Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Area (including Bijagos Archipelago): 36,125 sq.
km., about the size of Maryland.
Cities: Capital--Bissau. Other
cities--Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim,
Regions: Oio, Tombali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara,
Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.
Terrain: Coastal plain; savanna in the east.
Population (2006): 1,700,000.
Population growth rate (2005): 3%.
Ethnic groups: Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca
14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, others 16%.
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%,
Languages: Portuguese (official), Creole,
French; many indigenous languages--Balanta-Kentohe
26%, Pulaar 18%, Mandjak 12%, Mandinka 11%,
Pepel 9%, Biafada 3%, Mancanha 3%, Bidyogo 2%,
Ejamat 2%, Mansoanka 1%, Bainoukgunyuno 1%, Nalu
1%, Soninke 1%, Badjara 1%, Bayote 0.5%, Kobiana
0.04%, Cassanga 0.04%, Basary 0.03%.
compulsory--4. Literacy (2005)--39.6%
mortality rate (2005)--200
deaths/1,000 live births. Life
Work force (480,000): Agriculture--85%; industry,
services, and commerce--13%; government--2%.
Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.
Independence: September 24, 1973 (proclaimed
unilaterally); September 10, 1974 (de jure from
Constitution: Adopted 1984. The National
Assembly adopted a new constitution in 2001, but
it was neither promulgated nor vetoed by the
(chief of state), prime minister (head of
government) and Council of State, ministers and
secretaries of state. Legislature--National
Popular Assembly (ANP), 100 members directly
elected in 2004. Judicial--Supreme
Court and lower courts.
Administrative subdivisions: Autonomous sector
of Bissau and eight regions.
Political parties: In the March 2004
parliamentary elections, the African Party for
the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde
(PAIGC) won 45 seats; the Social Renovation
Party (PRS) won 35 seats; and the United Social
Democratic Party (PUSD) won 17 seats. In
addition to these three major parties, there are
numerous other political parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2007): $386.8 million (est.).
Annual growth rate (2007): 3.7% (est.).
GDP per capita, purchasing power parity (2005):
Natural resources: Fish and timber. Bauxite and
phosphate deposits are not exploited; offshore
tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm
Industry: Very little industrial capacity
remains following the 1998 internal conflict.
The cashew processing industry is nascent.
million (f.o.b., 2006): cashews ($66 million,
2006), fish and shrimp ($1 million, 2006). Major
72.4%, Nigeria 17.2%, Ecuador 4.1%, Italy 1.4%,
and South Korea 1.3%. Imports--$28
million (f.o.b., 2006): food ($49 million,
2005), fuel and energy ($20 million, 2006),
capital goods ($8 million, 2006). Major
22.6%, Portugal 17.7%, Italy 12.2%, Pakistan
4.3%, and Cote d'Ivoire 3.2%.
The population of Guinea-Bissau is
ethnically diverse with distinct languages,
customs, and social structures. Most people are
farmers, with traditional religious beliefs
(animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and
Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and
northeast. Other important groups are the
Balanta and Papel, living in the southern
coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha,
occupying the central and northern coastal
The rivers of Guinea and the islands of Cape
Verde were among the first areas in Africa
explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century.
Portugal claimed Portuguese Guinea in 1446, but
few trading posts were established before 1600.
In 1630, a "captaincy-general" of Portuguese
Guinea was established to administer the
territory. With the cooperation of some local
tribes, the Portuguese entered the slave trade
and exported large numbers of Africans to the
Western Hemisphere via the Cape Verde Islands.
Cacheu became one of the major slave centers,
and a small fort still stands in the town. The
slave trade declined in the 19th century, and
Bissau, originally founded as a military and
slave-trading center in 1765, grew to become the
major commercial center.
Portuguese conquest and consolidation of the
interior did not begin until the latter half of
the 19th century. Portugal lost part of Guinea
to French West Africa, including the center of
earlier Portuguese commercial interest, the
Casamance River region. A dispute with Great
Britain over the island of Bolama was settled in
Portugal's favor with the involvement of U.S.
President Ulysses S. Grant.
Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some
assistance from the Muslim population, subdued
animist tribes and eventually established the
territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese
Guinea was brought under control after more than
30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the
Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The
administrative capital was moved from Bolama to
Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional
amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea
became an overseas province of Portugal.
In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa
organized the African Party for the Independence
of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely.
The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry,
Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion
against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the
presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to
more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded
its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most
of the country.
