Guinea-Bissau is a country located in the western part of Africa. Its 36,135 square kilometers of lush lands play home to more than 1.8 million people. The appendage Bissau (the capital) was added to the nation’s name so it would not be confused with the neighboring country of Guinea.
1. It was first explored in the mid-15th century.
The first European who stepped foot on this country was Alvis Cadamosto of Venice, who explored the nation in 15th century, a fun fact about Guinea-Bissau. More than two decades later, Eustache de la Fosse and Diogo Cao came along. By the 16th century, the Portuguese – who would govern over the nation for several centuries – colonized the country by setting up posts at Bissau and Cacheu.
2. Guinea-Bissau was once part of the Slave Coast.
Guinea-Bissau’s long coastlines made it an important jump point for the exportation of slaves to the western world. The Portuguese, who colonized Guinea-Bissau, was just one of the facilitators of slavery. The British, French, and Dutch did their fair share as well. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, an estimated 12 million Africans were shipped away from the Slave Coast.
3. It gained independence in 1973.
After centuries of Portuguese rule, this country finally gained their independence on September 24, 1973, a fun fact about Guinea-Bissau.
The long road to freedom started in 1956 with Amilcar Cabral, leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. Their knowledge of the terrain, coupled with artillery and personal assistance offered by China, the Soviet Union, and Cuba helped them control much of Guinea-Bissau. They were on the verge of triumph when Cabral died in early 1973.
Amilcar’s brother Luis took up the cause right thereafter. He was eventually appointed present of Guinea-Bissau. Unfortunately, one of his first mandates was to massacre the Bissau Guinean soldiers who fought against them.
4. Guinea-Bissau suffered an 11-month civil war.
The civil war started on June 7, 1998, following the attempted coup d’etat against then-President Joao Bernardo Vieira. The instigator was his former Brigadier-General Ansumane Mane, who was sacked due to dereliction of duty.
After all the fighting, the peace accords were finally signed in November 1999. Both sides agreed to start the government of national unity. Francisco Fadul was eventually named prime minister. Vieira was expectedly ousted and replaced by Kumba Iala.
5. Vieira would eventually become president of Guinea-Bissau once again.
Although he was deposed in 1999, Vieira would once again become president in 2005. He was not able to finish his term though as he was assassinated four years later. He was replaced by Raimundo Pereira as interim president.
The 2009 elections saw the triumph of Malam Bacai Sanha, who was again replaced by Pereira when he died of diabetes in 2012. Pereira would eventually be overthrown by General Mamadu Ture Kuruma in another coup d’etat.
6. Only 1 President managed to complete a five-year term.
The Bissau-Guinean political system is rife with coup d’etats and oustings. Throughout the years, only one president was able to leave the seat unscathed – and that was Jose Maria Vaz. The former Mayor of Bissau won the presidential election of 2014. He successfully remained as president until the end of his term on June 24, 2019, an interesting fact about Guinea-Bissau. He wasn’t able to repeat this feat though as he only gained a 12% vote in the 2019 presidential elections.
7. Portuguese is the country’s official language – but only a few can speak or write it.
Because of its colonial history, the Portuguese language remains to be the language of government, communication, and education. However, only 11 to 15% of the country can speak the language, an interesting fact about Guinea-Bissau. The majority of the citizens – 44% – speak Portuguese Creole. The rest make use of native African languages such as the Fula, Balanta, Mandinka, and Papel, to name a few.
8. Guinea-Bissau is one of the founding members of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
As the name suggests, this congregation features nations where Portuguese is the official language. It was established on July 17, 1996, through the collective efforts of Portugal, Cabo Verde, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and of course, Guinea-Bissau. The original 7 nations recently welcomed Timor-Leste and Equitorial Guinea into the fellowship, which is also known to others as the Lusophone Commonwealth.
9. It has one of the lowest GDPs in the African Region.
Gross Domestic Product is the financial measure of the goods and services produced within a specific timeframe. It represents the contributions of different industries to the nation. As such, it can represent the country’s progress and development.
As of the 2019 rankings, Guinea-Bissau’s GDP of $1.67 billion ranks it 174th on the global list. As for the African region, it ranks at 51 out of 54 countries. It is ahead of Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sudan by only a few hundred million.
10. Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest Human Development Indices in the world.
The Human Development Index (HDI) is the measure of a country’s life expectancy, education, and per capita income measures. It shows the basic achievement levels in terms of human development.
Unfortunately for Guinea-Bissau, it has one of the lowest HDI scores in the world. It ranks 174th with an HDI score of 0.461. It has one of the lowest life expectancies in Africa at 58 years. It has one of the longest expected years of schooling at 10.5, although the average years of schooling are measured at just 3.3.
11. From being a Slave Coast, Guinea-Bissau has now become a Narco-Coast.
Because of its strategic position, it comes as no surprise that Guinea-Bissau has become the coast for scrupulous activities. In 2005, Latin American drug traffickers began to use the country’s docks as shipment points for Cocaine distribution to Europe, an interesting fact about Guinea-Bissau. Despite this problem, the government and the military seem to do nothing to address the problem. Apart from the inability to enforce the law, the country lacks resources to do so.
Guinea-Bissau is one of the unfortunate countries that have been plagued with coup d’etats, military juntas, and drug traffickers. Despite this, its citizens continue to thrive with their colorful cultures and folk traditions.
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