than the earlier importation of Africans was the movement to what is now Costa Rica by a substantial number of free black laborers from the islands of the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica. This wave of immigrants began arriving in the late nineteenth century and came to help build the railroad designed to carry coffee from the country’s interior to ports along its Atlantic Coast. When this construction project had been completed, many of these West Indian laborers stayed on and took work in the banana plantations of the United Fruit Company. Since the majority of these workers had come from English-speaking islands in the Caribbean and continued to speak English among themselves after coming to Costa Rica, they were considered more valuable employees by United Fruit managers, most of whom were English-speaking as well. In the 1920s, when the banana plantations of eastern Costa Rica experienced problems, United Fruit began concentrating on production from western Costa Rica. Most West Indian blacks, whose population was concentrated along the Atlantic Coast, showed little interest in relocating westward. Additionally, the government of Costa Rica, feeling the effects of the worldwide Great Depression, enacted laws giving preferential treatment to Costa Rican nationals. Since most of the West Indian workers had never become citizens, they were left without the agricultural work to which they were accustomed. Many moved into cities to make a living. This gradual disintegration of the black coastal enclaves helped to speed black assimilation into the local culture.

Despite a small, elite group of black intellectuals, the average Afro-Costa Rican in the late twentieth century was poor and worked in subsistence farming or as a wage laborer. Although there was some organized effort by the elite to achieve equality for the country’s blacks, few Afro-Costa Ricans ever have achieved political power. The population of blacks in Costa Rica in the early 1990s was estimated at about 64,000, or 2% of the country’s population. Leading contemporary Afro-Costa Ricans include Quince Duncan, a writer of West Indian descent.

Costa Rica’s longtime border squabble with Nicaragua broke into the open once again in 1999 when Nicaragua accused Costa Rica of violating the 1858 Cañas-Jerez Treaty that separated the two countries. Later in 1999, a group of lawyers from both countries urged that the treaty be revised. The administration of President Miguel Angel Rodríguez Echeverría came under fire for some of its measures to stimulate long-term economic growth, which triggered civil protests and work stoppages. In April 2002, Abel Pacheco of the ruling Social Christian Unity Party won the country’s presidency.

The Afro-Costa Ricans (also called Afro-Ticos) make up a relatively small number of four million people in the country. They are mostly descendants of Jamaicans.


Official name: Republic of Cuba

Independence: 20 May 1902 (from United States)

Area: 110,860 sq km

Form of government: Communist state

Capital: Havana

International relations: CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IAEA, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM, OAS (excluded from formal participation since 1962), OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Cuban peso (CUP)

Income: US$3,000 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 11,346,670 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%

Religious groups: nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to Castro assuming power; Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria are also represented

Languages: Spanish

Literacy: 97% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, coffee

Primary export partners: Netherlands 22.7%, Canada 20.6%, China 7.7%, Russia 7.5%, Spain 6.4%, Venezuela 4.4% (2004)

Imports: petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals, semi-finished goods, transport equipment, consumer goods

Primary import partners: Spain 14.7%, Venezuela 13.5%, US 11%, China 8.9%, Canada 6.4%, Italy 6.2%, Mexico 4.9% (2004)

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. When Columbus first visited the island in 1492, he found it inhabited by three Native American groups: the Ciboneys, Guanahuatabeys, and Taino Arawaks. As Spain developed its colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere, Havana became an important commercial seaport. Settlers eventually moved inland, devoting themselves mainly to sugar cane and tobacco farming. As the native Indian population died out, enslaved Africans were imported to work on the plantations, the first such shipment arriving in 1526. These first Africans were used largely to work the island’s sugar and coffee plantations. A 1774 census counted 96,000 whites, 31,000 free blacks, and 44,000 enslaved Africans in Cuba.

The trade in Africans grew rapidly during the final third of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Among the factors contributing to this dramatic growth was the collapse of the sugar trade out of Haiti following its revolution and Spain’s decision to allow Cuba to trade with the outside world. By the early nineteenth century, the enslaved population of Cuba was estimated at more than a million individuals. Most of the indigenous population had fallen victim to disease or died in conflict with European settlers, so that left the Spaniards and those of African ancestry as the two main population groups within Cuba. Relations between the two groups were at times strained. In 1812, Jose Antonio Aponte, a free black working as a carpenter in Havana, plotted a conspiracy to overthrow colonial rule and abolish African enslavement. A major factor against social advancement by blacks in Cuba was the fear of an uprising by Africans such as had occurred in Haiti. The impact of this phobia is best illustrated by the colonists’ savage repression of the so-called Ladder Conspiracy in 1844. In its wake, colonial authorities, widely supported by the European population, executed thousands of blacks and mulattos.

Blacks were allowed to form councils called cabildos. At first these groups were set up to correspond to the various sections of Africa from which they had originally come. In time, the councils evolved into all-African organizations, accepting members who had originated in all parts of the continent. Eventually, these cabildos developed into the twentieth century clubs and mutual aid societies.

Afro-Cubans played a crucial role in the country’s fight for independence from Spain, beginning with the Ten Years’ War that began in 1868. The rebels’ 1866 constitution declared that all residents of the republic who took up arms against the Spanish were to be considered free. Following that lead, the rebels’ Central Assembly of Representatives proclaimed the abolition of those in bondage. However, the underlying fear of blacks felt by most white Cubans was exploited by Spanish forces to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of rebel leaders. Rebels were asked to consider the true intentions of blacks who rose through the ranks of the rebel military. Again, visions of a Haiti-type insurrection arose. The resulting divisions among rebel forces led eventually to the failure of their push for independence. The treaty with Spain ending the Ten Years’ War provided for freedom only for the blacks who had fought in the revolution. A subsequent uprising, dubbed the Little War of 1879–1880, was discredited in the Spanish press as being racist in nature because many of its leaders were black. Although colonial authorities abolished slavery in 1880, they replaced it with a system called patronato, under which the freed Africans were apprenticed to their owners for a period of eight years. In 1886, the system of patronato was ended prematurely, bringing freedom to all.

During the twentieth century, Fidel Castro, who seized power in 1959, transformed Cuba into a socialist nation with the aid of the Soviet Union. Castro became a champion of anti-colonialism, which made him popular in Third World countries struggling for independence. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its extensive aid to Cuba have exacerbated the island’s economic difficulties. This, along with the politically repressive nature of the Castro regime, continues to prompt many Cubans to attempt to flee their country. Leading contemporary Afro-Cubans include: musical performers Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Rubén González, Pablo Milanés, Lázaro Ros, and Jesüs (Chucho) Valdés; artists María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Manuel Mendive; film director Gloria Rolando; and literary figures Marcelino Arozarena, Nancy Morejón, and Excilia Saldaña.

Long-strained relations between Cuba and the United States eased somewhat in 1999. U.S. President Bill Clinton announced policy changes that allowed Americans to travel to Cuba and to explore the island’s business opportunities. He also allowed U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies for conducting business on confiscated American properties in Cuba. In late July 1999, Fidel Castro urged the United States to cooperate with Cuba in the war on drugs. The first half of 2000 saw a deterioration in U.S.-Cuban relations as the two countries battled over the custody of six-year-old Elián Gonzalez, rescued off the coast of Florida in November 1999 after a disastrous crossing from Cuba in which his mother and several others had drowned. The child was eventually returned to the custody of his father, who took him back to Cuba. In 2001, Cuba was alive with speculation about who would succeed Castro as president. Relations with the United States took another hit when President George W. Bush appointed anti-Castro exiles to high-level government positions.

In July 2006, Castro temporarily transferred the presidency to his brother and first vice president, Raul Castro, while he underwent a medical procedure. It was widely speculated that he was suffering from terminal stomach cancer.


Official name: Commonwealth of Dominica

Independence: 3 November 1978 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 754 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy; republic within the Commonwealth

Capital: Roseau


Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$5,500 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 69,029 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black, mixed black and European, European, Syrian, Carib Amerindian

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 77%, Protestant 15% (Methodist 5%, Pentecostal 3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3%, Baptist 2%, other 2%), none 2%, other 6%

Languages: English (official), French patois

Literacy: 94% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 2003 est.)

Exports: bananas, soap, bay oil, vegetables, grapefruit, oranges

Primary export partners: UK 21.6%, Jamaica 14.8%, Antigua and Barbuda 8.8%, Guyana 7.5%, Japan 5.4%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.8%, US 4.3%, Saint Lucia 4% (2004)

Imports: manufactured goods, machinery and equipment, food, chemicals

Primary import partners: China 20.4%, US 16.8%, Trinidad and Tobago 12.3%, UK 6.9%, South Korea 4.6%, Japan 4.3% (2004)

Europeans first visited Dominica on Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. Spanish ships frequently landed on Dominica during the sixteenth century, but failed to establish a stronghold on the island. In 1635, France claimed Dominica. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years’ War being fought in Europe, North America, and India, the island became a British possession.

In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the “Brown Privilege Bill” conferred political and social rights on nonwhites. Three blacks were elected to the Legislative Assembly the following year, and, by 1838, the recently enfranchised blacks dominated that body. Most black legislators were smallholders or merchants, who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule. In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one in which half of the members were appointed.

The power of the black population progressively eroded until all political rights for the vast majority of the population were effectively curtailed. On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom. Almost all 81,000 Dominicans are descendants of enslaved Africans imported by planters in the eighteenth century.

In 1980, Mary Eugenia Charles became the first woman to come to power in the Caribbean as well as the only black woman to lead an independent nation. Her longevity and determination earned her the nickname “The Iron Lady of the Caribbean.” Trained as a lawyer, Charles rose through the ranks of government, spending most of her career in politics. After serving three terms as prime minister, she was succeeded in 1995 by Edison C. James.

In January 2000 general elections, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) failed to win a majority, capturing only 10 of 21 seats, but was able to form a government after forming a coalition with the Dominica Freedom Party, which won two seats. Roosevelt Douglas, leader of the DLP, became the island’s new prime minister. In October 2000, Douglas suffered a fatal heart attack and was replaced by Pierre Charles, former minister of communications and works. In July 2001, the IMF applied pressure to Dominica to reduce government spending and find ways to increase its revenues.

Dominican Republic

Official name: Dominican Republic

Independence: 27 February 1844 (from Haiti)

Area: 48,730 sq km

Form of government: representative democracy

Capital: Santo Domingo

International relations: ACP, CARICOM (observer), ECLAC, FAO, G-11, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (subscriber), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Dominican peso (DOP)

Income: US$6,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 8,581,477 (July 2001 est.)

Ethnic groups: white 16%, black 11%, mixed 73%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 95%

Languages: Spanish

Literacy: 84.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats

Primary export partners: US 80%, South Korea 2.1%, Canada 1.9% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals

Primary import partners: US 48.1%, Venezuela 13.5%, Colombia 4.8%, Mexico 4.8% (2004)

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by members of the Taino when Columbus and his companions landed there in 1492. Brutal colonial conditions reduced the Taino population from an estimated one million to about 200 in only 50 years.

Santo Domingo, as the territory was known under Spanish rule, has long been considered the “cradle of blackness in the Americas” because it served as the port of entry for the first enslaved Africans traded to the Western Hemisphere. Beginning shortly after the first visit of Columbus, the trade in humans brought in waves of Christianized blacks, known as “Ladinos,” and “bosales,” as blacks imported directly from Africa were known. At first, these Africans were put to work in the country’s gold mines. However, these soon gave out, and efforts were undertaken to cultivate sugar cane on a large scale. Once the sugar business had been successfully established, after a period of fits and starts, more Africans were brought in to work the fields.

From early in the colony’s history, blacks outnumbered whites by a significant margin. In 1542, only 50 years after the first visit of Columbus, the population was made up of 30,000 blacks, 6,000 whites, and only 200 Tainos. By the close of the sixteenth century, blacks represented 61% of the total population, followed by whites at 23% and mulattos at 15%. Eventually, sugar cultivation’s position as the colony’s main cash crop was overtaken by livestock raising and the cultivation of ginger. These changes had a number of effects on the enslaved population, among those the fact that fewer Africans were needed to raise livestock than were needed in the cultivation of sugar cane. The reduction in the need for such labor was ironically timely, because the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw the loss of a significant number of Africans to disease.

