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  U.S. Department of State, December 1999
Bureau of African Affairs

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Background Notes:
Guinea

 
Official Name:
Republic of Guinea (République de Guinée)

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 245,860 sq. km. (95,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Oregon.
Capital: Conakry
Other Cities: Guéckédou, Boké, Kindia, N'Zérékoré, Macenta, Mamou, Kankan, Faranah, Siguiri, Dalaba, Labe, Pita, Kamsar.
Terrain: Generally flat along the coast and mountainous in the interior. The country's four geographic regions include a narrow coastal belt; pastoral highlands (the source of West Africa's major rivers); the northern savanna; and the southeastern rain forest.
Climate: Tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Guinean(s).
Population (1996 census): 7.2 million (including refugees and foreign residents). Refugee population (June 1998 est.): 548,000.
Cities: Conakry (pop. 1.1 million). Population of largest prefectures-- Guéckédou (348,053), Boké (294,314), Kindia (288,007), N'Zérékoré (282,903), Macenta (281,053).
Annual growth rate (1996 census): 2.8%.
Ethnic groups: Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, other ethnic groups 10%.
Religions: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, traditional beliefs 7%.
Languages: French (official), national languages.
Education: Years compulsory--8. Enrollment--primary school, 51% (male 66%, female 35%); secondary, 15%; and post secondary, 3%. Literacy (Total population over age 15 that can read and write, 1996 est.)--36% (male 50%, female 22%).
Health (1996 est.): Life expectancy--total population 45 years (female 47 years, male 43 years).
Infant mortality rate (1995 UNDP)--229/1,000.
Work force (1995 Min of Plan): 3.4 million.
Agriculture 76%. Industry and commerce 18%.
Services 6%.

Government

Type: Republic.
Independence: October 2, 1958. Anniversary of the Second Republic, April 3, 1984. Government based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by a president and his ministers or through legislation produced by the National Assembly and approved by the president.
Branches: Executive --Elected President (chief of state); 25 appointed civilian ministers. Legislative--Elected National Assembly (114 seats). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Region, prefecture, subprefecture, rural district.
Political parties: Legalized on 1 April 1992. Seven parties, of the more than 40 with legal status, won seats in the June 1995 legislative elections. Pro-government--Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) and DJAMA. Opposition --Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), Union for a New Republic (UNR), Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP), Union for Progress of Guinea (UPG), Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG).
Suffrage: Universal over age 18.
Central government budget (1998): $328 million.
Flag: Red, yellow, and green vertical stripes.

Economy

GDP (1998 est.): $3.3 billion.
Annual economic growth rate (1997): 5%.
Per capita GDP (1997 est.): $750.
Average inflation rate (1997): 2.1%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, water power, uranium, fisheries.
Industry (28.4% of GDP): Types--mining, light manufacturing, construction.
Trade (28.2% of GDP): Exports--$793 million: bauxite, alumina, diamonds, gold, coffee, pineapples, bananas, palm products, coffee.
Agriculture (20.4% of GDP): Products--rice, cassava, fonio, millet, corn, coffee, cocoa, bananas, palm products, pineapples, livestock, forestry. Arable land--30%. Cultivated land--4%.
Major markets--European Union, U.S., Commonwealth of Independent States, China, Eastern Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco.

GEOGRAPHY

Guinea is located on the Atlantic Coast of West Africa and is bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The country is divided into four geographic regions: A narrow coastal belt (Lower Guinea); the pastoral Fouta Djallon highlands (Middle Guinea); the northern savannah (Upper Guinea); and a southeastern rain-forest region (Forest Guinea). The Niger, Gambia, and Senegal Rivers are among the 22 West African rivers that have their origins in Guinea.

The coastal region of Guinea and most of the inland have a tropical climate, with a rainy season lasting from April to November, relatively high and uniform temperatures, and high humidity. Conakry's year-round average high is 29 degrees C (85 degrees F), and the low is 23 degrees C (74 degrees F); its average annual rainfall is 430 centimeters (169 inches). Sahelian Upper Guinea has a shorter rainy season and greater daily temperature variations.

PEOPLE

Guinea has four main ethnic groups:
--Peuhl (Foula or Foulani), who inhabit the mountainous Fouta Djallon;
--Malinke (or Mandingo), in the savannah and forest regions;
--Soussous in the coastal areas; and
--Several small groups (Gerzé, Toma, etc.) in the forest region.

West Africans make up the largest non-Guinean population. Non-Africans total about 10,000 (mostly Lebanese, French, and other Europeans). Seven national languages are used extensively; major written languages are French, Peuhl, and Arabic.