It established civilian rule in the territory
under its control and held elections for a
National Assembly. Portuguese forces and
civilians increasingly were confined to their
garrisons and larger towns. The Portuguese
Governor and Commander in Chief from 1968 to
1973, Gen. Antonio de Spinola, returned to
Portugal and led the movement that brought
democracy to Portugal and independence for its
Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in
1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides
Pereira, who later became the first President of
the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National
Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region
and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau
on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's
April 1974 revolution, it granted independence
to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The
United States recognized the new nation that
day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother,
became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980,
the government was overthrown in a relatively
bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former
armed forces commander Joao Bernardo "Nino"
From November 1980 to May 1984, power was held
by a provisional government responsible to a
Revolutionary Council headed by President Joao
Bernardo Vieira. In 1984, the council was
dissolved, and the National Popular Assembly (ANP)
was reconstituted. The single-party assembly
approved a new constitution, elected President
Vieira to a new 5-year term, and elected a
Council of State, which was the executive agent
of the ANP. Under this system, the president
presided over the Council of State and served as
head of state and government. The president also
was head of the PAIGC and commander in chief of
the armed forces.
There were alleged coup plots against the Vieira
government in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1986,
first Vice President Paulo Correia and five
others were executed for treason following a
lengthy trial. In 1994, the country's first
multi-party legislative and presidential
elections were held. An army uprising against
the Vieira government in June 1998 triggered a
bloody civil war that created hundreds of
thousands of displaced persons and resulted in
President Vieria having to request assistance
from the governments of Senegal and Guinea, who
provided troops to quell the uprising. The
President was ousted by a military junta in May
1999. An interim government turned over power in
February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala,
founder of the Social Renovation Party (PRS),
took office following two rounds of transparent
Despite the elections, democracy did not take
root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala
neither vetoed nor promulgated the new
constitution that was approved by the National
Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity
undermined the rule of law. Impulsive
presidential interventions in ministerial
operations hampered effective governance. On
November 14, 2002, the President dismissed the
government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse,
dissolved the National Assembly, and called for
legislative elections. Two days later, he
appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a
caretaker government controlled by presidential
decree. Elections for the National Assembly were
scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed
until June and then October. On September 12,
2003, the President of the National Elections
Commission announced that it would be impossible
to hold the elections on October 12, 2003, as
scheduled. The army, led by Chief of Defense
General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on
September 14, 2003. President Yala announced his
"voluntary" resignation and was placed under
house arrest. The government was dissolved and a
25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy
and Constitutional Order was established. On
September 28, 2003, businessman Henrique Rosa
was sworn in as President. He had the support of
most political parties and of civil society.
Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as
Prime Minister. On March 28 and 30, 2004,
Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which
international observers deemed acceptably free
and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior
became Prime Minister.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On August 10, 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieria was
declared the winner of a July 24 presidential
runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an
election judged by international observers to be
free and fair. President Vieria was inaugurated
on October 1, 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes
Junior refused to accept Vieira's victory, and
on October 28, Vieira dismissed Gomes and his
government. Five days later, he installed former
PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as Prime Minister.
Throughout 2006, President Vieira struggled to
maintain control over the National Assembly and
the general operations of the government. In
early March 2007, the three main political
parties--the PAIGC, the PRS, and the PUSD--agreed
to push for a "government of consensus" in the
interests of parliamentary stability. President
Vieira refused to accept the decision, and on
March 19 the National Popular Assembly passed a
vote of no confidence against Prime Minister
Aristide Gomes. President Vieira was then faced
with the decision of dissolving the government
and calling for new elections or appointing a
new prime minister. Prime Minister Gomes
resigned on March 29. In early April 2007, after
much resistance, President Vieira accepted the
appointment of Martinho N'Dafa Cabi as the new
Prime Minister Cabi has called for a
"relentless" fight against drug trafficking and
vowed to instill fiscal discipline in the
Government of Guinea-Bissau. This is especially
important given the recent increase in news
media reports examining Guinea-Bissau's role in
the West African regional drug trade. The
government has implemented a number of policies
to this end, and has succeeded in gaining the
support of many in the donor community.
Guinea-Bissau is perceived to be gaining
political stability under this government, while
still fragile. Parliamentary elections are
scheduled for November 16, 2008. This election
will be crucial to the ongoing efforts for
growth and stability in the country.
Principal Government Officials
President--Joao Bernardo Vieria
Prime Minister--Martinho N'Dafa Cabi
Minister of Economy--Abudacar Demba Dahaba
Minister of Finance--Issufo Sanha
Minister of Defense--Marciano Silva Barbeiro
Minister of Justice--Carmelita Barbosa Rodrigues
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Maria de Conceicao
Minister of Interior--Certorio Biote
Ambassador to the UN--Alfredo Cabral
Ambassador to the U.S.--vacant
Guinea-Bissau does not have official
representation in Washington, DC.
Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least
developed nations and depends mainly on
agriculture and fishing. Guinea-Bissau exports
some fish and seafood, although most fishing in
Guinea-Bissau's waters is presently not done by
Bissau-Guineans and no fish or seafood is
processed in Guinea-Bissau for export. The
country's other important product is cashews.
License fees for fishing provide the government
with some revenue. Rice is a major crop and
staple food and, if developed, Guinea-Bissau
could potentially be self-sufficient in rice.
Tropical fruits such as mangos could also
provide more income to the country if the sector
were developed. Because of high costs, the
development of petroleum, phosphate, and other
mineral resources is not a near-term prospect.