The colonial powers, worried by the possibility of a large-scale uprising by blacks, enacted a system of laws that closely regulated every aspect of their lives. These laws, however, failed to eliminate uprisings, of which several occurred in the early years of the colony. In the wake of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a enslaved Haitian who had become a military leader, seized control of Santo Domingo, bringing all of Hispaniola under his control. He abolished enslavement throughout Santo Domingo. The following year, French soldiers invaded, taking control of Santo Domingo for France, which retained control until the War of Recon-quest in 1809. Under French rule, enslavement was reinstated. The War of Reconquest, plotted by creoles with the support of the Spanish governor of nearby Puerto Rico, returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control. In 1822, Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer seized the colony and maintained control for the next 22 years. Once again, enslavement was abolished in Santo Domingo. Independence from Haiti was finally achieved in 1844.

One of the dominant figures in twentieth-century Dominican Republic history was dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the country with an iron hand for more than 30 years. After Trujillo’s dictatorship ended in a 1961 assassination, Joaquín Balaguer took over as president and instituted a police state. In 1962, former exile Juan Bosch was elected president in the country’s first free elections in four decades. Criticized for being too soft on communism, Bosch was deposed in September 1963 and replaced by a three-man civilian junta. When pro-Bosch elements in the military rebelled against the government, U.S. forces intervened. Voters in 1966 returned Balaguer to the presidency. He won reelection easily in 1970 and 1974. However, in 1978 elections, Balaguer was unseated by Silvestre Antonio Guzmán. In July 1982, Salvador Jorge Blanco was elected to succeed him. Balaguer was returned to the presidency in 1986 elections. He was reelected in 1990 and 1994 but agreed to serve only two years of the last term to which he was elected after charges of election fraud. In 1996, Leonel Fernández Reyna was elected president.

Economic progress on the Dominican Republic was the big news of 1999. The country, with a growth rate of more than 6% for several years, was singled out as the best economic performer of the entire Latin American region. Much of its economic growth was credited to the aggressive campaign by President Fernández to attract foreign investment. The presidential elections of May 2000 brought to power Hipólito Mejía Dominguez, leader of the Dominican Republic Party, which had last been in power in 1986. In 2001, the failure of the Mejía administration to continue the robust economic growth of the recent past caused widespread disillusionment.

Leading contemporary Afro-Dominicans include literary figures Manuel del Cabral and Blas Jiménez and musicians Juan Luis Guerra and Johnny Ventura.


Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Independence: 24 May 1822 (from Spain)

Area: 283,560 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Quito


Currency: U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$3,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 13,363,593 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 95%

Languages: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)

Literacy: 92.5% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum, bananas, shrimp, coffee, cocoa, cut flowers, fish

Primary export partners: US 42.9%, Panama 14.3%, Peru 7.9%, Italy 4.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, raw materials, fuels; consumer goods

Primary import partners: US 16.5%, Colombia 14.1%, China 9.2%, Venezuela 7.1%, Brazil 6.5%, Chile 4.6%, Japan 4.5%, Mexico 4.3% (2004)

Together with Colombia, its neighbor to the north, and Panama, Ecuador shares a region that makes up the so-called Pacific Lowlands Black Culture. This region stretches from Panama’s Darién province in the north through Colombia’s Cauca Valley on to Esmeraldas province in Ecuador in the south. The Pacific coastal area stretching through the three countries developed its high concentration of Afro-Hispanics through the migration patterns of blacks and a tradition of racial intermixing that began in colonial times. Although the three-nation Pacific coastal area is notable for its size, blacks historically settled in all three major geographical areas of Ecuador: the Pacific coast, the Amazon lowlands in the eastern part of the country, and the highlands.

As in much of Latin America, Ecuador’s Spanish colonial rulers followed a policy of racial and cultural whitening, encouraging widespread racial mixing as a logical avenue to reach that goal. Even in the late twentieth century, remnants of that philosophy can be found in Ecuador. So deeply ingrained is the policy of whitening that even some black groups strongly advocate greater cultural and racial blending.

Enslaved Africans were first brought to Ecuador in the middle of the sixteenth century. Most were pressed into service as farm workers in portions of the colony where Indian labor was either scarce or nonexistent. An enclave of blacks grew up in the northwest coastal province of Esmeraldas, after a small party of Africans being transported by ship between Panama and Peru escaped and settled in the area. The escapees mixed freely with the Indians of the region, and the resulting zambos of mixed black and Indian blood came to dominate this region. Although some blacks who joined in the fight for Ecuador’s independence from Spain were freed in return for their war efforts, an official proclamation ending African enslavement did not come until 1851. Even so, an involuntary form of enslavement survived until 1894.

Ecuador was beset with increased political instability throughout the final decade of the twentieth century and into the new millennium. Although the country has been a presidential democracy since 1979, its political institutions are notoriously fragile. Gustavo Noboa in January 2000 became the sixth president since 1996 after a coup ousted President Jamil Mahuad. Noboa’s term as president ended in January 2003.

Leading contemporary Afro-Ecuadorians include literary figures Nelson Estupiñán Bass and Antonio Preciado Bedoya.

El Salvador

Official name: Republic of El Salvador

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 21,040 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: San Salvador

International relations: BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Salvadoran colon (SVC); U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$4,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 6,704,932 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo 90%, Amerindian 1%, white 9%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 86%

Languages: Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians)

Literacy: 80.2% (age 10 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity

Primary export partners: US 65.6%, Guatemala 11.8%, Honduras 6.3% (2004)

Imports: raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, electricity

Primary import partners: US 46.3%, Guatemala 8.1%, Mexico 6% (2004)

In the final days of the twentieth century, the black population of El Salvador was negligible, the lowest proportion of African-descended residents to be found anywhere in Central America. During the colonial period, some Africans were imported by El Salvador’s Spanish rulers to help fill labor shortages created by the wholesale exportation of the indigenous Amerindian peoples to South America and Mexico. However, Central America’s need for enslaved African labor was not as great as in other of Spain’s New World colonies, largely because the mines in the region produced relatively modest yields and large-scale agriculture was virtually nonexistent. Without the profits from such enterprises, most landowners in El Salvador could ill afford the cost of importing Africans, particularly since in most cases the available Amerindian labors were sufficient to fill their needs.

By the early 1800s, the number of enslaved Africans was so low that it was difficult to find residents who identified themselves as having African roots. Between the low number of blacks and the high rate of intermixing between European, indigenous, and the few blacks in the colony, it had become virtually impossible to distinguish between those with African blood and the mestizos of mixed European and Indian ancestry. By 1824, the Central American Federation, from which the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua were eventually formed, had won its independence from Spain. Because the number of enslaved Africans throughout the area was small, particularly when compared with other territories in the New World, abolition of African enslavement was achieved without a great deal of trauma on all parties involved.

Former philosophy professor Francisco Flores Pérez of the conservative National Republic Alliance was elected president in March 1999, roundly defeating his nearest opponent, Facundo Guardado of the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation. As his first order of business, Flores pledged to increase the country’s standard of living and reduce its rising crime rate. The new president’s failure to deliver quickly on his economic promises gave rise to a number of labor actions and protests in 2000. Toward the end of the year, however, indicators pointed to a more promising outlook for the country’s economy. In January 2001, a major earthquake caused widespread destruction in and around the nation’s capital. El Salvador in March 2001 joined with Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico in a new free-trade agreement.

French Guiana

Official name: Department of Guiana

Independence: none (overseas department of France)

Area: 91,000 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Cayenne

International relations: FZ, WCL, WFTU

Currency: French franc (FRF); euro (EUR)

Income: US$8,300 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 195,506 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black or mulatto 66%, white 12%, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian 12%, other 10%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic

Languages: French

Literacy: 83% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1982 est.)

Exports: shrimp, timber, gold, rum, rosewood essence, clothing

Primary export partners: France 62%, Switzerland 7%, US 2% (2001)

Imports: food (grains, processed meat), machinery and transport equipment, fuels and chemicals

Primary import partners: France 63%, US, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy (2002 est.)

The first European visitor to what is now French Guiana was Christopher Columbus, who stopped off there during the course of his third voyage to the New World. Struck the beauty of the region, he wrote glowingly of its wonders. His writings later inspired other European explorers to visit the area, many of whom were convinced that the mythical El Dorado, the golden city, was to be found within the territory’s interior. The French first visited the area in 1604, looking not only for gold but for territory that could be claimed for their country. It was not until 1652 that the first enslaved Africans were brought into Guiana. Because the colony was sparsely settled, the African population grew very slowly. By 1765, Guiana’s enslaved population totaled only about 5,700. Sixty-five years later, in 1830, it reaches its peak of just over 19,000.

Although most of the Africans had come from tropical climates themselves, many died from tropical diseases in Guiana. Others fled their masters in the more heavily settled coastal zone and escaped into the interior where they reverted to a lifestyle as hunter-gatherers, much as they had done in their home countries. Although French attempts to establish agricultural plantations in Guiana failed, the colonial powers were undaunted in their determination to develop the territory. The abolition of enslavement in 1848 sounded the death knell for Guiana’s two main industries, lumber and sugar, which collapsed. To give the colony a raison d’étre, the French decided to transform Guiana into a penal colony. Between 1852 and 1939, France shipped more than 70,000 prisoners to the colony. Tropical diseases, including malaria and yellow fever, took an enormous toll on the prisoners, claiming the lives of nearly 90% of them.

Among the notable French Guianans of African descent, Félix Eboué stands out for his significant contributions as an adviser to General Charles de Gaulle during World War II. Born in 1884, Eboué was the descendant of Africans. He first distinguished himself through his reforms of the French colonial administration. Poet Léon-Gontran Damas is the country’s most famous writer. In the late twentieth century, a number of elements of the Afro-Guianan community were actively seeking to revive and preserve black culture in the country.


Official name: none

Independence: 7 February 1974 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 340 sq km

Form of government: constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style parliament

Capital: Saint George’s


Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$5,000 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 89,502 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 82% some South Asians (East Indians) and Europeans, trace Arawak/Carib Amerindian

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 53%, Anglican 13.8%, other Protestant 33.2%

Languages: English (official), French patois

Literacy: 98% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1970 est.)

Exports: bananas, cocoa, nutmeg, fruit and vegetables, clothing, mace

Primary export partners: Saint Lucia 12.7%, US 12.2%, Antigua and Barbuda 8.7%, Netherlands 7.9%, Saint Kitts and Nevis 7.8%, Dominica 7.8%, Germany 7.1%, France 4.6% (2004)

Imports: food, manufactured goods, machinery, chemicals, fuel (1989)

Primary import partners: Trinidad and Tobago 29.6%, US 27.8%, UK 4.8% (2004)

Similar to the rest of the West Indies, Grenada was originally settled to cultivate sugar, which was grown on estates using enslaved African labor. Most of Grenada’s population is of African descent; little trace of the early Arawak and Carib Indians remains.

Columbus first visited Grenada in 1498. Grenada remained uncolonized for more than 100 years after the first visit by Europeans, and British efforts to settle the island were unsuccessful. In 1650, a French company purchased Grenada from the British and established a small settlement. By 1753, the island’s population was dominated by Africans, who numbered close to 12,000, against a total of 1,262 whites and 179 free blacks. Most of the free blacks were of mixed European-African descent, the result of intermixing between the island’s French planters and the Africans. The island remained under French control until captured by the British more than a century later during the Seven Years’ War. African enslavement was outlawed in 1833, the same year Grenada was made part of the British Windward Islands Administration. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration dissolved. Grenada became an associated state on March 3, 1967, but sought full independence, which the British government granted on February 7, 1974.

The New Jewel movement led by Maurice Bishop assumed power in 1979. He was overthrown and killed in 1983 when Bernard Coard took over the country. The United States, along with forces from other English-speaking Caribbean countries invaded to restore order. An interim advisory council then governed the country until parliamentary elections in December 1984. Those elections established Herbert A. Blaize as Grenada’s new prime minister. After Blaize’s death, Nicholas Brathwaite was elected prime minister. Brathwaite’s popularity plummeted in the wake of an economic slowdown in the early 1990s, and he announced he would resign as prime minister in 1995. George Brizan succeeded him in February 1995, who in late June 1995 turned over power to Keith Mitchell, established as prime minister in parliamentary elections earlier that month.

