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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Guinea-Bissau was under Portuguese rule for nearly a century before the country succeeded in securing its independence, in 1974. Since then, the tiny nation has suffered from persistent political and military upheaval. In 1980 a military coup installed the army chief João Bernardo Vieira as president. Though he attempted to revitalize the country by establishing a market economy and a multiparty system, his regime was characterized overall by a suppressive stance toward political opponents and rivals. Despite several coup attempts throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Vieira remained the country’s president and in 1994 was elected president in the country’s first free elections.
Four years later Vieira dismissed his army chief; that jump-started a civil war and led to his ouster in 1999. The following year the opposition leader Kumba Yala was elected president, only to be overthrown in 2003 in a bloodless militar
y coup that was prompted by the worsening economic and political climate. In 2005 the former president Vieira was reelected but was killed in 2009 by renegade soldiers who purportedly wanted to avenge the killing of a military chief that had taken place earlier that day. The longtime politician Malam Bacai Sanha was elected president in an emergency election held in 2009 and remains in power today.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. Roughly the same size as the state of Maryland, Guinea-Bissau is made up of eight regions—Bafatá, Biombo, Bolama, Cacheu, Gabú, Oio, Quinara, Tombali—and one autonomous sector, Bissau. The interior regions—Gabú, Bafatá, and parts of Oio—consist mostly of large swaths of savanna; the coastal regions—Cacheu, Biombo, Bissau, Quinara, and Tombali—are swampy and lined with mangroves. Bolama, which comprises the Bijagós Islands, is where you’ll find the country’s best beaches.
2. The local currency is the CFA franc (Communauté Financière Africaine franc). One U.S. dollar is equal to approximately 500 CAF.
3. Guinea-Bissau has four major newspapers: No Pintcha
, which is state run, and Correio de Bissau
, and Banobero
, all of which are private.
4. Though the country’s official language is Portuguese, the majority of Bissau-Guineans speak Crioulo, a Portuguese-based Creole, or one of the many indigenous African languages, the most common being Balanta-Kentohe, Pulaar, Mandjak, Mandinka, and Pepel.
5. Smoking is permitted in most public places in Guinea-Bissau.