total: 245,857 sq km
land: 245,717 sq km
water: 140 sq km
Total: 4,046 km
border countries (6):
Cote d’Ivoire 816 km,
Guinea-Bissau 421 km,
Liberia 590 km,
Mali 1,062 km,
Senegal 363 km,
Sierra Leone 794 km
Coastline: 320 km
Total: 4,366 km
generally hot and humid;
monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November);
dry season (December to May)
generally flat coastal plain, hilly to mountainous interior
mean elevation: 472 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Nimba 1,752 m
bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish, salt
agricultural land: 58.1%
arable land 11.8%; permanent crops 2.8%; permanent pasture 43.5%
other: 15.4% (2011 est.)
950 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
areas of highest density are in the west and south; interior is sparsely populated.
hot, dry, dusty harmattan haze may reduce visibility during dry season
People and Society
Modern Guinea is sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from other countries with similar names like Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial-Guinea. The Republic of Guinea has a population of over 12 million people including thousands of refugees from the neighboring countries like Liberia and Sierra Leon. The population is made up of 24 ethnic groups with Conakry, the capital city, the most ethnically diverse town in Guinea. The majority of the population is Muslims at 85% of the population while about 7% identify with the indigenous religion.
Guinea’s strong population growth is a result of declining mortality rates and sustained elevated fertility. The population growth rate was somewhat tempered in the 2000s because of a period of net outmigration. Although life expectancy and mortality rates have improved over the last two decades, the nearly universal practice of female genital cutting continues to contribute to high infant and maternal mortality rates. Guinea’s total fertility remains high at about 5 children per woman because of the ongoing preference for larger families, low contraceptive usage and availability, a lack of educational attainment and empowerment among women, and poverty. About 60% of the country’s large youth population is unemployed.
Tensions and refugees have spilled over Guinea’s borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. During the 1990s Guinea harbored as many as half a million refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, more refugees than any other African country for much of that decade. About half sought refuge in the volatile “Parrot’s Beak” region of southwest Guinea, a wedge of land jutting into Sierra Leone near the Liberian border. Many were relocated within Guinea in the early 2000s because the area suffered repeated cross-border attacks from various government and rebel forces, as well as anti-refugee.
12,413,867 (July 2017 est.)
French (official), Arabic (official), Sara (in the south), more than 120 different languages and dialects.
Muslim 86.2%, Christian 9.7%, animist/other/none 4.1% (2012 est.)
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The population of Guinea comprises about 24 ethnic groups. The Mandinka, also known as Mandingo or Malinké, comprise 29.8% of the population and are mostly found in eastern Guinea concentrated around the Kankan and Kissidougou prefectures. The Fulas or Fulani, comprise 32.1% of the population and are mostly found in the Futa Djallon region. The Soussou, comprising 19.8% of the population, are predominantly in western areas around the capital Conakry, Forécariah, and Kindia. Smaller ethnic groups make up the remaining 18.3% of the population, including Kpelle, Kissi, Zialo, Toma, and others.
Approximately 10,000 non-Africans live in Guinea, predominantly Lebanese, French, and other Europeans. The four major geographic regions largely correspond to the areas inhabited by the major linguistic groups. In Lower Guinea, the major language of the Susu has gradually replaced many of the other indigenous languages and is a lingua franca for most of the coastal population. In the Fouta Djallon, the major language is Pulaar (a dialect of Fula, the language of the Fulani), while in Upper Guinea the Malinke (Maninkakan) language is the most widespread. The Forest Region contains the linguistic areas, from east to west, of Kpelle (Guerzé), Loma (Toma), and Kisi.
French is the official language and the language of administration. In 1967, a cultural revolution was announced for the purpose of “de-Westernizing” Guinean education. A literacy program begun in 1968 sought eventually to teach all citizens to speak and write one of the eight principal local languages: Malinké (Maninkakan), Fulani (Poular), Soussou, Kpelle (Guerzé), Loma (Toma), Kissi, Coniagui, and Bassari, all of which belong to the Niger-Congo language group. After the fall of the Touré regime in 1984, French was again emphasized; however, the tribal languages are still spoken.