However, unexploited offshore oil reserves may
possibly provide much-needed revenue in the long
The military conflict that took place in
Guinea-Bissau from June 1998 to early 1999
caused severe damage to the country's
infrastructure and widely disrupted economic
activity. Agricultural production is estimated
to have fallen by 17% during the conflict, and
the civil war led to a 28% overall drop in gross
domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Cashew nut
output, the main export crop, declined in 1998
by an estimated 30%. World cashew prices dropped
by more than 50% in 2000, compounding the
economic devastation caused by the conflict.
Before the war, trade reform and price
liberalization were the most successful part of
the country's structural adjustment program
under International Monetary Fund (IMF)
sponsorship. Under the government's
post-conflict economic and financial program,
implemented with IMF and World Bank input, real
GDP recovered in 1999 by almost 8%. In December
2000 Guinea-Bissau qualified for almost $800
million in debt-service relief under the first
phase of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor
Countries (HIPC) initiative. However,
Guinea-Bissau's Poverty Reduction and Growth
Fund program with the IMF was suspended that
same month--following disbursement of the first
tranche--due to off-program expenditures by the
Yala regime. Thus, IMF and Paris Club internal
debt relief for Guinea-Bissau was also suspended
After a disastrous 2006, Guinea-Bissau's economy
bounced back in 2007. Cashews, the country's
principal cash crop, rebounded strongly in 2007
after the government's 2006 attempt to
artificially set the price of cashews at 70 U.S.
cents/kg--more than twice what traders were
willing to pay. The economy also benefited from
robust growth in the country's tourism industry.
Guinea-Bissau appears ready to continue its
economic growth in 2008 with new support from
international donors and a recovery in cashew
exports. Guinea Bissau has announced that Angola
will be investing U.S. $500 million in a project
to mine 3 million tons of bauxite per year. The
IMF and World Bank resumed development support,
and in January 2008 the IMF announced its
approval for $2.8 million in emergency
post-conflict assistance. Oil prospecting
continues; however, this has yet to provide
results that would encourage significant
investment. GDP is projected to increase in
2008, with the deficit projected to decrease.
Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign
policy and seeks friendly and cooperative
relations with a wide variety of states and
organizations. Angola, Cuba, the European Union,
France, Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Nigeria,
People's Republic of China, Libya, Senegal,
Spain, Guinea, and Russia have embassies in
Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Mauritania,
the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the
United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic
relations with Guinea-Bissau through their
embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of
its specialized and related agencies. It is a
member of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB),
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),
West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU),
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC),
African Union, and permanent Interstate
Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS).
Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of
77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), and World Health
The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in
Bissau on June 14, 1998, in the midst of violent
conflict between forces loyal to then-President
Vieira and the military-led junta. Prior to and
following the Embassy closure, the United States
and Guinea-Bissau have enjoyed excellent
The U.S. recognized the independence of
Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974.
Guinea-Bissau's Ambassador to the United States
and the United Nations was one of the first the
new nation sent abroad. The U.S. opened an
Embassy in Bissau in 1976, and the first U.S.
Ambassador presented credentials later that
U.S. assistance began in 1975 with a $1 million
grant to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
for resettlement of refugees returning to
Guinea-Bissau and for 25 training grants at
African technical schools for Guinean students.
Emergency food was a major element in U.S.
assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the first years
after independence. Since 1975, the U.S. has
provided more than $65 million in grant aid and
Since the 1998 war the U.S. has provided over
$800,000 for humanitarian demining to a
non-governmental organization (NGO) which has
removed over 2,500 mines and 11,000 unexploded
ordnance from the city of Bissau; $1.6 million
in food aid; and nearly $3 million for
assistance for refugees, improving the cashew
industry, and promoting democracy.
The United States and Guinea-Bissau signed an
international military education and training (IMET)
agreement in 1986, and prior to 1998, the U.S.
provided English-language teaching facilities as
well as communications and navigational
equipment to support the navy's coastal
surveillance program. The U.S. European
Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program has
assisted with $390,000 for constructing or
repairing schools, health centers, and bridges.
The Peace Corps withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in
1998 at the start of the civil war.
In August 2004, sanctions under Section 508 of
the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act--which
were imposed as a result of the September 2003
military coup--were lifted and Bissau once again
became eligible for IMET and other direct aid.
In March 2007, the U.S. and Brazil signed a
Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with
Guinea-Bissau highlighting a parliamentary
strengthening project first implemented in 2005.
Principal U.S. Officials (resident
in Dakar, Senegal)
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jay T. Smith
There is no U.S. Embassy in Bissau. The U.S.
Ambassador to Senegal, who resides in Dakar, is
accredited as the U.S. Ambassador to
Guinea-Bissau. All official U.S. contact with
Guinea-Bissau is handled by the U.S.
Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Local employees
staff the U.S. Office in Bissau, and American
diplomats from the Embassy in Dakar travel
frequently to Bissau to conduct normal