A new election was held in January 1999, two months after the ruling New National Party of Prime Minister Mitchell lost its parliamentary majority upon the resignation of Foreign Minister Raphael Fletcher. Mitchell and his party regained their majority. Despite aggressive action earlier in 2001 to close down rogue offshore banks, Grenada in September was added to the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force in its worldwide crackdown on money laundering.

The island faced new economic troubles in the mid-1990s when the banana crop failed and an infestation of mealy bugs severely damaged the cocoa crop. Grenada is one of four former English colonies in the Caribbean considering the formation of a federation to ease financial pressures on all member countries. The others countries discussing joining in this federation are Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. One of the major success stories in Grenada during the 1990s has been the growth experienced by the island’s tourism industry. Grenada has proved particularly popular with divers, snorkelers, and sailors in recent years. Also a major player in the island’s economy is the spice industry, which continues to turn in a strong performance. The island produces more spices per square mile than anywhere else on earth.

The island was hit heavily by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that devastated the economy along a majority of homes on the island. The following year, Hurricane Emily struck and caused another $100 million worth of damage. The country and the economy are gradually recovering from the damage, but one of its premiere exports, the nutmeg industry, is still struggling to regain its position.


Official name: Department of Guadeloupe

Independence: none (overseas department of France)

Area: 1,780 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Basse-Terre

International relations: FZ, WCL, WFTU

Currency: French franc (FRF); euro (EUR)

Income: US$7,900 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 448,713 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black or mulatto 90%, white 5%, East Indian, Lebanese, Chinese less than 5%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 95%, Hindu and pagan African 4%, Protestant 1%

Languages: French (official) 99%, Creole patois

Literacy: 90% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1982 est.)

Exports: bananas, sugar, rum

Primary export partners: France 60%, Martinique 18%, US 4% (1999)

Imports: foodstuffs, fuels, vehicles, clothing and other consumer goods, construction materials

Primary import partners: France 63%, Germany 4%, US 3%, Japan 2%, Netherlands Antilles 2% (1999)

Columbus sighted Guadeloupe in 1493. The French permanently settled the area in the seventeenth century. The first enslaved Africans were brought to work the plantations around 1650, and the first rebellion occurred in 1656. Guadeloupe was poorly administered in its early days and was a dependency of Martinique until 1775.

The enslaved Africans of Guadeloupe were slow to react to news of the French Revolution. The French abolition of enslavement less than five years later was not preceded by any major uprisings on the island, although a handful of minor revolts did occur. Two members of the French Republican Convention, who brought the abolition decree to Guadeloupe, also recruited freed Africans to help drive out British invaders, who had occupied the island while France was preoccupied with its revolution at home. In the wake of the rout of British occupying forces, many white landowners and merchants sympathetic to the British cause were executed or exiled. As a result, the white ruling class was considerably weakened and depleted in numbers. In the years following the British occupation of the island, whites made up only about 10% of the population, compared to about 33% in 1735. As the white population was weakened, the black merchant class gained strength. Blacks and those of mixed African and European descent were welcomed into the colony’s military.

A number of black soldiers in 1802 revolted against troops sent to the Caribbean by Napoleon Bonaparte to reinstitute African enslavement. Their resistance was quickly overcome, and France reimposed a particularly brutal brand of enslavement on its islands for the next 46 years. By 1835, 13 years before abolition, free blacks on the island outnumber whites by a margin of 19,000 to 12,000. In the wake of Britain’s ban on enslavement in its Caribbean colonies, attempts were made in the French island to make enslavement less dehumanizing. The hope was that by so doing the institution of enslavement could be preserved. Despite legislated measures to give the captive Africans some basic rights, the effort was a failure, since individual slave owners were free to deal with their enslaved Africans as they wished.

The new millennium brought signs that Guadeloupe and other French overseas departments might soon win greater autonomy in the management of their local affairs. French President Chirac in March 2000 hinted strongly that the highly centralized relationship between Paris and its overseas department might be relaxed in favor of a less restrictive arrangement. Violent protests erupted on Guadeloupe in June 2001 after a number of island shopkeepers refused to observe the anniversary of the abolition of enslavement on the island.

Most Guadeloupeans are of mixed Afro-European and Afro-Indian ancestry (descendants of laborers brought over from India during the nineteenth century). Several thousand metropolitan French reside there, including civil servants, business people, and their dependents. Leading contemporary Afro-Guadeloupeans include literary figures Jean Louis Baghio’o, Maryse Condé, and Simone Schwartz-Bart.


Official name: Republic of Guatemala

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 108,890 sq km

Form of government: constitutional democratic republic

Capital: Guatemala City

International relations: BCIE, CACM, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: quetzal (GTQ), U.S. dollar (US$), others allowed

Income: US$4,200 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 14,655,189 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish or assimilated Amerindian, in local Spanish called Ladino), approximately 55%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian, approximately 43%, whites and others 2%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs

Languages: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (more than 20 Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)

Literacy: 70.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, sugar, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom, meat, apparel, petroleum, electricity

Primary export partners: US 53%, El Salvador 11.4%, Honduras 7.1%, Mexico 4.1% (2004)

Imports: fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity

Primary import partners: US 34%, Mexico 8.1%, South Korea 6.8%, China 6.6%, Japan 4.4% (2004)

Although blacks make up a very small percentage of Guatemala’s population, there are traces of African influence to be found in the Central American country. Among these are a popular folk dance called the marimba, based on rhythms and steps brought to the country by Africans.

Beginning in the first half of the sixteenth century, steps were taken by Guatemalan whites to limit the number of blacks allowed into the colony. The heavy concentrations of Amerindian indigenous peoples provided an adequate labor supply for most of Guatemala, thus reducing the need for the importation of enslaved Africans. The Guatemalan town of Tianguey enacted an ordinance in 1537 prohibiting the entry of blacks or those of mixed-black ancestry without express permission from town officials. The aim was to prevent any intermixing with the indigenous peoples of the area. Even in the twentieth century, the country’s government has attempted to legislate against immigration by blacks. Guatemala’s 1945 constitution official bans “immigration of individuals of the black race.”

The late 1990s were marked by widespread violence and human rights abuses in Guatemala. A survey of Guatemalans taken in mid-1999 showed that 88 percent felt administration of justice in the country was inadequate. In November 1999 general elections, Alfonso Portillo Cabrera was elected president, and he assumed office in mid-January 2000, promising to revitalize the economy and reduce the power of the country’s military. President Clinton had earlier admitted that the United States should not have provided military support to Guatemala. Scandals undermined support for the Portillo administration in 2001, and the president himself came under increasing fire for the continuing high crime rate and his frequent foreign journeys. More recently, Guatemala has enjoyed relative calm and held successful elections. The country has signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) free-trade agreement in which the country will cooperate economically with the other participants.


Official name: Co-operative Republic of Guyana

Independence: 26 May 1966 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 214,970 sq km

Form of government: republic within the Commonwealth

Capital: Georgetown

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ISO (subscriber), ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OIC, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Currency: Guyanese dollar (GYD)

Income: US $3,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 765,283 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: East Indian 49%, black 32%, mixed 12%, Amerindian 6%, white and Chinese 1%

Religious groups: Christian 50%, Hindu 33%, Muslim 9%, other 8%

Languages: English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu

Literacy: 98.8% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 2003 est.)

Exports: sugar, gold, bauxite/alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, timber

Primary export partners: Canada 23.2%, US 19.2%, UK 10.9%, Portugal 9%, Belgium 6.4%, Jamaica 5.2% (2004)

Imports: manufactures, machinery, petroleum, food

Primary import partners: Trinidad and Tobago 24.8%, US 24.5%, Cuba 6.8%, UK 5.4% (2004)

Guiana was the name given the area sighted by Columbus in 1498, comprising modern Guyana, Suri-name, French Guiana, and parts of Brazil and Venezuela. The Dutch settled in Guyana in the late sixteenth century. Dutch control ended when the British became the de facto rulers in 1796. In 1815, the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice were officially ceded to the British by the Congress of Vienna and, in 1831, were consolidated as British Guiana.

Enslaved African uprisings, such as the one in 1763 led by Guyana’s national hero, Cuffy, stressed the desire to obtain basic rights and were underscored by a willingness to compromise. Following the abolition of enslavement in 1834, indentured workers were brought primarily from India but also from Portugal and China. A scheme in 1862 to bring black workers from the United States was unsuccessful.

Independence was achieved in 1966, and Guyana became a republic on February 23, 1970, the anniversary of the Cuffy’s rebellion. Between 1968 and 1972, the PNC party ruled Guyana. It was during the rule of Forbes Burnham in 1975 that Jim Jones, a fringe religious leader from the United States, gained the country unfortunate international recognition when his religious cult engaged in a mass suicide in Jonestown after the murder of a U.S. congressional representative.

Although the black population of Guyana trails that of the Indo-Guyanese, who make up slightly more than 50% of the population and a sharply higher percentage in the late twentieth century government, the African influences upon the country’s culture are significant. Blacks played a major role in the development of modern-day Guyana, from the mid-seventeenth century when the first Africans were sold to Dutch planters through the early years after independence, when the country was ruled by authoritarian black governments. Forbes Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese led the country from 1968 until 1985. When Burnham died in office in 1985, Desmond Hoyte, who held office until 1992, succeeded him. In the country’s first free elections since 1964, Cheddi Jagan, the first leader of the country after independence, was again voted into office. Jagan died suddenly in office in January 1997 and was succeeded by his widow, Janet, who, in December 1997, won the presidency on her own. Other influential Afro-Guyanese include literary figures Martin Carter and Theodore Wilson Harris.

Citing failing health, President Janet Jagan stepped down in August 1999 and was replaced by Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo. In early 2000, the country joined most of its neighbors in passing legislation that made money laundering a crime. In March 2001, general elections, Jagdeo won another five-year term as president. The elections were followed by brief period of civil unrest, which Jagdeo and the leader of the major opposition party sought to calm through reconciliation talks. In July 2001, Guyana’s longstanding border conflict with Venezuela boiled over once again when a Venezuelan official denounced the 1899 treaty that ceded the disputed Essequio region to Guyana.


Official name: Republic of Haiti

Independence: 1 January 1804 (from France)

Area: 27,750 sq km

Form of government: elected government

Capital: Port-au-Prince


Currency: gourde (HTG)

Income: US $1,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 8,121,622 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black 95%, mulatto and white 5%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%

Languages: French (official), Creole (official)

Literacy: 52.9% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: manufactures, coffee, oils, mangoes

Primary export partners: US 81.2%, Dominican Republic 7.3%, Canada 4.1% (2004)

Imports: food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, raw materials

Primary import partners: US 34.8%, Netherlands Antilles 18%, Malaysia 5.1%, Colombia 4.7% (2004)

Columbus first visited the Island of Hispaniola in 1492. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. During this period, Africans were enslaved and brought to work the sugar cane and coffee plantations. Several decades later, a major revolt erupted—white French planters, Africans, and free mulattoes clashed over issues of rights, land, and labor, as the forces of France, Britain, and Spain manipulated the conflict. At first, the Africans and mulattoes shared the goals of the French revolution in opposition to the royalist French planters, but with time, a coalition of planters and mulattoes arose in opposition to the interests of the Africans.

Toussaint L’Ouverture became the leader of the revolutionary forces, which by mid-1790s consisted of a disciplined group of 4,000 mostly former slaves. He successfully waged a campaign against the British. At the height of L’Ouverture’s power and influence in 1796, Gen. Rigaud, who led the mulatto forces, sought to reimpose enslavement on the black islanders. L’Ouverture quickly achieved victory, captured Santo Domingo, and, by 1801, had virtual control of the Spanish part of the island. In 1802, a French expeditionary force was sent to reestablish French control of the island. Following a hard-fought resistance to French colonial ambitions in the Western Hemisphere, Toussaint L’Ouverture struck a peace treaty with Napoleon. However, L’Ouverture was tricked, captured, and sent to France where he died on April 7, 1803, in cruel conditions.