About 85% of all Guineans, particularly the Fulani and Malinké, are Muslims; about 10% follow various Christian faiths, and most of the remaining 5% practice traditional African religions. Most Muslims belong to the Sunni sect, and practices, particularly public prayers and the prescribed fasts, are often combined with animist beliefs and ceremonies. Christian missions were established in the 19th century, but converts have been few. About 10% of the population is Christian. Among Christian groups are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and various other evangelical churches. There are a small number of Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, and observers of traditional Chinese religions. About 5% of the population follow traditional indigenous practices and beliefs.
The literacy rate of Guinea is one of the lowest in the world: in 2010 it was estimated that only 41% of adults were literate (52% of males and 30% of females). Primary education is compulsory for 6 years, but most children do not attend for so long, and many do not go to school at all. In 1999, primary school attendance was 40 percent. Children, particularly girls, are kept out of school in order to assist their parents with domestic work or agriculture, or to be married: Guinea has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 7 and 13. Children go through six years of primary and seven years of secondary school. After this, students may choose to attend a three-year vocational school to complete their education. The academic year runs from October to June. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 65% of age-eligible students; 73% for boys and 58% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 21% of age-eligible students; 28% for boys and 13% for girls. It is estimated that about 41% of all students complete their primary education.
The first 6 years of the program take place at primary school, although in practice many rural children never even get this far. Those who do though, are rewarded with a Certificat ďEtudes Primaires Elémentaires. The next 4 years of this take place at lower secondary school and continue to be academic in nature. They culminate in an examination for the Brevet ďEtudes du Premier Cycle Certificate. The final 3 years of the Guinean 11-year sub-tertiary education system are spent at academic upper secondary schools, but only by those young people fortunate enough to have parents with the money for their fees, and who are prepared to support them voluntarily for another 3 years too.
The primary tertiary education institution in the country is the National University of Equatorial Guinea that was founded in 1995. While its main campus is in Malabo, the School of Medicine is in Bata. Other Schools in Malabo itself include those of Agriculture, Fishing, Education, Business & Engineering, and a Social Sciences School where Communications, Languages, Law and Political Science are taught. Education, unfortunately, remains a privilege reserved for the children of the urban rich, whose poorer brethren are among the lucky few, if they find a menial job there.
Although Guinea is a poor country, it possesses the world’s largest reserves of bauxite and largest untapped high-grade iron ore reserves, as well as gold and diamonds. In addition, Guinea has fertile soil, ample rainfall, and is the source of several West African rivers, including Senegal, Niger, and the Gambia. Guinea’s hydro potential is enormous and the country could be a major exporter of electricity. The country also has tremendous agriculture potential. Gold, bauxite, and diamonds are Guinea’s main exports. International investors have shown interest in Guinea’s unexplored mineral reserves, which have the potential to propel Guinea’s future growth.
Guinea is slowly emerging from the Ebola and low commodity price shocks that adversely affected its economy in 2014 and 2015. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at 6.6% in 2016, driven by an increase in the production of bauxite and gold, as well as by a resilient agriculture sector. And, although services and manufacturing continue to stagnate in the aftermath of Ebola, GDP growth is projected at 6.7% for 2017. Following Guinea’s completion of an ECF (Extended Credit Facility) program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), negotiations are also ongoing for the next ECF program.
The biggest threats to Guinea’s economy are political instability, a reintroduction of the Ebola virus epidemic, and low international commodity prices. Economic recovery will be a long process while the government adjusts to lower inflows of international donor aid following the surge of Ebola-related emergency support. Ebola stalled promising economic growth in the 2014-15 period and impeded several projects, such as offshore oil exploration and the Simandou iron ore project. The economy, however, grew by 6.6% in 2016 and 6.7% in 2017, mainly due to growth from bauxite mining and thermal energy generation as well as the resiliency of the agricultural sector. The 240-megawatt Kaleta Dam, inaugurated in September 2015, has expanded access to electricity for residents of Conakry. An enduring legacy of corruption, inefficiency, and lack of government transparency, combined with fears of Ebola virus, continue to undermine Guinea’s economic viability.
