A small tropical country on the coast of West Africa, bounded by Senegal on the north and Guinea on the south. Off-shore is the Bijagós archipelago with a score of inhabitable marshy islands.
The deeply indented coast of Guinea-Bissau, stretching for some 240 km (150 miles) from north to south, is marshy and contains the mouths of three major rivers. The interior, which extends eastward for some 300 km (185 miles), consists mainly of river valleys filled with rainforest; it rises to above 200 m (650 feet) only in the south.
Guinea-Bissau has a mainly agricultural economy, whose significant exports are cashews, fish, groundnuts, and palm kernels. Further cash crops are being developed. Bauxite and phosphate reserves are yet to be exploited. Offshore oil deposits have not been developed because of boundary disputes with Guinea and Senegal.
Portuguese explorers and traders were active around the coast from the mid-15th century, developing the area into a centre of the slave trade. First incorporated as part of the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands, it became the separate colony of Portuguese Guinea in 1879. Its boundaries were fixed by the 1886 convention with France. In the 1960s a movement for liberation from colonial rule emerged and grew under the leadership of Amilcar Cabral, and in 1974 Portugal formally recognized its independence. In 1977 an unsuccessful attempt was made to unite with Cape Verde (a newly formed republic of islands to the west). In 1980 a military coup established a revolutionary council with João Vieira as President and a National Assembly elected from the ruling Marxist party, the PAIGC. In 1989 Vieira was re-elected and in 1991 the National Assembly agreed to the introduction of multiparty democracy. The country's first multiparty elections, in 1994, were won by the ruling party and Vieira was re-elected President. An attempted coup in 1998 was suppressed but violence continued and Vieira was overthrown by a military coup in 1999. Civilian rule was restored in 2000, but was ended by another coup in 2003. Legislative elections were held in 2004 and presidential elections in 2005, when Vieira was returned to power.
36,125 sq km (13,948 sq miles)
1 CFA Franc=100 centimes
Traditional beliefs 45.2%; Muslim 39.9%; Christian 13.2%
Senegambian 60.0%; Peul 20.0%; Mandingo 13.0%
Portuguese (official); Balante; Fulani; local languages
UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement; ECOWAS; Franc Zone; WTO
Subjects: History — African Studies.