In the wake of its victorious struggle for independence, Haiti became a model for much of the black world. However, it was not long before the black-ruled country began to face enormous pressure, both from within the country and abroad. The country’s new rulers were ill prepared for the responsibility of leading a nation, thus keeping the country in a state of instability. It had no other country to which it could turn for either moral or financial support, because it was regarded as an outcast in a world that was largely controlled by whites. The very idea of the enslaved Africans overthrowing their masters to seize control of a country was frightening to most white-controlled governments. The country was in ruins in the wake of its battle to banish the French, and Dessa-lines made a critical error when he pressed all Haitians who were not in the military into agricultural service on some of the surviving plantations. Further exacerbating problems for the new black republic was the growing enmity that developed between the country’s black majority and the mulatto elite. After the death of Dessa-lines, control of the island was split between the blacks, who held the northern part of Haiti, and the mulattos, who were in control of the South.

In the twentieth century, the country languished under nearly 30 years of despotic rule by the Duvalier family. François Duvalier was elected president in 1957. In the 1960s, he declared himself president for life. When he died in 1971, his son, Jean-Claude, succeeded him. During this period, much of the Western world, including the United States, cut off foreign assistance to Haiti to express its collective outrage over the political situation there. In the 1980s, popular dissatisfaction with the Duvalier rule grew stronger, and, early in 1986, the young Duvalier was forced to flee the country. A politically tumultuous period followed, with one corrupt leader quickly succeeding another, until the election in December 1990 of former Catholic priest turned politician, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Only eight months after his inauguration in February 1991, Aristide was ousted in a coup led by Brigadier General Raoul Cedras. Following Aristide’s ouster, thousands of Haitians attempted to emigrate to the United States, with little success. In 1994, U.S. forces took control, and Aristide was returned to power. He handed power over to Rene Preval, his hand-picked successor, in December 1995. The country was in an economic and political shambles into the late 1990s.

President René Préval effectively established oneman rule in early 1999 when he dissolved Parliament. Parliamentary elections originally scheduled for late 1999 were postponed until May 2000. Although the integrity of the voting process was widely questioned, the results showed an overwhelming majority for the Lavalas Family party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In November 2000 presidential elections, Aristide won 91% of the vote. The former president returned to power in early 2001 against a backdrop of continuing economic decline and rapid deterioration of the country’s economic infrastructure. In February 2004, Aristide was again overthrown and left the country under a U.S. Marine escort. In 2006, René Préval was formerly elected and became Haiti’s next president.

Almost 95% of the Haitians are of black African descent; the rest of the population is mostly of mixed African-Caucasian ancestry (mulattos). Haiti is one of poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Its international reputation suffered in the early years of the HIV/AIDS virus because it was collectively linked to the country’s inhabitants. It currently suffers from a significant infection rate and there continues to be political and social unrest plaguing the country.


Official name: Republic of Honduras

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 112,090 sq km

Form of government: democratic constitutional republic

Capital: Tegucigalpa


Currency: lempira (HNL)

Income: US$2,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 6,975,204 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European) 90%, Amerindian 7%, black 2%, white 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant minority

Languages: Spanish, Amerindian dialects

Literacy: 76.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, bananas, shrimp, lobster, meat; zinc, lumber

Primary export partners: US 54.4%, El Salvador 8.1%, Germany 5.9%, Guatemala 5.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transport equipment, industrial raw materials, chemical products, fuels, foodstuffs

Primary import partners: US 37.5%, Guatemala 6.9%, Mexico 5.4%, Costa Rica 4.3%, El Salvador 4% (2004)

The first shipment of enslaved Africans—a group of 165—arrived in Honduras in 1540. About five years later, the number of Africans within the colony had risen to 5,000, most of them brought in to replace Indian workers who had been claimed by disease. Most of these Africans were employed as domestic servants or laborers on small farms that were cultivated solely to produce food for consumption within the colony. The absence of plantation-scale farming and mines kept the region’s African population from growing dramatically. The black population grew more after Honduras won independence, when a large number of West Indian blacks of mixed African and Carib Indian ancestry arrived in the country. Up to 5,000 of these newly arrived immigrants known as Garifuna relocated from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent to the island of Roatán, off the coast of Honduras, at the end of the eighteenth century. Over time, most of these Garifuna moved to the mainland.

Another influx of blacks arrived in Honduras in the 1830s when a group of white settlers from the Cayman Islands, fearful about their fate if Britain’s plans to abolish enslavement materialized, began settling in the Honduran Bay Islands. A number of these white Cayman Islanders brought their African captives with them. By the mid-nineteenth century, about 700 blacks from the Cayman Islands had moved to this island group, once again outnumbering the white population. When U.S. fruit companies established vast plantations in the eastern portion of the country, both the black Cayman Islanders and many of the Garifuna went to work for them. The new employment opportunities offered by the fruit estates eventually attracted further black immigration from throughout the Caribbean.

Honduras focused in 1999 on rebuilding from the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. In 2000, Honduras became the second Latin American country to qualify for debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program, which cleared the way for the World Bank, IMF, and other international lenders to forgive portions of the country’s debt and restructure other debts. In February, a border conflict with Nicaragua exploded into violence and later brought sanctions from both countries against one another. In November 2001, Ricardo Maduro of the National Party, who took office in January 2002, won a national election, the presidency. In 2006, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, known as Mel Zelaya, became the new president of the Honduras. The country’s economy is still fragile, while corruption and poverty are significant social concerns.


Official name: none

Independence: 6 August 1962 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 10,990 sq km

Form of government: constitutional parliamentary democracy

Capital: Kingston

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-15, G-19, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Jamaican dollar (JMD)

Income: US$4,100 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 2,731,832 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, white 0.2%, Chinese 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%

Religious groups: Protestant 61.3% (Church of God 21.2%, Baptist 8.8%, Anglican 5.5%, Seventh-Day Adventist 9%, Pentecostal 7.6%, Methodist 2.7%, United Church 2.7%, Brethren 1.1%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.6%, Moravian 1.1%), Roman Catholic 4%, other, including some spiritual cults 34.7%

Languages: English, Creole

Literacy: 87.9% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 2003 est.)

Exports: alumina, bauxite; sugar, bananas, rum

Primary export partners: US 17.4%, Canada 14.8%, France 13%, China 10.5%, UK 8.7%, Netherlands 7.5%, Norway 6%, Germany 5.9% (2004)

Imports: machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, fuel, food, chemicals, fertilizers

Primary import partners: US 38.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 13.2%, France 5.6%, Japan 4.7% (2004)

Jamaica was first visited in 1494 by Christopher Columbus and settled by the Spanish during the early sixteenth century. In the 1650s, British forces seized the island and, in 1670, Britain gained formal possession under the Treaty of Madrid.

Sugar and enslaved Africans were important elements in Jamaica’s history and development. By the early 1830s, the island’s white minority dominated the social and economic affairs of the colony. As international pressure for an end to enslavement began to build, events within Jamaica made clear that the days of wicked system were numbered. In 1832, in a revolt known as the Baptist War, more than 20,000 participants rose up to destroy slavery. So expansive and violent was this insurrection that it caught the attention of the world outside Jamaica. Conjuring up images of the revolution that had occurred in Haiti about 30 years earlier, the Jamaican uprising hastened action in Britain’s Parliament to end African enslavement. The vote that came in August 1833 freed more than 300,000 Africans in Jamaica. However, provisions of emancipation provided for a gradual transition from bondage to complete freedom. For most of the newly freed Africans, this meant a lengthy period of apprenticeship to their former masters. With the emancipation of the Africans, the settlers were forced to recruit other sources of cheap labor, resorting to the importation of Asian Indian and Chinese farm hands.

In 1958, Jamaica joined nine other British territories in the West Indies Federation, but withdrew when, in a 1961 referendum, Jamaican voters rejected membership. Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, but remained a member of the Commonwealth. In the country’s first election following independence, Alexander Bustamante, a leader of the Labor Party, was elected prime minister. Bustamante retired five years later and passed power to Hugh Shearer. After a number of years under the Jamaican Labor party, the 1972 elections put Michael Norman Manley in power. Manley, who steered the country toward socialism, served until 1980, when voters selected Edward Seaga as prime minister. In 1989, voters returned Manley to the prime ministership, but he stepped down in March 1992 because of ill health. His successor, Percival J. Patterson, handily won reelection in 1993.

Jamaica’s debt crisis worsened in 1999 as loan repayments plus interest were estimated to account for more than 60% of the country’s budget expenditures. In April 2000, Prime Minister Patterson announced that Jamaica would not borrow additional funds from the IMF but would ask the international agency to monitor its monetary and fiscal policies for the next two years. Throughout the period, the country’s high crime rate remained a source of serious concern. In spring 2001, tourism suffered a blow when four cruise lines dropped Jamaica from their itineraries. In July 2001, at least 25 persons were killed in gang violence in West Kingston. In 2006, Jamaica installed the new prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, the first female head of state.

A new phenomenon has become particularly apparent in Jamaica, a country that has lost nearly 30% of its population to the United States. Though prevalent in all countries that experience heavy emigration, tens of thousands of Jamaican parents have gone abroad, leaving behind children whom they hope to one day be able to summon. The youngsters have acquired the nickname “barrel children” from the barrels filled with goodies—food, clothing, and photographs—the parents send back whenever possible. Though these children have not actually been abandoned, they are often passed from relative to relative or to friends or strangers. Highly at risk, the children are often susceptible to abuse from their supposed benefactors, many drop out of school, and some get into trouble with the law.


Official name: Department of Martinique

Independence: none (overseas department of France)

Area: 1,100 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Fort-de-France

International relations: FZ, WCL, WFTU

Currency: French franc (FRF); euro (EUR)

Income: US$14,400 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 432,900 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: African and African-white-Indian mixture 90%, white 5%, East Indian, Chinese less than 5%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 95%, Hindu and pagan African 5%

Languages: French, Creole patois

Literacy: 97.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: refined petroleum products, bananas, rum, pineapples

Primary export partners: France 45%, Guadeloupe 28% (2000)

Imports: petroleum products, crude oil, foodstuffs, construction materials, vehicles, clothing and other consumer goods

Primary import partners: France 62%, Venezuela 6%, Germany 4%, Italy 4%, US 3% (2000)

Christopher Columbus first visited Martinique in 1502 on his fourth voyage to the New World. The island’s indigenous Carib Indian population was largely decimated by disease in the wake of Columbus’ visit. The French permanently settled the area in the seventeenth century. Except for three short periods of British occupation, Martinique has been a French possession since 1635.

As sugar plantations sprang up on Martinique, the need for African labor grew quickly, particularly since the island’s indigenous Carib Indians had been all but wiped out by disease introduced by the first European visitors. The island’s population in 1789 was estimated at 12,000 whites, 65,000 enslaved Africans, and 5,000 free blacks. In 1848, less than 60 years later, the enslaved population had moved up by only about 12% to 73,000, while the total of free blacks had soared by almost 700%. The white population, meanwhile, had shrunk to about 9,000. In the spring of 1848, the Africans of Martinique staged a large-scale revolt that precipitated abolition of enslavement in the French colonies one month later.

The island witnessed a number of dramatic changes during the twentieth century. The political realm, once large restricted to Martinique’s white minority, began to open up to those of African ancestry. In 1945, black poet and intellectual Aimé Césaire was elected as a Martini-cian deputy to the French parliament. In addition to his continuing involvement in the politics of his country, Césaire was instrumental in jump-starting the country’s cultural renewal with his book of poetry, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to My Native Land) published in 1947. A strong supporter of Martinique’s existing status as an overseas department of France, Césaire has fallen out of favor with some of Martinique’s young intellectuals for his failure to call for independence from France.

The outlook for greater local autonomy brightened considerably in March 2000 when French President Jacques Chirac hinted that France’s highly centralized relationship with its overseas departments might soon be relaxed. Chirac said that the era of “uniform status” was past and that overseas departments such as Martinique and Guadeloupe might soon enjoy greater local control over their destiny.

About 95% of the people of Martinique are of Afro-European or Afro-European-Indian descent. The rest are traditional white planter families, commonly referred to as creoles, and a sizable number of metropolitan French work in administration and business. Leading contemporary Afro-Martinicians include literary figures Aimé Césaire, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Joseph Zobel.