A World Bank and IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) place Guinea at a moderate risk of debt distress, with increased vulnerabilities. The World Bank and IMF teams are working closely with the Guinean authorities to ensure that all new loans in 2017 and onward are contracted with a high degree of concession and a strong development impact. Successive governments have failed to address the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Guinea suffers from chronic electricity shortages; poor roads, rail lines and bridges; and a lack of access to clean water – all of which continue to plague economic development. The present government, led by President Alpha CONDE, is working to create an environment to attract foreign investment and hopes to have greater participation from western countries and firms in Guinea’s economic development.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$26.45 billion (2017 est.)
$24.8 billion (2016 est.)
$23.26 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$9.183 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
6.7% (2017 est.)
6.6% (2016 est.)
3.5% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,000 (2017 est.)
$2,000 (2016 est.)
$1,900 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
-1.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
-6.7% of GDP (2016 est.)
-8.1% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 42.1% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
rice, coffee, pineapples, mangoes, palm kernels, cocoa, cassava (manioc, tapioca), bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes; cattle, sheep, goats; timber.
bauxite, gold, diamonds, iron ore; light manufacturing, agricultural processing.
Population below poverty line:
47% (2006 est.)
revenues: $1.559 billion
expenditures: $1.868 billion (2017 est.)
Guinea was the major agricultural producer among the colonies of French West Africa. The sector has subsequently collapsed, making Guinea a net food importer, despite its immense agricultural potential. Agricultural production is, with few exceptions, at the smallholder/subsistence level. However, with increased direct foreign investment in the mining sector, other foreign firms are looking to invest in agricultural projects in Guinea, such as rice production in the northern region of Boké. The government is currently self-funding the construction of a rice irrigation project on the Koundian Plain outside of Kankan. The government hopes to be self-sufficient in the production of rice by 2020.
Guinean producers have little or no access to short-term loans or guaranteed markets, so it is difficult for them to make capital improvements in their farms. Poor or nonexistent infrastructure compounds the problem, as producers have little access to cold storage or good roads. As a result, it is hard to get produce to local markets before it starts to spoil, let alone transport it overseas. Some producers are making the transition to dried foodstuffs, which are easier to transport but lack the necessary machinery and capability to make this a large-scale operation.
While sophisticated producers are aware of U.S. sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, it is difficult for Guinean producers to meet the regulations at the present time. There is potential for Guinea to export bananas, pineapples, potatoes, mangoes, other fruits and vegetables, flowers, and plants if these problems are overcome. These could provide significant investment opportunities for U.S. business.
Guinea’s largest suppliers of rice are Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, China, and Taiwan. Flour imports originate largely in France and Morocco. Principal sugar suppliers include Belgium, France, Brazil, and Senegal. Periodically, the government takes measures to protect domestic agricultural production. For example, in 2011 the government banned many agricultural exports, most notably rice, believing that this would hold down domestic prices. In 2016, the government banned the export of much high-value agricultural exports overland in an attempt to capture more trade via sea and airports.
population without electricity: 8,700,000
electrification – total population: 26%
electrification – urban areas: 53%
electrification – rural areas: 11% (2013)
Electricity – production:
1 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
930 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
740,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
50% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 0
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
total: 10.8 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 87 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 9.8% (July 2016 est.)
Richly endowed with minerals, Guinea possesses over 25 billion tonnes (metric tons) of bauxite – and perhaps up to one-half of the world’s reserves. In addition, Guinea’s mineral wealth includes more than 4-billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea has considerable potential for growth in agricultural and fishing sectors. Soil, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for large-scale irrigated farming and agro-industry. Possibilities for investment and commercial activities exist in all these areas, but Guinea’s poorly developed infrastructure and rampant corruption continue to present obstacles to large-scale investment projects.
Joint venture bauxite mining and alumina operations in northwest Guinea historically provide about 80% of Guinea’s foreign exchange. Bauxite is refined into alumina, which is later smelted into aluminum. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG), which exports about 14 million tonnes of high-grade bauxite annually, is the main player in the bauxite industry. CBG is a joint venture, 49% owned by the Guinean Government and 51% by an international consortium known as Halco Mining Inc., a joint venture of Dadco Mining and Rio Tinto Alcan.