HISTORY

The area occupied by Guinea today was included in several large West African political groupings, including the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, at various times from the 10th to the 15th century, when the region came into contact with European commerce. Guinea's colonial period began with French military penetration into the area in the mid-19th century. French domination was assured by the defeat in 1898 of the armies of Almamy Samory Touré, warlord and leader of Malinke descent, which gave France control of what today is Guinea and adjacent areas.

France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and the Liberia. Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar. Lieutenant governors administered the individual colonies, including Guinea.

Led by Ahmed Sékou Touré, head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections, the people of Guinea in a September 1958 plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected membership in the proposed French Community. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as president.

Under Touré, Guinea became a one-party dictatorship, with a closed, socialized economy and no tolerance for human rights, free expression, or political opposition, which was ruthlessly suppressed. Originally credited for his advocacy of cross-ethnic nationalism, Touré gradually came to rely on his own Malinke ethnic group to fill positions in the party and government. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Touré's regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where hundreds perished. The regime's repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Touré's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.

Sékou Touré and the PDG remained in power until his death on April 3, 1984, when a military junta headed by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conté seized power.

GOVERNMENT

The president governs Guinea, assisted by a council of 25 civilian ministers appointed by him. The government administers the country through eight regions, 33 prefectures, over 100 subprefectures, and many districts (known as communes in Conakry and other large cities and villages or "quartiers" in the interior). District-level leaders are elected; the president appoints officials to all other levels of the highly centralized administration.

Principal Government Officials

President--General Lansana Conté Prime Minister--Sidya Touré Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lamine Kamara Minister of Finance--Ibrahima Kassory Fofana Minister of Energy and Mines--Facinet Fofana Minister of Defense--Dorank Assifat Diasseny Minister of the Interior--Zainoul Abidine Sanoussy Minister of Cooperation--Thierno Mamadou Diallo

Guinea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2112 Leroy Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-9420) and a mission to the United Nations at 140 E. 39th St., New York, NY 10016 (tel. 212-687-8115/16/17).

Ambassador to the United States--Mohamed Aly Thiam Ambassador to the United Nations--Mme. Mahawa Bangoura Camara

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A military junta, led by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conté and styling itself the Military Committee of National Recovery (CMRN), took control of Guinea in April 1984, shortly after the death of independent Guinea's first president, Sékou Touré. With Conté as president, the CMRN set about dismantling Touré's oppressive regime, abolishing the authoritarian constitution, dissolving the sole political party and its mass youth and women's organizations, and announcing the establishment of the Second Republic. The new government also released all political prisoners and committed itself to the protection of human rights. The CMRN also reorganized the judicial system, decentralized the administration, and began to liberalize the economy, promote private enterprise, and encourage foreign investment in order to reverse the steady economic decline under Touré's rule by developing the country's natural resources.

In 1990, Guineans approved by referendum a new constitution that inaugurated the Third Republic, and a Supreme Court was established. In 1991, the CMRN was replaced by a mixed military and civilian body, the Transitional Council for National Recovery (CTRN), with Conté as president and a mandate to manage a 5-year transition to full civilian rule. The CTRN drafted "organic" laws to create republican institutions and to provide for independent political parties, national elections, and freedom of the press. Political party activity was legalized in 1992, when more than 40 political parties were officially recognized.

In December 1993, Conté was elected to a 5-year term as president in the country's first multi-party elections, which were marred by irregularities and lack of transparency on the part of the government. In 1995, Conté's ruling PUP party won 76 of 114 seats in elections for the National Assembly amid opposition claims of irregularities and government tampering. In 1996, President Conté reorganized the government, appointing Sidya Touré to the revived post of Prime Minister and charging him with special responsibility for leading the government's economic reform program.

Guinea's second presidential election, scheduled for December 1998, will be a crucial test of the country's commitment to fulfilling its transition to democracy.

ECONOMY

Guinea is richly endowed with minerals, possessing an estimated one-third of the world's proven reserves of bauxite, more than 1.8 billion metric tons (MT) of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea also has considerable potential for growth in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Land, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for largescale irrigated farming and agroindustry.

Bauxite mining and alumina production provide about 80% of Guinea's foreign exchange. Several U.S. companies are active in this sector. Diamonds and gold also are mined and exported on a large scale, providing additional foreign exchange. Concession agreements have been signed for future exploitation of Guinea's extensive iron ore deposits. Remittances from Guineans living and working abroad and coffee exports account for the rest of Guinea's foreign exchange.