Official name: United Mexican States

Independence: 16 September 1810 (from Spain)

Area: 1,972,550 sq km

Form of government: federal republic

Capital: Mexico City

International relations: APEC, BCIE, BIS, CARICOM (observer), CCC, CDB, CE (observer), EBRD, ECLAC, FAO, G-3, G-6, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM (observer), NEA, OAS, OECD, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)

Income: US $9,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 106,202,903 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%

Religious groups: nominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%

Languages: Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages

Literacy: 92.2% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton

Primary export partners: US 87.6%, Canada 1.8%, Spain 1.1% (2004)

Imports: metal-working machines, steel mill products, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, car parts for assembly, repair parts for motor vehicles, aircraft, and aircraft parts

Primary import partners: US 53.7%, China 7%, Japan 5.1% (2004)

When Hernán Cortes stepped ashore in Mexico in 1519, he was accompanied by a free black named Juan Garrido, who later participated in the Spanish toppling of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital. By the middle of the sixteenth century, it is estimated that there were almost 150,000 Africans in the country. One of the earlier Africans, Estevanico, is credited with opening up the northern interior lands—of what is now New Mexico and Arizona—to Spanish conquest. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, black Mexicans were believed to have outnumbered whites by a ratio of two to one. However, both groups were vastly outnumbered by the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

Beginning in the early part of the eighteenth century, the country’s Afro-Mexican population started to decline, in part because of new Spanish restrictions on the trade in humans. Although the imported Africans proved more resistant to many of the European-borne diseases than the indigenous peoples did, many did succumb to foreign diseases including tuberculosis, yellow fever, and syphilis. Some of the enslaved blacks were simply worked to death. Furthermore, many of the Africans brought into the colony intermixed with indigenous peoples and whites. The reason for this large-scale intermixing was twofold: the Spaniards purposely limited the number of African women they brought into Mexico, and the prevailing caste system gave individuals with a lighter skin color a higher standing. In 1829, Mexico abolished enslavement in all its states except Texas, allowing it to remain there to pacify the United States. As enslavement in the United States moved westward into Texas, Mexico became a haven for escapees who slipped into the heart of the country and blended with the population.

Some 100,000 blacks, about 0.5% of the population, live in Mexico today, mostly in the port cities of Veracruz and Acapulco. Blacks in lesser numbers live in Mexico City and in border cities across the Rio Grande River from Texas.

For more than seven decades, the Partido Revolucionario Nacional (PRI) governed Mexico. The PRI’s longstanding dominance of the Mexican political scene ended in July 2000 when Vicente Fox Quesada of the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) was elected president. Although it lost control of the presidency, the PRI held on to its dominant position in the Congress. In the 2006 elections, Felipe Calderon of the (PAN) won the presidency narrowly in a hotly contested race against Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The results were rigorously challenged.


Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 100 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Plymouth (abandoned in 1997 due to volcanic activity; interim government buildings have been built at Brades, in the Carr’s Bay/Little Bay vicinity at the northwest end of Montserrat)

International relations: Caricom, CDB, ECLAC (associate), ICFTU, Interpol (subbureau), OECS, WCL

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$3,400 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 9,341 (July 2005)

Ethnic groups: black, white

Religious groups: Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, other Christian denominations

Languages: English

Literacy: 97% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 1970 est.)

Exports: electronic components, plastic bags, apparel, hot peppers, live plants, cattle

Primary export partners: US, Antigua and Barbuda

Imports: machinery and transportation equipment, foodstuffs, manufactured goods, fuels, lubricants, and related materials

Primary import partners: US, UK, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Canada

When Christopher Columbus first visited the Leeward Islands (Antigua, Anguilla, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, and Saint Kitts) in 1493, Carib Indians inhabited them. English settlers who moved to the island from nearby Saint Kitts and Nevis first colonized Montserrat in 1632. The island’s first enslaved Africans were believed to have arrived in Montserrat in 1651. By the early 1670s, there were about 1,000 Africans on the island and by 1729 the number was 6,000. At that time, blacks outnumbered whites by about five to one.

The lives of enslaved Africans on Montserrat were closely regulated. Colonial laws prohibited Africans from becoming masons, shinglers, sawyers, tailors, coopers, or smiths. Furthermore, blacks were forbidden to plant indigo, ginger, cocoa, cotton, or coffee, the main cash crops of the region, although they could grow vegetables for their own use in small gardens. These restrictions ensured that few Africans would ever be able to make and set aside enough money to purchase their freedom. In 1768 and 1770, the island’s whites were alarmed by rumors of planned uprisings. Neither rumored uprising, however, actually took place.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the British and French warred for possession of Montserrat, which was finally confirmed as a British possession by the Treaty of Versailles (1783). By the early nineteenth century, Montserrat had a plantation economy, but the abolition of enslavement in 1834, the elimination of the apprentice system, the declining market for sugar, and a series of natural disasters brought the downfall of the sugar estates.

Today, most of Montserrat’s population is an inter-mixture of European settlers and the descendants of West Africans. In 1997, the 3,000-foot Soufriere Hills volcano erupted repeatedly, causing widespread devastation to property and virtually collapsing the island’s economy. More than two-thirds of the country’s residents sought shelter off the island.

In the wake of the repeated volcanic eruptions during the late 1990s, Montserrat began its return to some semblance of normalcy in 2000, although the volcano remained unstable. The island’s population, reduced from 11,000 in 1995 to 3,400 in 1998, had climbed back to about 5,000 by mid-2000. In April 2001 elections, the National People’s Liberation Movement, led by former chief minister John Osborne, won control of the island’s legislature, capturing seven of nine seats. The ruling party promised to work to restore jobs lost after the series of devastating volcanic eruptions.

Netherlands Antilles

Official name: none

Independence: none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Area: 960 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary

Capital: Willemstad, Curaçao

International relations: CARICOM (observer), ECLAC (associate), Interpol, IOC, UNESCO (associate), UPU, WCL, WMO, WToO (associate)

Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)

Income: US$11,400 (2003 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 219,958 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mixed black 85%, Carib Amerindian, white, East Asian

Religious groups: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Seventh-Day Adventist

Languages: Dutch (official), Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) predominates, English widely spoken, Spanish

Literacy: 96.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum products

Primary export partners: US 20.4%, Panama 11.2%, Guatemala 8.8%, Haiti 7.1%, Bahamas, The 5.6%, Honduras 4.2% (2004)

Imports: crude petroleum, food, manufactures

Primary import partners: Venezuela 51.1%, US 21.9%, Netherlands 5% (2004)

The Spanish first landed in Curaçao in 1499, and, in 1527, they took possession of Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. So poor was the soil on most of the islands that the Spanish called them islas inutiles (useless islands), capturing many of the native Arawak Indians and then transporting them to nearby Spanish islands to work on plantations. In 1634, the three islands were passed to the Netherlands, where they have remained except for two short periods of British rule during the Napoleonic Wars.

The islands’ rich salt deposits, particularly off the coasts of Saint Maarten, Bonaire, and Curaçao, were perhaps the main reason the Dutch had sought to gain their control. However, the mining of salt was both a difficult and labor-intensive job, and there were not nearly enough Dutch colonists willing to do it. The Dutch decided to import Africans to handle the workload. The first boatloads of Africans, mostly from the Congo and Angola, arrived in Curaçao in 1639. The Dutch West India Company, which handled the infamous trade in Africans for the Netherlands, increased dramatically in size during this period, becoming the second largest enslaver in the Atlantic by the 1640s. By 1700, the African population on Curaçao and Bonaire totaled 4,000 with another 1,000 blacks split between Saint Eustatius and Saint Maarten. A century later, between them, Saint Maarten and Saint Eustatius were home to some 9,000 Africans. Both Curaçao and Bonaire had experienced similar increases, although no exact figures from 1800 are available for those islands. African enslavement was abolished in 1863.

Today, some 40 nationalities are represented in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The people of the Netherlands Antilles are primarily African or mixed African-European descent.

Political uncertainty characterized the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium. On Curaçao, the largest island of the group, no party secured a dominant position in the May 1999 elections. The two main parties, the National People’s Party and the Antillean Restructuring Party, each won the same number of seats in the legislature. Neither party was able to put together a coalition with one of the other parties winning seats in the legislature. A June 2001 referendum in Saint Maarten indicated that more than two-thirds of those voting preferred becoming a separate entity within the Netherlands rather than remaining part of the Netherlands Antilles. Dutch authorities, however, quickly said the idea was “out of the question.”


Official name: Republic of Nicaragua

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 129,494 sq km

Form of government: republic

Capital: Managua


Currency: gold cordoba (NIO)

Income: US$2,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 5,465,100 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant

Languages: Spanish (official)

Literacy: 67.5% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: coffee, shrimp and lobster, cotton, tobacco, beef, sugar, bananas; gold

Primary export partners: US 64.8%, El Salvador 7%, Mexico 3.6% (2004)

Imports: machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products, consumer goods

Primary import partners: US 22.6%, Costa Rica 8.5%, Venezuela 8.4%, Guatemala 6.8%, Mexico 5.8%, El Salvador 4.9%, South Korea 4.5% (2004)

In 1513, the explorer Balboa first landed in what is now Nicaragua and the Spanish began to develop the area. Because the economy could neither support nor did it require large-scale African labor, early Spanish colonists brought relatively few of them to what is now Nicaragua. However, the early 1600s saw the development of an English enclave along the territory’s desolate Atlantic Coast, known as the Mosquito Coast. By the middle of the seventeenth century, these English settlers had begun to import Africans into their enclave to work the area’s plantations and assist in harvesting coastal timber. A century later, when Britain was forced to abandon its Mosquito Coast protectorate, most of the blacks remained, creating black Creole villages, such as Pearl Lagoon and Bluefields. So far were these communities from the center of Spanish power in Managua that the blacks enjoyed considerable local autonomy. The abolition of enslavement in the British colonies of the Caribbean in the early 1830s set off a new wave of immigration into the Mosquito Coast as the newly freed Africans joined the free blacks on the Nicaraguan coast. Nicaragua did not win its independence from Spain until 1838.

In 1999, Nicaragua was still trying to shake off the devastating impact of Hurricane Mitch, which had struck in October 1998. The administration of President Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo came under fire for its slowness in declaring a national disaster and was further weakened by charges of corruption, mostly directed at the president himself. In November 2001 presidential elections, Liberal candidate Enrique Bolaños Geyer soundly defeated closest rival Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Party. The Sandinistas, however, returned to power when Daniel Ortega won a closely fought presidential contest. He was again installed as president at the beginning of 2007.

Today, Nicaragua’s population is comprised of mestizos (69%), whites (17%), blacks (9%), and indigenous peoples (5%).


Official name: Republic of Panama

Independence: 3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)

Area: 78,200 sq km

Form of government: constitutional democracy

Capital: Panama City


Currency: balboa (PAB); U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$6,900 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,039,150 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%

Literacy: 92.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing

Primary export partners: US 50.5%, Sweden 6.6%, Spain 5.1%, Netherlands 4.4%, Costa Rica 4.2% (2004)

Imports: capital goods, crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals

Primary import partners: US 33.3%, Netherlands Antilles 8.1%, Japan 6%, Costa Rica 5.7%, Mexico 4.6%, Colombia 4.2% (2004)

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Amerindian groups inhabited Panama. By 1519, the Spanish had established settlements, killing or enslaving much of the indigenous Indian population. Africans were brought in to replace the Indians who had been initially forced into servitude. Panama was a part of Colombia from the time of independence in 1821 until it broke away as a separate country in 1903.

One of the most dramatic changes in Panama has been the construction of the Panama Canal connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Supported militarily by the United States, which desperately wanted to build the canal, Panama seceded from Colombia. Two weeks later, the United States and the newly independent Panama signed a treaty permitting the United States to build the canal and enjoy control over a five-mile stretch of Panamanian territory on either side of the waterway. Panama’s existing black population was soon increased dramatically as West Indians arrived by the thousands to help in the massive construction project. Working and living conditions for blacks involved in the project were harsh, particularly since many of the American supervisors overseeing the project were natives of the U.S. South. Segregated living arrangements were put in place by these supervisors. Discrimination against blacks and other Panamanians working on the canal was blatant. They were paid less than Spaniards and Italians who had been imported into Panama to perform the same level of manual labor on the project. Of the 5,600 workers who died constructing the canal, more than 4,700 of them were of African ancestry.