Diamonds and gold also are mined and exported on a large scale. AREDOR, a joint diamond-mining venture between the Guinean Government (50%) and an Australian, British, and Swiss consortium began production in 1984 and mined diamonds that are 90% gem quality. Production stopped from 1993 until 1996, when First City Mining, of Canada, purchased the international portion of the consortium. The bulk of diamonds are mined artisanally. The largest gold mining operation in Guinea is a joint venture between the government and Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana. Société Minière de Dinguiraye (SMD) also has a large gold mining facility in Lero, near the Malian border.
Guinea has large reserves of the steel-making raw material, iron ore. Rio Tinto is the majority owner of the $6 billion Simandou iron ore project, which the firm says is the world’s best-unexploited resource. Rio Tinto has signed a binding agreement with Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. to establish the joint venture for the Simandou iron ore project. This project is said to be of the same magnitude as the Pilbara in Western Australia. In the 1960s, Thomas Price, then vice president of US-based steel company Kaiser Steel, said, “I think this is one of the most massive ore bodies in the world.”
Banking and Finance
Guinea’s financial system is small and dominated by the banking sector. It comprises 15 active banks and 22 microfinance institutions totaling 146 branches across the country. Guinea also has ten insurance firms, three money-transfer companies, and 45 currency exchange offices. Guinea’s banking sector is overseen by the Central Bank (BCRG) and it serves as the agent of the treasury for overseeing banking and credit operations in Guinea and abroad. The BCGR manages the foreign exchange reserves on behalf of the State. Further information on the BCRG can be found in French at BCRG.
Due to the difficulty of accessing funding from commercial banks, small commercial and agricultural enterprises have increasingly turned to microfinance, which has been growing rapidly with a net increase of deposits and loans, but the quality of its products remains mediocre, with bad debt accounting for five percent of loans with approximately 17 percent of gross loans outstanding. Guinea plans to broaden the country’s SME base through investment climate reform, solutions to improve access to finance, and the establishment of SME growth corridors. Severely limited access to finance (especially for SMEs), inadequate supply of infrastructure, deficiencies in logistics and trade facilitation, corruption and low capacity of the government, inflation, and poor education of the workforce has seriously undermined investor confidence in Guinean institutions.
Commercial credit for the private and public enterprise is difficult and expensive to obtain in Guinea. The legislature passed a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) convention law in 1998, which provides rules and guidelines for BOT and related infrastructure development projects. The law lays out the obligations and responsibilities of the government and investors and stipulates the guarantees provided by the government for such projects. The Investment Code allows transfers of income derived from investment in Guinea, the proceeds of liquidating this investment, and the compensation paid in the event of nationalization to any country in convertible currency. The legal and regulatory procedures, based on French civil law, are not always applied uniformly or transparently.
Guinea is the richest country in terms of its natural features. The imposing mountains and the supercilious high plateaus blend in well with the temperate climate that is a characteristic of this Great country. Mount Loura stands out with the highest peak of about 1515m alongside the Tinka Mountain. This country nourishes the major vegetation of West Africa with most rivers finding their origin from these lofty mountains.
You can never imagine the churning of the spectacular rivers which rattle down the main highlands to create a scenic and charming water flows which rumble down with excitement. The diverse topography that defines this West African state and the climate together with rich people’s culture makes the Republic of Guinea a superior tourist paradise. The unrelenting attractions and panoramic sceneries that breathe with beauty vehemently sum it all.
Guinea offers lots of attraction, besides the natural features and the diverse cultural potential. Guinea is a mother of enormous ancient historical sites and museums which expose ancient activities. The country attractiveness was exposed by the ancient explorer who termed it as “Africa’s promised land,” this was in accordance to the beauty embedded in its rivers, plateaus, mountains and the forests full of wildlife. The Republic of Guinea is actually a wonderland for adventures.
Place of Attractions
Conakry; Pulsating to very African rhythms with its patchwork of markets (just check out the colorful veg in Madina bazaar), beer bars and Malinke music dives, Conakry is everything you’d expect of a capital representing one of West Africa’s most haphazard nations.
Iles de Los; A spattering of islands that sits just off the coast from the beating streets of Conakry city, the Iles de Los offer a glimpse of what Guinea could be, or would be, were it not for its unstable political life.
National Park of Upper Niger; Dominating a whopping 6,000 square kilometers in the midst of eastern Guinea, the National Park of Upper Niger (or the National Park Haut Niger, as it’s known locally) is now on the very forefront of West African conservation.