Since 1985, the Guinean Government has adopted policies to return commercial activity to the private sector, promote investment, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve the administrative and judicial framework. The government has eliminated restrictions on agricultural enterprise and foreign trade, liquidated many parastatals, increased spending on education, and vastly downsized the civil service. The government also has made major strides in restructuring the public finances. The IMF and the World Bank are heavily involved in the development of Guinea's economy, as are many bilateral donor nations, including the United States. Guinea's economic reforms have had recent notable success, improving the rate of economic to 5% and reducing the rate of inflation to about 2%, as well as increasing government revenues while restraining official expenditures. Although Guinea's external debt burden remains high, the country is now current on external debt payments.

The government revised the private investment code in 1998 to stimulate economic activity in the spirit of a free enterprise. The code does not discriminate between foreigners and nationals and provides for repatriation of profits. Foreign investments outside Conakry are entitled to especially favorable conditions. A national investment commission has been formed to review all investment proposals. The United States and Guinea have signed an investment guarantee agreement that offers political risk insurance to American investors through OPIC. Guinea plans to inaugurate an arbitration court system to allow for the quick resolution of commercial disputes.

Guinea is richly endowed with minerals, possessing an estimated one-third of the world's proven reserves of bauxite, more than 1.8 billion metric tons (MT) of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea also has considerable potential for growth in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Land, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for largescale irrigated farming and agroindustry. Possibilities for investment and commercial activities exist in all these areas, but Guinea's poorly developed infrastructure continues to present obstacles to investment projects.

See the comprehensive Country Commercial Guide for Guinea at the U.S. Embassy's web site or at the Department of State's web site.

DEFENSE

Guinea's armed forces are divided into four branches--army, navy, air force, and gendarmerie--whose chiefs report to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is subordinate to the Minister of Defense. President Conté appointed his first civilian Minister of Defense in 1997. The 10,000-member army is the largest of the four services. The navy has about 900 personnel and operates several small patrol craft and barges. Air force personnel total about 700; its equipment includes several Russian-supplied fighter planes and transport planes. Several thousand gendarmes are responsible for internal security.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guinea's relations other countries, including with West African neighbors, have improved steadily since 1985. Guinea reestablished relations with France and Germany in 1975, and with neighboring Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal in 1978. Guinea has been active in efforts toward regional integration and cooperation, especially regarding the Organization of African Unity and the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS). Guinea takes its role in a variety of international organizations seriously and participates actively in their deliberations and decisions.

Guinea has participated in both diplomatic and military efforts to resolve conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau, and contributed contingents of troops to peacekeeping operations in all three countries as part of ECOMOG, the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS. Guinea has offered asylum to over 700,000 Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Bissauan refugees since 1990, despite the economic and environmental costs involved.

U.S.-GUINEAN RELATIONS

The United States maintains close relations with Guinea. U.S. policy seeks to encourage Guinea's sustainable economic and social development, and its full integration into regional cooperative institutions, to achieve economic, social, political, and environmental objectives. The U.S. also seeks to promote increased U.S. private investment in Guinea's emerging economy.

The U.S. Mission in Guinea is composed of six agencies--Department of State, USAID, Peace Corps, USIS, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Defense. In addition to the providing the full range of diplomatic functions, the embassy will disburse in FY 1998 $57,000 for Self-Help projects and $55,000 for Democracy and Human Rights projects. The Embassy also manages a military assistance program that provides $150,000 per year in military education and language training, as well as modest humanitarian assistance programs. In FY 1997 and FY 1998, U.S. military personnel deployed to Guinea to conduct disaster management training and a joint medical exercise.

USAID Guinea is now one of only five sustainable development missions in West Africa, with current core program areas in primary education, family health, democracy and governance, and natural resources management. The total FY 1998 budget for Guinea alone is $16.9 million.

The Peace Corps has about 110 volunteers throughout the country. Volunteers teach English and mathematics in high schools, assist in village development and health education, and collaborate with USAID on a natural resources management project. Guinea was the first country to inaugurate a full-fledged Crisis Corps program, a new Peace Corps initiative developed to address natural and man-made disasters.

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador--Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. Deputy Chief of Mission--Louis J. Nigro, Jr. USAID Director--Harry Birnholz Peace Corps Director--Kathleen Tilford Public Affairs Officer--Amelia Broderick

The U.S. Embassy is located at 2d Blvd. and 9th Avenue, Conakry. The mailing address is B.P. 603, Conakry, Guinea (Tel: 41-15-20/21/23. Fax: 41-15-22).

--For further information on the U.S. Mission to Guinea, see U.S. Embassy Conakry's web site.
--See the U.S. State Department's annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Guinea.
--See also the comprehensive Country Commercial Guide for Guinea at the U.S. Embassy's web site or at the Department of State's web site.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov. Consular Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are on the internet and hard copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

Passport information can be obtained by calling the National Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is available on the internet.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://1997-2001.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

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