The country experienced decades of relative stability because of the commerce generated by the Panama Canal. By the early 1970s, the country had experienced two coups by the military, and corruption was rampant. In 1977, the United States signed an agreement transferring control of the canal to Panama in 1999. After the mysterious death of President Omar Torrijos in 1981, General Manuel Noriega took control of the civilian government and the military. Although it was widely speculated that he tacitly assisted the United States in its war against the Contras in Nicaragua, he was captured and indicted in the U.S. courts for drug smuggling after the United States launched an attack on the country. He is expected to be released from prison in 2007. In May 1999 presidential elections, Mireya Moscoso of the opposition Arnulfista Party became the first woman in Panamanian history to win the presidency, defeating Martin Torrijos of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party. In September 2000, President Moscoso acknowledged that Panama’s economic growth had slowed, but her administration seemed unable to do much reverse the country’s economic downtrend. The son of the late Omar Torrijos assumed the presidency in 2004.

Today, most Panamanians are of mixed parentage—Spanish, Indian, or black.


Official name: Republic of Paraguay

Independence: 14 May 1811 (from Spain)

Area: 406,750 sq km

Form of government: constitutional republic

Capital: Asuncion

International relations: CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMEE, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Currency: guarani (PYG)

Income: US$4,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 6,347,884 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian) 95%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 90%, Mennonite, and other Protestant

Languages: Spanish (official), Guarani (official)

Literacy: 94% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: electricity, soybeans, feed, cotton, meat, edible oils

Primary export partners: Uruguay 27.8%, Brazil 19.2%, Argentina 6.3%, Switzerland 4.1% (2004)

Imports: road vehicles, consumer goods, tobacco, petroleum products, electrical machinery

Primary import partners: Brazil 30.9%, Argentina 23.3%, China 16.6%, US 4% (2004)

Since early colonial times, people of African descent (most of them brought into the territory enslaved) have played a significant role in the development of Paraguay and its culture. Because the colony lacked the wealth of natural resources of many of its neighbors in South America, the number of Africans imported was on a smaller scale than elsewhere. The nature of the work to which the early Africans (and Indians who were similarly pressed into service, but in higher numbers than the Africans) were put was not much different in nature from in other Spanish colonies of the region: farm work, livestock raising, and domestic service. In later years, some blacks were employed for more specialized tasks including road construction and repair and the smelting of iron. As of 1650, surviving records indicate, the African population totaled 15,000 out of a total population of 250,000. However, unlike other Spanish-held territories where the African population continued to grow strongly into the nineteenth century, by 1782, Paraguay’s Africans had dropped to less than 11,000 in number.

A system unique to Paraguay called amparo provided that any freed African who could not pay tribute to the Spanish crown was turned over to the protective custody of the local government or religious orders. Under conditions similar to enslavement, many of these newly freed Africans were settled into all-black communities and compelled to work for their custodians. In Paraguay’s battle for independence from Spain, it was unnecessary to draft the services of Afro-Paraguayans, free or enslaved. When independence was achieved in 1811, colonial officials were under no obligation to begin freeing Africans in payments for their military services. It was not until 1869 that the government finally ordered the total abolition.

In 1999, President Raül Cubas Grau and his mentor, retired General Lino Oviedo, faced off against the Supreme Court, most of Congress, and the vice president in Cubas’ refusal to return Oviedo to jail to serve out a jail term for the latter’s role in a 1996 coup attempt. As the country moved toward impeachment, Cubas resigned in March 1999. Shortly thereafter, Luis Angel Gonzalez Macchi, president of the legislature, succeeded Cubas as president. Political and socioeconomic crises dogged Paraguay throughout 2000. Corruption scandals related to his family further weakened the administration of President Gonzalez in 2001.

Estimates of the modern-day population of blacks in Paraguay are difficult to obtain, although some have suggested they account for as much as 3.5% of the total population of 5.3 million, or about 186,000.


Official name: Republic of Peru

Independence: 28 July 1821 (from Spain)

Area: 1,285,220 sq km

Form of government: constitutional republic

Capital: Lima


Currency: nuevo sol (PEN)

Income: US$5,600 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 27,925,628 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amer-indian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 90%

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara

Literacy: 87.7% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2004 est.)

Exports: fish and fish products, copper, zinc, gold, crude petroleum and byproducts, lead, coffee, sugar, cotton

Primary export partners: US 29.5%, China 9.9%, UK 9%, Chile 5.1%, Japan 4.4% (2004)

Imports: machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum, iron and steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals

Primary import partners: US 30.3%, Spain 11.5%, Chile 7.2%, Brazil 5.4%, Colombia 5.2% (2004)

To most, Peru is perhaps best known as the home of the Incas, whose rich culture was developed in the mountain strongholds of the Andes. Most students today are also familiar with the Spanish conquistadors who sought out the Incas’ riches in gold and silver and toppled their sophisticated empire in the process. What few recognize is the very real contribution made to Peru’s conquest and its subsequent development by imported Africans and their descendants. Among the best known of the early blacks involved in the conquest of the Incan Empire was Juan Valiente, enslaved under Diego de Almagro, who himself accompanied Francisco Pizarro into Peru in 1524. For his services, Valiente was eventually rewarded with a land grant and a number of Indians who were required to pay tribute to him. Strangely, Valiente, despite his new found fortune, remained enslaved until his death. As his military superiors negotiated with his master for Valiente’s freedom, he was killed in an engagement against local Araucanian Indians at Tucapel.

In Peru’s early colonial period, relatively few Africans were imported, since the bulk of the available work was in the mines high in the mountains, an environment for which the colonial authorities thought the Africans ill-suited. Furthermore, there was plenty of Indian labor available for this work. As the country’s arid coastal plain was gradually irrigated and put under cultivation, the need for African labor grew. Obtaining Africans was a monumental challenge, as they had to be shipped from the west coast of Africa, across the Atlantic, around treacherous Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, and north along the Pacific Coast to Panama, where they were unloaded. So arduous was the voyage that many did not survive. For those importing the Africans, the cost of this trade was very high. However, well into the seventeenth century, Peru’s demands for Africans remained strong. During the campaign of Argentine José de San Martin for Peru’s independence in the 1820s, he tried to entice Africans into military service with promises of freedom for those who joined him. In fact, for most blacks in Peru, it was not until 1854 that emancipation arrived.

In late 1999, President Alberto Fujimori announced his intention to run for a third term the following year. In a widely questioned election in April 2000, Fujimori came out on top, although without a clear-cut majority. After a major opposition candidate dropped out of the race because of what he claimed was fraud in the first balloting, Fujimori easily swept to reelection in a runoff election. A series of scandals later in 2000 forced Fuji-mori to call for new elections, and, as pressure against him mounted, Fujimori withdrew from politics in November 2000. Valentin Paniagua was named interim president. After two rounds of presidential elections in spring 2001, independent candidate Alejandro Toledo emerged as the victor. After years in exile and extradition attempts, Fujimori announced his intention to run for the presidency of Peru in 2006. Former President Alan Garcia won the election in a runoff and vowed to bring Fujimori to trial for the rampant corruption during his era in office.

Puerto Rico

Official name: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Independence: none (commonwealth associated with the

United States)

Area: 9,104 sq km

Form of government: commonwealth

Capital: San Juan

International relations: CARICOM (observer), ECLAC (associate), FAO (associate), ICFTU, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, WCL, WFTU, WHO (associate)

Currency: U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$17,700 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,916,632 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed and other 10.9%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%

Languages: Spanish, English

Literacy: 94.1% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2002 est.)

Exports: pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment

Primary export partners: US 90.3%, UK 1.6%, Netherlands 1.4%, Dominican Republic 1.4% (2002 est.)

Imports: chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products

Primary import partners: US 55.0%, Ireland 23.7%, Japan 5.4% (2002 est.)

The Spaniard, Ponce de Leon, who was appointed governor of the island in 1509, conquered Puerto Rico, although Columbus had contact with the territory previously. The indigenous Carib Indians, almost all of whom were utilized by the Spaniards as plantation laborers, were eventually wiped out by diseases and harsh treatment and were replaced by imported Africans.

When Spain authorized Puerto Rico’s African trade in 1510, a number of free blacks from Seville immigrated to the island in search of broader opportunities. For the most part, these were Ladinos, as Christianized blacks were known, who sought jobs as domestic servants or mineworkers. Free blacks outnumbered enslaved Africans for most of the island’s history. The island’s population, according to the 1845 census, included 216,083 whites, 175,000 free blacks, and 51,265 enslaved Africans. The institution on the island was formally ended on March 22, 1873. Fifteen years later, Puerto Rico gained its independence from Spain and became a protectorate of the United States, because of the Spanish-American War.

Many Puerto Ricans today are of mixed black and Spanish ancestry. For the most part, the original Indian inhabitants of the island were exterminated in the sixteenth century. Leading contemporary Afro-Puerto Ricans include literary figures Isabelo Zenón Cruz, Angela María Dávila, and Ana Lydia Vega.

In the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium, the tension between Puerto Rico and the United States over bombing practice on the island of Vieques increased dramatically. An accident in April 1999 resulted in the death of one civilian and injuries to three others. Pedro Rossello, the island’s governor, wrote to President Bill Clinton requesting an end to weapons training on Vieques. Clinton ordered a temporary cessation of such practice, but, when word spread in early 2000 that bombing would soon resume, the outcry in Puerto Rico was intense. Bombing eventually resumed in October 2000, but, in June 2001, the U.S. government agreed to stop using Vieques for bombing practice by May 2003. On January 2, 2001, Sila María Calderón of the Popular Democratic Party was sworn in as governor of the commonwealth.

The legacy and contribution of African descendants to Puerto Rican history and culture is extensive. March 22 is celebrated as “Abolition Day” to mark the occasion on the island. The religion, language, sports, music, art, dance, and cuisine all reflect the African presence.

Santeria, an African religion older than Christianity continues to be observed. Because of migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States, Santeria is widely practiced there.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Official name: Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis

Independence: 19 September 1983 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 261 sq km (Saint Kitts 168 sq km; Nevis 93 sq km)

Form of government: constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style parliament

Capital: Basseterre


Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$8,800 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 38,958 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: predominantly black, some British, Portuguese, and Lebanese

Religious groups: Anglican, other Protestant, Roman Catholic

Languages: English

Literacy: 97% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 1980 est.)

Exports: machinery, food, electronics, beverages, tobacco

Primary export partners: US 57.5%, Canada 9%, Portugal 8.3%, UK 6.7% (2004)

Imports: machinery, manufactures, food, fuels

Primary import partners: Ukraine 44.7%, US 22.1%, Trinidad and Tobago 8.8%, UK 6.2% (2004)

Christopher Columbus first visited the islands in 1493 on his second voyage to the area. Although some historians have suggested that Columbus named the larger island San Cristobal (Saint Christopher) in his own honor or for his patron saint, Spanish sailors actually gave the name to the island. The island’s nickname, Saint Kitts, comes from English sailors’ slang for Saint Christopher. In 1624, Saint Christopher became England’s first settlement in the West Indies, and it was from there that colonists spread to other islands in the region. In 1624, the French colonized part of the island. However, the Treaty of Utrecht ceded it entirely to Britain in 1713.

By the 1660s, approximately one-half of the Saint Kitts’ population of 6,000 was black. Over the next 100 years, the ratio changed dramatically, so that by the final quarter of the eighteenth century, the island had 10 times as many blacks as whites. The only real industry on both Saint Kitts and Nevis was sugar. It was also the central reason for the high concentration of Africans, most of whom were essential for working the sugar cane fields. In 1834, as in most English colonies, African enslavement was abolished. There followed a mandatory four-year apprenticeship during which the newly freed Africans were obligated to continue to work for their former masters for a small salary. Consequently, not much changed for most blacks on the islands because they continued to toil in the sugar fields of their former masters, even after the end of their apprenticeships. However, they now were obligated to pay for housing and their food on the same estates on which they had once been enslaved. Many of the islands’ blacks left the islands in search of better work elsewhere.

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on September 19, 1983. Today, blacks comprise the largest percentage of Saint Kitts and Nevis’ population.

Responding to pressure from Nevis for greater autonomy, the government edged closer toward constitutional reform in September 1999, appointing a select committee to review proposals for such changes. In March 2000 elections, the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, captured all eight of St. Kitts seats in the National Assembly. The two Nevis-based parties held on to the three assembly seats assigned to the smaller island. In August 2001, Douglas reshuffled his cabinet.