Nzérékoré; This fast-growing city has been a regular receptacle for refugees fleeing conflicts in other West African countries to the south. Nzérékoré is known for its silversmiths and great location just a stone’s throw from both the Forêt Classée de Diécké to the south and the wildlife-rich hills of Mount Nimba to the east.
Fouta Djallon Highlands; A carpet of green interspersed only by the occasional hoodoo and craggy protrusion of ancient sandstone rock, weathered and eroded away by century after century of attrition, covers the vast expanse known as the Fouta Djallon.
Mount Nimba; Straddling the tristate join of Guinea, Ivory Coast and Liberia in the extreme south-east of the nation, Mount Nimba marks the highest point in the wild and rugged Nimba Range.
The modern state of Guinea did not come into existence until 1958, but the history of the area stretches back well before European colonization. Its current boundaries were determined during the colonial period by the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) and the French, who ruled Guinea until 1958. The prehistory of Guinea is similar to many West African counties. Early human settlers from northern Holocene societies arrived in West Africa around 12,000 B.C. At Gobero, the Kiffian, who were hunters of tall stature, lived during the green Sahara between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. The Tenerian, who were a more lightly built people that hunted, fished and herded cattle, lived during the latter part of the green Sahara approximately 7,000 to 4,500 years ago.
Sedentary farming began in, or around the fifth millennium B.C, as well as the domestication of cattle. By 1500 B.C, ironworking technology allowed an expansion of agricultural productivity, and the first city-states later formed. Northern tribes developed walled settlements and non-walled settlements that numbered at 400. In the forest region, Iron Age cultures began to flourish, and an inter-region trade began to appear. The desertification of the Sahara and the climatic change of the coast cause trade with upper Mediterranean peoples to be seen.
The domestication of the camel allowed the development of a trans-Saharan trade with cultures across the Sahara, including Carthage and the Berbers; major exports included gold, cotton cloth, metal ornaments, and leather goods, which were then exchanged for salt, horses, textiles, and other such materials. Local leather, cloth, and gold also contributed to the abundance of prosperity for many of the following empires.
Archaeological evidence indicates that at least some stone tools found in Guinea had been made by peoples who had moved there from the Sahara, pushed perhaps by the desiccation that had occurred in the Saharan region by 2000 bc. Agriculture had been practiced along the coast of Guinea by ad 1000, with rice the staple crop.
The Sosso Empire
The Kingdom of Sosso, also written as Soso or Susu, was an ancient kingdom on the coast of West Africa. During its empire, reigned their most famous leader, Sumanguru Kante. When he ascended the throne, Soumaoro hindered all commercial activities between Mandé and Ouagadou. He forcibly removed all the horses that the Soninke merchants were driving on his territory to sell them, or which were in transit for the Mande. The king of Sosso thus gave himself the monopoly of the horse trade. The other chiefs had no choice but to come to the markets of his country. From there comes the name Sosso. Sosso was under the control of the Tounka of Ouagadou.
His governor (farin) was the lieutenant of an emperor. His name was Goumaté Fadé Diarisso, generally known as Gourmet Fané. Also, it should be pointed out, all the kings of Sosso were Soninké and their surname was Diarisso. (Diarra and his son Soumaoro were Soninke and Diarisso). After the fall of Koumbi, Kambine Diarisso proclaimed the independence of the country and became sovergin in 1105 for the first time. But his sons Souleymane, Bana, Boubou, Maghan, Ganne, Moussa and Birama were idle kings. They were unable to rule the kingdom. General Diarra Kanté (let’s emphasize it, he was Diarisso) took the opportunity to settle on the royal skin. He dispersed the pretenders to the throne. His son Soumaoro succeeded him. He was the most illustrious and the last king of the Sosso. This is how he and his father Diarra became Kanté. This name is born of a particular circumstance that diali explain by giving several versions.
The legendary Soumaoro was a great hunter (soso sinbo ani sinbo salaba). He was tall with disgusting legs. Soumaoro had traveled the Ouagadou in all directions. He was a vagabond. But the griots who praised them said of him: “you are not a vagabond and you have no legs wily, worthy son of a charming man.” Some oral sources indicate that the birthplace of Soumaoro would be in Do Sankarana (Segou).
The king of Sosso was a great warrior and a fetishist master. The heads of the kings defeated by him decorated the walls of his immense palace, a gigantic tower with several floors. Soumaoro owned a sparrowhawk, guardian of his home. Like the eagle of Mama Dinga, this raptor spoke to men and even communicated with Sosso simbo at a distance. He foresaw all the events. And like the milk on the fire, the bird watched the magic balafon of his master (Sosso bala), the specimen, the ancestor of other instruments of this kind. The famous messenger of Sogolon Diata discovered it and played it despite the warnings of the hawk. He played it so well that the king of Sosso held him prisoner.
Most of Upper Guinea were within the area influenced by the Ghana empire at the height of its power, but none of present-day Guinea was actually within the empire. The Mandés was initially a part of many fragmented kingdoms that formed after the collapse of Ghana empire in the 11th century. During the rule of Sundiata Keita, these kingdoms were consolidated, and the Mandinka expanded west from the Niger River basin under Sundiata’s general Tiramakhan Traore. This expansion was a part of creating a region of conquest, according to the oral tradition of the Mandinka people. This migration began in the later part of the 13th century.
With the migration, many gold artisans and metalworking Mandinka smiths settled along the coast and in the hilly Fouta Djallon and plateau areas of West Africa. Their presence and products attracted Mandika merchants and brought trading caravans from North Africa and the eastern Sahel states Toby Green – a professor of African History and Culture. It also brought conflicts with other ethnic groups, such as the Wolof people, particularly the Jolof Empire.
The caravan trade to North Africa and the Middle East brought Islamic people into Mandinka people’s original and expanded home region. The Muslim traders sought a presence in the host Mandinka community, and this likely initiated proselytizing efforts to convert the Mandinka from their traditional religious beliefs into Islam. In Ghana, for example, the Almoravids had divided its capital into two parts by 1077, one part was Muslim and other non-Muslim. The Muslim influence from North Africa had arrived in the Mandinka region before this, via Islamic trading diasporas.
One of the legends among the Mandingo of western Africa is that the general Tiramakhan Traore led the migration because people in Mali had converted to Islam and he did not want to. Another legend gives a contrasting account and states that Traore himself had converted and married Muhammad’s granddaughter. The Traore’s marriage with Muhammad’s granddaughter, states Toby Green, is fanciful, but these conflicting oral histories suggest that Islam had arrived well before the 13th century and had a complex interaction with the Mandinka people.
Kingdom of Futa Jallon
Kingdom of Futa Jallon was the Fulani Kingdom ran by an imam or Almamy, located in central Guinea, founded in 1725. The state occupied the defensive side of a Hill. The kingdom came about with a joint coalition of Fulani, Mandinka, Susu, and other ethnic Muslims. Fulani Muslim reformers called Mujaddadin (“revivers of Islam” not mujahadeen, “warriors of Islam”) wanted to create a pure Islamic state. They conquered the Dialonke, a Mande speaking ethnic.
The kingdom was ruled by the Almamy. His power was absolute but informed by his counselors who had the ears of the populace. The Almamy claimed authority from Allah and ruled in the name of Allah. The Almamy was elected every two years after 1800. They came from two Fulani families, the Alfa or Sori. The kingdom was divided into 9 provinces called diwal. Each diwal was further divided into sub-districts called miside. An army, manned by compulsory service, was kept for defense. The Almamy was the commander of the army.
Since the 17th century, the Fouta Djallon region has been a stronghold of Islam. Early revolutionaries led by Karamokho Alfa and Ibrahim Sori set up a federation divided into nine provinces. Several succession crises weakened the central power located in Timbo until 1896, when the last Almamy, Bubakar Biro, was defeated by the French army in the battle of Poredaka.
The Fulɓe of Fouta Djallonke spearheaded the expansion of Islam in the region. Fulɓe Muslim scholars developed an indigenous literature using the Arabic alphabet. Known as Ajamiyya, this literary achievement is represented by such great poet-theologians as Tierno Muhammadu Samba Mombeya, Tierno Saadu Dalen, Tierno Aliou Boubha Ndyan, Tierno Jaawo Pellel etc.