Saint Lucia

Official name: none

Independence: 22 February 1979 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 620 sq km

Form of government: Westminster-style parliamentary democracy

Capital: Castries

International relations: ACCT (associate), ACP, C, CARICOM, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ISO (subscriber), ITU, NAM, OAS, OECS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$5,400 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 166,312 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 90%, mixed 6%, East Indian 3%, white 1%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 7%, Anglican 3%

Languages: English (official), French patois

Literacy: 90.1% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 2001 est.)

Exports: bananas 41%, clothing, cocoa, vegetables, fruits, coconut oil

Primary export partners: UK 41.4%, US 16.5%, Brazil 11.6%, Barbados 5.8%, Antigua and Barbuda 4.6%, Dominica 4.5% (2004)

Imports: food 23%, manufactured goods 21%, machinery and transportation equipment 19%, chemicals, fuels

Primary import partners: US 27.8%, Trinidad and Tobago 20.4%, UK 8%, Venezuela 7.6%, Finland 7% (2004)

The timing of the first European visit to the lushly beautiful island of Saint Lucia has been the subject of debate for some time. Many islanders believe the story, perhaps apocryphal, that Christopher Columbus discovered the island on December 13, 1502, the feast day of Saint Lucy. Whatever the truth about its first European visitor and the timing of the visit, it is known that Europeans were unable to gain a foothold on Saint Lucia until the middle of the seventeenth century because of the native Carib Indians’ fierce resistance. Once European settlement began, the Spanish, British, and French squabbled over who had claimed the island first. The Spanish failed to press their claim, but the British and the French continued to fight over Saint Lucia until 1814, during which time the island changed hands seven times. This competition for control of the island impeded large-scale development of plantations on Saint Lucia.

French planters are believed to have imported the first Africans to Saint Lucia in about 1763, a relatively late start for the trade in Africans when compared to other French and British colonies in the region. During the years of enslavement, the local patois, a mixture of African dialects and French, developed. It is still spoken throughout the island today. When the island officially became a British territory in 1814, this already entrenched French-based patois made it difficult for the British colonists to communicate with the island’s blacks. When enslavement was abolished throughout the British colonies in 1834, more than 13,000 Africans on Saint Lucia were freed. Most of the newly freed blacks fled their masters’ plantations and carved out tiny farms of their own.

Saint Lucia became an independent state within the British Commonwealth on February 22, 1979. Today, visitors from the United States, Canada, and Europe have been attracted by the island’s multicultural heritage; Saint Lucia is now inhabited mainly by people of African and mixed African-European descent, with small Caucasian and Asian Indian minorities.

Prime Minister Kenny Anthony in June 1999 announced plans for the redesign of Saint Lucia’s capital, Castries. In September 1999, the island’s House of Assembly passed legislation making money laundering illegal. In December 2001 legislative elections, the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party won 14 of 17 seats in the House of Assembly.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Official name: none

Independence: 27 October 1979 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 389 sq km (Saint Vincent 344 sq km)

Form of government: parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth

Capital: Kingstown

International relations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, OAS, OECS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WTrO

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Income: US$2,900 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 117,534 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 66%, mixed 19%, East Indian 6%, Carib Amerindian 2%

Religious groups: Anglican 47%, Methodist 28%, Roman Catholic 13%, Seventh-Day Adventist, Hindu, other Protestant

Languages: English, French patois

Literacy: 96% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 1970 est.)

Exports: bananas 39%, eddoes and dasheen (taro), arrowroot starch, tennis racquets

Primary export partners: UK 33.5%, Barbados 13.1%, Saint Lucia 11.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 9.9%, Antigua and Barbuda 8.3%, US 5.3%, Grenada 5.3%, Dominica 4.1% (2004)

Imports: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, chemicals and fertilizers, minerals and fuels

Primary import partners: US 37.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 21.3%, UK 10.5% (2004)

Similar to Saint Lucia, its neighbor to the north, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of Caribbean islands, saw no permanent European settlement until the seventeenth century. The Carib Indians, then occupying the islands, fiercely resisted European attempts to colonize. A group of Africans who survived the sinking of a Dutch ship on which they were being transported were the first outsiders allowed by the Caribs to settle on the islands. A treaty between the Caribs and Europeans in the early 1700s finally opened the way for European settlement. The first Europeans to gain a foothold on the islands were the French, who managed to coexist relatively peacefully with the Caribs. When the British moved into the islands and began competing with French planters to see who could carve out the larger plantations, friction with the Caribs was inevitable. After a Carib revolt late in the eighteenth century, British colonial authorities captured more than 5,000 Caribs and exiled them off British Honduras. This stripped the islands of much of their free blacks, most of who had lived among the Caribs. The blacks remaining in the islands were mostly enslaved.

In the early nineteenth century, a massive volcanic eruption caused widespread devastation on Saint Vincent, wiping out much of the island’s coffee and cacao crops. When African enslavement was abolished in 1834, many of the newly freed blacks decided to try to carve out small farms for themselves. White plantation owners were forced to import Portuguese and Asian Indian indentured servants to work in the island’s sugar cane fields. As the sugar industry began to slump in the final quarter of the nineteenth century, the government opted to turn over more land to small farmers. Well into the twentieth century, the majority of the island’s residents were engaged in small-scale agriculture, a prescription for a precarious economy given agriculture’s vulnerability to the vagaries of nature.

The islands were granted full autonomy in 1969 and achieved full independence in 1979.

The opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which had been narrowly defeated by the New Democratic Party (NDP) in June 1998 general elections, began 1999 with a new leader, Ralph Gonsalves, who replaced Vincent Beache. A period of civil unrest followed the April 2000 passage of legislation to increase the pensions and gratuities of parliamentarians. In October 2000, Prime Minister Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell retired from the leadership of the NDP and was replaced as prime minister by Arnhim Eustace. The general election of March 2001 brought a return to power of the ULP, which captured 12 of the 15 seats in the parliament. ULP leader Ralph Gonsalves replaced Eustace as prime minister.


Official name: Republic of Suriname

Independence: 25 November 1975 (from Netherlands)

Area: 163,270 sq km

Form of government: constitutional democracy

Capital: Paramaribo

International relations: ACP, CARICOM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OIC, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Currency: Surinamese guilder (SRG)

Income: US$4,300 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 438,144 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Hindustani (also known locally as East Indians; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the nineteenth century) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15%, “Maroons” (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries enslaved and escaped to the interior) 10%, Amerindian 2%, Chinese 2%, white 1%, other 2%

Religious groups: Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), indigenous beliefs 5%

Languages: Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called TakiTaki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese

Literacy: 88% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2000 est.)

Exports: alumina, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas

Primary export partners: Norway 29.3%, US 15.1%, Canada 12.5%, Belgium 10.2%, France 8.4%, UAE 6.1%, Iceland 4.3% (2004)

Imports: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods

Primary import partners: US 26.2%, Netherlands 19.3%, Trinidad and Tobago 13.5%, Japan 6.6%, China 4.6%, Brazil 4.2% (2004)

Columbus first sighted the Suriname coast in 1498, and Spain claimed the area in 1593. Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. However, the new colony, Dutch Guiana, did not thrive. The colony experienced frequent uprisings by the African population, which was often treated with extraordinary cruelty. Many of the Africans fled to the interior, where they resumed a West African culture and established the six major ethnic groups which are in existence today: the Ndjuka and the Saramaka, the two largest groups, and the Paramaka, Aluki, Swinti, and Matawai.

Well into the eighteenth century, the territory was unique in its high percentage of African-born men and women—by the mid-1750s, about one-third of Dutch Guiana’s slaves had arrived from Africa. Among the factors contributing to this phenomenon were a high mortality rate among the Africans and the need to keep importing them at a fast pace, in part to replace some who had escaped. Suriname experienced less in the way of violent revolts, such as those common throughout much of the New World—the most common form of protest among Suriname’s enslaved blacks was escape.

The maroons, as the runaways were called, were not the only ones to take a stand against enslavement, however. Although Dutch Guiana saw less of the violence common to enslaved-holding New World colonies, there was a notable uprising in 1832, when Africans put much of the colony’s capital to the torch. In 1860, virtually the entire black population of the colony escaped to uninhabited parts of the colony. Bowing to these growing pressures, the Netherlands abolished enslavement in 1863.

Starting in 1951, Suriname began to acquire an increasing measure of autonomy from the Netherlands. On December 15, 1954, Suriname became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and gained independence on November 25, 1975. Désiré Bourtese led a military coup in 1980 and instituted a socialist state. A separate challenge to the government came from a guerrilla movement under the leadership of Ronny Brunswijk. The Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), also known as the Maroon or Bush Negro insurgency, began operating in the northeast in July 1986. It struck against various economic targets including the Suriname Aluminum Company. The government responded with repression and the killing of civilians suspected of supporting the insurgency.

Political upheaval continued in spite of the elections held in 1987. International pressure eventually prevailed, and the military relinquished its control of the government. Ronald Venetiaan was elected president in 1991, followed by Jules Wijdenbosch in 1996. These elections

marked the first time in independent Suriname’s history that one democratically elected government passed peacefully to another.

In July 1999, a court in The Hague, Netherlands, convicted former military dictator Désiré Bourtese in absentia of drug smuggling charges. Seemingly untroubled by the Dutch court’s action, Bourtese, leader of the National Democratic Party, remained Suriname’s most powerful politician. In the spring of 1999, Bourtese had split with President Jules Wijdenbosch and withdrawn his support for the ruling coalition. On June 1, Wijdenbosch lost a vote of confidence in the National Assembly and was asked to resign. He refused, promising instead to call a general election no later than May 25, 2000. The New Front party swept the May 2000 legislative elections, clearing the way for the election of its leader, Ronald Venetiaan, as the new president in August 2000. The new government under Venetiaan managed to improve the country’s fiscal and economic stability through 2001.

Trinidad and Tobago

Official name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Independence: 31 August 1962 (from United Kingdom)

Area: 5,128 sq km

Form of government: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Port-of-Spain


Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)

Income: US$10,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 1,088,644 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 39.5%, East Indian (primarily immigrants from northern India) 40.3%, mixed 18.4%, white 0.6%, Chinese and other 1.2%

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 29.4%, Hindu 23.8%, Anglican 10.9%, Muslim 5.8%, Presbyterian 3.4%, other 26.7%

Languages: English (official), Hindi, French, Spanish, Chinese

Literacy: 98.6% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, steel products, fertilizer, sugar, cocoa, coffee, citrus, flowers

Primary export partners: US 67.1%, Jamaica 5.7%, France 3.5% (2004)

Imports: machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, live animals

Primary import partners: US 23.9%, Venezuela 11.5%, Germany 11.2%, Brazil 10.7%, Spain 6.4%, Italy 5.1% (2004)

Columbus first visited the island of Trinidad in 1498 on his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere. The Spanish made the first successful attempt to colonize Trinidad in 1592. Trinidad continued under Spanish rule until the British captured it in 1797. Africans were brought to the islands during the eighteenth century to provide labor on the sugar cane plantations. Following the abolition of enslavement, Indian and Chinese labor was imported.

Trinidad was ceded formally to the United Kingdom in 1802, with the island of Tobago following in 1814. In 1888, Trinidad and Tobago merged to form a single colony. In 1958, the United Kingdom established the autonomous Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica withdrew in 1961, and, when Trinidad and Tobago followed, the federation collapsed. Trinidad and Tobago obtained full independence and joined the Commonwealth in 1962.

Eric Williams became prime minister at independence and held that position until he died in 1981. George Chambers, who had served as his agriculture minister, succeeded Williams. Arthur Napoleon Robinson succeeded Chambers in 1996. During an abortive coup attempt in July 1990, a group of more than 100 Muslim militants held Robinson and other government officials hostage. In December of that year, Patrick Manning was elected prime minister. Black-led since 1956, the two-island nation elected its first Asian Indian prime minister, Basdeo Panday, in 1996. After the ruling United National Congress party lost its majority in the House of Representatives, tying with the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) in the number of seats won (12 each), a period of political uncertainty followed. The two parties agreed to let President Robinson settle the matter. Robinson tapped PNM leader Patrick Manning to replace Basdeo Panday as prime minister.