Samori Touré was born in 1830 in Manyambaladugu (some texts mention Sanankoro instead), a village southeast of Kankan in present-day Guinea. Samori was a great warrior who fought imperialism in the 19th century such as many leaders today. He refused to submit to French colonization and thus chose the path of confrontation using warfare and diplomacy. Until the age of 20, Samori was a trader. After his mother was captured in a slave raid by the king Sori Birama, he offered to serve in his army and excelled by his military prowess and skills.
Samori Touré had a vision of unity for the Malinké people and thus started organizing his empire using traditional and innovative methods. He effectively organized Malinké chiefdoms into a single state under his authority, at the core of which was the army. He managed to increase loyalty to the state in the Malinké people who now thought as one united people… this intensified their allegiance to him. His state was well-organized and efficient.
Samori’s army was powerful, disciplined, professional, and trained in modern-day warfare. They were equipped with European guns. The army was divided into two flanks, the infantry or sofa, with 30,000 to 35,000 men, and the cavalry or sere of 3,000 men. Each wind was further subdivided into permanent units, fostering camaraderie among members and loyalty to both the local leaders and Samori himself. Talk about African organization and discipline… this was really a strong army! His empire reached his apogee between 1883 and 1887, and he took the title of Almami or religious leader of a Muslim empire.
Samori Touré created the Mandinka empire (the Wassoulou empire) between 1852 and 1882. His empire extended to the east as far as Sikasso (present-day Mali), to the west up to the Fouta Djallon empire (middle of modern-day Guinea), to the north from Kankan to Bamako (in Mali); to the south, down to the borders of present-day Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. His capital was Bisandugu, in the present-day Gambia. In the 1850s, slavery being abolished, European powers decided to establish colonies in Africa, and could not tolerate strong states like the Mandinka empire, and strong leaders like Samori Touré.
In 1882, at the height of the Mandinka empire, the French accused Samori Touré of refusing to comply to their order to withdraw from an important market center, Kenyeran (his army had blockaded the market). They thus started a war on him. This was an excuse to start the war! From 1882 to 1885, Samori fought the French and had to sign infamous treaties in 1886 and then 1887. In 1888, he took up arms again when the French reneged on the treaty by attempting to foster rebellion within his empire. He defeated the French several time between 1885 and 1889. After several confrontations, he concluded several treaties with the French in 1889.
In 1890, he reorganized his army and signed a treaty with the British in Sierra Leone, where he obtained modern weapons. He reorganized his army so as to stress defense, and employed guerilla tactics. In December 1891, French forces overran the major cities of the Mandinka empire, leaving death and desolation in their wake (sounds familiar? Côte d’Ivoire April 2011). These incursions into Touré’s empire led to the exodus of the entire nation eastward. In 1893, Samori moved his capital east from Bisandugu to Dabakala. In 1894, the French assembled all their troops in western Sudan (Senegal, Mali, Niger, etc…) to fight Samori.
The End of Samori
Between 1893 and 1898, Samori’s army retreated eastward, toward the Bandama and Como (in modern-day Cote d’Ivoire), conquering huge territories in the northern part of modern-day Cote d’Ivoire. He led the scorched earth tactic, destroying every piece of land he evacuated. Although that tactic cut him from his new source of weapons in Liberia, he still managed to delay the French. He formed a second empire, and moved his capital to Kong, in upper Cote d’Ivoire.
On May 1, 1898, the French seized the town of Sikasso and his army took up positions in the Liberian forests to resist a second invasion. This time Samori’s army fought valiantly but was no match to the power of the French arsenal. Samori forced to fight a total war against a foreign invader, and fighting against all odds, was captured on September 29, 1898, in his camp in Gué(lé)mou in present-day Côte d’Ivoire. He was exiled to Gabon where he died two years later on June 2, 1900.
Samori Touré was a warrior, a fighter, an empire builder, and one of the greatest African military leaders ever seen… he fought and won against the French army several times before his capture. Interestingly enough, over 50 years later, the grandson of Samori, Sekou Touré, was the only one to say ‘NO’ to France, and to General De Gaulle: they preferred freedom over slavery under the European master… that was in Guinea!