A major center of African culture in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago gave birth to calypso and steelpan, as the music of the steel drum is known locally. The country’s annual Carnival festival is but one of the nation’s many celebrations of music and dance. Leading contemporary Afro-Trinidadians include calypso singer Mighty Sparrow, visual artist/novelist Valerie Belgrave, and literary figures Rafael de Boissiere, Dionne Brand, Merle Hodge, and Earl Lovelace.

Turks and Caicos Islands

Official name: none

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 430 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Cockburn Town (on Grand Turk)

International relations: CARICOM (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau)

Currency: U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$11,500 (2002 est. purchasing power parity)

Population: 20,556 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black

Religious groups: Baptist 41.2%, Methodist 18.9%, Anglican 18.3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.7%, other 19.9% (1980)

Languages: English (official)

Literacy: 98% (age 15 and over has ever attended school; 1970 est.)

Exports: lobster, dried and fresh conch, conch shells

Primary export partners: United States, United Kingdom

Imports: food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, manufactures, construction materials

Primary import partners: United States, United Kingdom

Early British settlers valued two groups of islands in the Atlantic southeast of the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, for their salt flats, which for hundreds of years were the economic mainstay of the islands. In 1678, English settlers who had come to the islands by way of Bermuda began importing Africans to work the salt flats. Of this arduous work, Mary Prince, an enslaved female, wrote in The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave (1831): “We … worked through the heat of the day; the sun flaming upon our hands like fire, and raising salt blisters in those parts which were not completely covered. Our feet and legs, from standing in the salt water for so many hours, soon became full of dreadful boils, which eat down in some cases to the very bone, afflicting the sufferers with great torment.... Oh that Turk’s Island was a horrible place!”

Although African enslavement was abolished on the islands in 1834, as in most of Britain’s New World colonies, life remained extremely difficult for the newly emancipated blacks, for the salt trade remained the islands’ only major business for decades to come. It was not until well into the twentieth century that the black majority of the Turks and Caicos managed to acquire any degree of political power. After nearly 50 years of control from the Bahamas, from 1799 to 1848, the islands were granted their own local government, but the white minority controlled it firmly. This period of local autonomy lasted until 1873.

Between 1874 and 1959, the Turks and Caicos Islands were administered as a dependency of Jamaica. In 1962, the islands became a separate colony. In 1985, Norman B. Saunders, the chief minister and two other ministers caused a scandal when they were arrested in Florida on drug charges and later charged, convicted, and jailed. One year later, the ministerial government ended when other ministers were found guilty of “unconstitutional behavior.” The islands remain a crown colony. In the general election of 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Movement won 10 of 13 seats in the Legislative Council; the opposition Progressive National Party retained its three seats in the council.


Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Independence: 25 August 1825 (from Brazil)

Area: 176,220 sq km

Form of government: constitutional republic

Capital: Montevideo


Currency: Uruguayan peso (UYU)

Income: US$14,500 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 3,415,920 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: white 88%, mestizo 8%, black 4%, Amerindian, practically nonexistent

Religious groups: Roman Catholic 66% (less than one-half of the adult population attends church regularly), Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, nonprofessing or other 31%

Languages: Spanish, Portunol, or Brazilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier)

Literacy: 98% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: meat, rice, leather products, vehicles, dairy products, wool, electricity

Primary export partners: US 17.3%, Brazil 16%, Germany 6.3%, Argentina 6.2%, Mexico 4.2% (2004)

Imports: road vehicles, electrical machinery, metal manufactures, heavy industrial machinery, crude petroleum

Primary import partners: Argentina 19.5%, Brazil 19%, Paraguay 12.9%, US 9.2%, China 6% (2004)

The first Africans arrived in what is now Uruguay as early as 1534 in the company of Spanish explorers. These black men, most of whom were Ladinos, as Christianized Africans were known in Spain, joined their masters in the exploration of the Rio de la Plata. By the end of the sixteenth century, Spain was importing increasingly larger numbers of its enslaved Africans from Angola in southwestern Africa. Most of those destined for use in the New World were shipped to either Mexico or Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, for transshipment to other Spanish colonies throughout the region. The lengthy voyage of the ships from Angola to both Mexico and Cartagena took a tremendous toll on their human cargoes, and much of the captured Africans died before reaching their destination. The Spanish began shipping some of their Africans to Buenos Aires on the Rio de la Plata in the southeast of South America. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Spanish discovered that Montevideo, also on the Rio de la Plata but 120 miles closer to the Atlantic, had a fine natural harbor. A settlement was begun there in 1724 and before long much of the trade in Africans in the region had moved from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, the future capital of Uruguay.

Although the numbers of Africans imported through Montevideo were impressively high, many of these slaves did not remain in Uruguay, but were shipped into other territories in the region where the demand for captive labor was strong. Within what is now Uruguay, there were little in the way of major mining or agricultural enterprises, and most Africans who remained there toiled as domestic servants. The bulk of the enslaved in Uruguay remained in the capital of Montevideo. Although freed in the 1840s, many continued to work for their former masters under conditions not far removed from enslavement itself. Uruguay’s National Statistics Institute conducted a study in the latter half of the 1990s that found about 6% of Uruguayans identify themselves as black.

After an impressive showing by Tabaré Vázquez, presidential candidate of the leftist Broad Front alliance, in the first round of 1999 presidential elections, the Blanco and Colorado parties joined forces. As a result, Jorge Batlle of the Colorados won the presidency in the second round of elections. Batlle assumed office on March 1, 2000. In 2001, the Batlle administration was faced with a worsening economic situation, exacerbated by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that curtailed the country’s vital meat exports.


Official name: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Independence: 5 July 1811 (from Spain)

Area: 912,050 sq km

Form of government: federal republic

Capital: Caracas


Currency: bolivar (VEB)

Income: US$5,800 (2004 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 25,375,281 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people

Religious groups: nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%

Languages: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects

Literacy: 93.4% (age 15 and over can read and write; 2003 est.)

Exports: petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures

Primary export partners: US 55.6%, Netherlands Antilles 4.7%, Dominican Republic 2.8% (2004)

Imports: raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials

Primary import partners: US 28.8%, Colombia 9.9%, Brazil 7%, Mexico 4.1% (2004)

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Caracas was a major center for the importation of Africans. In the early nineteenth century, blacks and mulattos comprised more than half of the population of the Captaincy General of Caracas, as Venezuela was known at that time. In the latter stages of Venezuela’s fight for independence from Spain, Simón Bolivar made extensive use of blacks, mulattos, and zambos, admitting them to the ranks of his rebel army. These blacks played a critical role in the defeat of colonists loyal to Spain. By 1821, Venezuela had been largely wrested from Spain’s control.

As early as 1819, Bolivar had called for the abolition of African captivity, but he was overruled by a coalition of rebel leaders. Several attempts to loosen the bonds of Venezuelan enslavement were undertaken, but little real change was effected in the institution until its complete abolition in 1854.

Today, roughly 5% of Venezuela’s 25 million people are black, and another 500,000 are zambos of mixed African and Indian descent. Blacks remain a significant element of the country’s population because of its proximity to the Caribbean and employment opportunities that have been available in this oil-rich nation.

For about four decades, from 1958 until the mid-1990s, political power in Venezuela alternated between two political parties, Accion Democratica and the Comite de Organizacion Politica Electoral Independiente. Chronic economic weakness and recurrent scandals over government corruption helped to reduce support for both parties, particularly during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1998, Hugo Chavez of the Movimiento Quinta Republica was elected president on a platform pledged to radical political reform. The country’s 1961 constitution was replaced with a left-leaning charter in a December 1999 referendum. In July 2000, Chavez was reelected with a comfortable majority. An unsuccessful coup was mounted against Chavez in April 2002.

Virgin Islands, British

Official name: British Virgin Islands

Independence: none (overseas territory of the United Kingdom)

Area: 150 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Road Town

International relations: CARICOM (associate), CDB, ECLAC (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS (associate), UNESCO (associate)

Currency: U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$17,200 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 108,708 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5% (2000 census)

Religious groups: Protestant 86% (Methodist 45%, Anglican 21%, Church of God 7%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Baptist 4%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 2%, other 2%), Roman Catholic 6%, none 2%, other 6% (1981)

Languages: English (official)

Literacy: 97.8% (age 15 and over can read and write; 1991 est.)

Exports: rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand

Primary export partners: U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, United States

Imports: building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery

Primary import partners: U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, United States

Initially visited by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the Virgin Islands (an archipelago of 74 islands) is now divided into two distinct clusters—British Virgin Islands (six main islands, nearly 40 islets) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (three main islands, 65 islets). Great Britain obtained title to the islands and islets in 1666 and, until 1960, administered them as part of the Leeward Islands. At present, a Crown-appointed administrator who is assisted by both executive and legislative councils heads the government.

During the latter half of the seventeenth century, British settlers discovered that the islands would support the cultivation of both cotton and sugar. However, to work the fields it was necessary to import labor from Africa. Life for the enslved Africans in the British islands was particularly harsh, with inhumane penalties exacted for relatively minor infractions of the rules. A captive who refused his master’s orders could have part of his body cut off or his nose split. In 1790, Africans in Tortola revolted after rumors spread that Britain had abolished enslavement but local owners were withholding freedom. Although Britain abolished the trade in humans in 1807, full emancipation did not come for Virgin Island Africans until 1834. A four-year apprenticeship program replaced enslavement, under which all enslaved Africans were required to remain in the custody of their former masters.

Today, almost the entire population is of African descent.

In 1999, the ruling Virgin Islands Party successfully fought off a challenge from the newly formed National Democratic Party (NDP), capturing seven of the 13 seats in the Legislative Council. In July 2000, Chief Minister Ralph O’Neal accused his deputy, Eileen Parsons, with complicity in a coup plot and dismissed her. In response, Parsons quit the ruling party and joined the NDP.

Virgin Islands, United States

Official name: Virgin Islands

Independence: NA (territory of the United States)

Area: 352 sq km

Form of government: NA

Capital: Charlotte Amalie

International relations: ECLAC (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC

Currency: U.S. dollar (US$)

Income: US$17,200 (2002 est. of purchasing power parity)

Population: 108,708 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 80%, white 15%, other 5%

Religious groups: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%

Languages: English (official), Spanish, Creole

Literacy: NA

Exports: refined petroleum products

Primary export partners: United States, Puerto Rico

Imports: crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials

Primary import partners: United States, Puerto Rico

The Danish West India Company originally settled the U.S. Virgin Islands—the largest of which are the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. Saint Thomas was the first to be colonized in 1672; in 1683, Saint John was colonized; and, by 1733, Saint Croix had been acquired from France. Some 20 years later, the holdings of the company were taken over by the Danish crown, which then reconstituted them as the Danish West Indies.

As in the neighboring British Virgin Islands, the Danish West Indies was found to be ideally suited for the cultivation of sugar cane and cotton. The first shipment of enslaved Africans, numbering 103, arrived in Saint Thomas in 1673. The island had some 160 plantations and more than 3,000 Africans by 1715, only 42 years later. The island of Saint John witnessed a major uprising among the enslaved population in 1733. The life of the Africans in the islands was harsh, but in the months preceding the Saint John revolt, their situation had been made even more difficult when the island was hit by a drought and two hurricanes. The actual revolt was set off by the passage in September 1733 of a set of harsh new regulations. The rebellion leaders captured the island’s only fort and managed to hold it for six months. The Africans in the Danish islands finally won their freedom in 1848.

The United States bought the territory from Denmark in 1917 for some $25 million and granted citizenship to its inhabitants 10 years later. In 1931, its administration was transferred from the United States Navy to the Department of the Interior. The first black governor, William H. Hastie, was appointed in 1946. Melvin Evans was appointed governor in 1969, and two years later became the first black governor to be elected. He served until 1975 when islanders elected Cyril E. King as their new governor. King died three years later and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, Juan Luis, who was reelected governor in 1982. Elected governor in 1986 and reelected in 1990 was Alexander Farrelly, who was succeeded by Roy Schneider after the 1994 elections.

In the island’s 1998 gubernatorial elections, Democrat Charles Wesley Turnbull was elected to a four-year term as governor. Turnbull was expected to stand for reelection in 2002 balloting. The island’s territorial legislature consists of a single house with 15 members, seven each from St. Croix and St. Thomas and an at-large member who must reside on St. John. The delegate of the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. House of Representatives has no vote except in committee deliberations.