European exploration of the Guinea coast had begun by the middle of the 15th century; it was led by the Portuguese. By the 17th century, French, British, and Portuguese traders and slavers were competing with one another. When the slave trade was prohibited during the first half of the 19th century, Guinean creeks became hiding places for slavers harried by the ships of the British Royal Navy. French rights along the coast were expressly preserved by the Peace of Paris (1814), and French, as well as British and Portuguese trading activities, expanded in the middle years of the 19th century, when trade in peanuts, palm oil, hides, and rubber replaced that in slaves.
The French established a protectorate over Boké in 1849 and consolidated their rule over the coastal areas in the 1860s. This inevitably led to attempts to secure a more satisfactory arrangement with the Fulani chiefs of Futa Jallon. A protectorate was established over the region in 1881, but effective sovereignty was not secured for another 15 years. Resistance to the French advance up Senegal and the Niger, toward Lake Chad, came from Samory Touré, a Malinké born in Upper Guinea. He had seized Kankan in 1879 and established his authority in the area southeast of Siguiri; but his attacks had spurred the inhabitants of the area to seek aid from French troops already established at Kita in French Sudan (Soudan Français, now Mali) in 1882.
Samory had signed treaties with the French first in 1886, and also in 1890. But on various pretexts, both he and the French later renounced the treaties, so hostilities resumed. His capture in 1898 marked the end of concerted local resistance to the French occupation of Guinea, Ivory Coast (now Côte d’Ivoire), and southern Mali. In 1891, Guinea was reconstituted as a French territory separate from Senegal, of which it had hitherto been a part. Four years later, the French territories in West Africa became a federation under a governor-general.
Fight for Independence
The French protectorate of Rivières du Sud was detached from Senegal as a separate colony in 1890. As French Guinea, it became part of the Federation of French West Africa in 1895. Treaties with Liberia and Great Britain largely established the present boundaries by World War I.
The French set up a bureaucracy to administer the colony and collected taxes and requisitioned forced labor. The tried to capitalize on the area’s natural resources, such as gold but were largely unsuccessful. The French built schools, courts, and medical clinics. While they brutalized some sectors of the population, colonialism was ameliorated by the lack of French personnel. The French depended on local chefs and institutions for the day-to-day administration of the colony; as a result, colonial policies were often implemented incompletely.
Under the 1946 constitution of the French Fourth Republic, a small number of French-educated Africans in Guinea were allowed to vote for deputies to the French National Assembly. Sekou Touré led the nation to independence in the 1950s. A postal clerk and union activist, Touré was head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which drew support from market women and low-level African bureaucrats. Declaring, “We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in chains,” Touré conducted a campaign against the proposed French Union, which would have kept French colonies in a federation.
n September 1958, France’s president, granted the nation’s independence and ordered a swift withdrawal. All French personnel was deployed back to France, public works in progress were demolished, and the medicines, textbooks, and records used in colonial hospitals, schools, and offices were removed or destroyed. Taking office as the country’s first president in 1958, Touré faced immense challenges.
By 1960, Touré had declared the PDG the only legal party. For the next 24 years, the government and the PDG were one. Touré was reelected unopposed to four seven-year terms as president, and every five years voters were presented with a single list of PDG candidates for the National Assembly. Advocating a hybrid African Socialism domestically and Pan-Africanism abroad, Touré quickly became a polarising leader, and his government became intolerant of dissent, imprisoning hundreds, and stifling the free press. Sékou Touré died on March 26, 1984, after a heart operation in the United States, and was replaced by Prime Minister Louis Lansana Beavogui, who was to serve as interim president pending new elections.
The PDG was due to elect a new leader on April 3, 1984. Under the constitution, that person would have been the only candidate for president. However, hours before that meeting, Colonels Lansana Conté and Diarra Traoré seized power in a bloodless coup. Conté assumed the role of president, with Traoré serving as prime minister until December. Conté immediately denounced the previous regime’s record on human rights, released 250 political prisoners and encouraged approximately 200,000 more to return from exile.
16 November 2010, Alpha Condé, the leader of the opposition party Rally of the Guinean People (RGP), was officially declared the winner of a 7 November run-off in Guinea’s presidential election. He had promised to reform the security sector and review mining contracts if elected.