History of Guinea
The modern state of Guinea did not come into existence until 1958, but the history of the area stretches back well before European intervention. Its current boundaries were determined during the colonial period by the Berlin Conference and the French, who ruled Guinea until 1958.
West African empires
What is now Guinea was on the fringes of the major West African empires. The Ghana Empire is believed to be the earliest of these which grew on trade but contracted and ultimately fell due to the hostile influence of the Almoravids. It was in this period that Islam first arrived in the region.
The Sosso kingdom (12th to 13th centuries) briefly flourished in the void but the Islamic Mandinka Mali Empire came to prominence when Soundiata Kéïta defeated the Sosso ruler, Soumangourou Kanté at the semi-historical Battle of Kirina in c. 1235. The Mali Empire was ruled by Mansa (Emperors), the most famous being Kankou Moussa, who made a famous hajj to Mecca in 1324. Shortly after his reign the Mali Empire began to decline and was ultimately supplanted by its vassal states in the 15th century.
The most successful of these was the Songhai Empire, expanding its power from about 1460, and eventually surpassing the Mali Empire in both territory and wealth. It continued to prosper until a civil war over succession followed the death of Askia Daoud in 1582. The weakened empire fell to invaders from Morocco at the Battle of Tondibi just 3 years later. The Moroccans proved unable to rule the kingdom effectively, however, and it split into many small kingdoms.
Kingdoms in Guinea
|This section requires expansion. (October 2009)|
After the fall of the major West African empires, various kingdoms existed in what is now Guinea.
The Wassoulou or Wassulu empire was a short-lived (1878–1898) empire, led by Samori Ture in the predominately Malinké area of what is now upper Guinea and southwestern Mali (Wassoulou). It moved to Ivory Coast before being conquered by the French.
The slave trade came to the coastal region of Guinea with European adventurers in the 16th century. Slavery had always been part of everyday life but the scale increased as slaves were exported to work elsewhere in the triangular trade.
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 Samori Touré, Mansa (or Emperor) of the Ouassoulou state and leader of Malinké 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 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.
In 1958 the French Fourth Republic collapsed due to political instability and its failures in dealing with its colonies, especially Indochina and Algeria. The founding of a Fifth Republic was supported by the French people, while French President Charles de Gaulle made it clear on 08 August 1958 that France's colonies were to be given a stark choice between more autonomy in a new French Community and immediate independence in the referendum to be held on 28 September 1958. The other colonies chose the former but Guinea — under the leadership of Ahmed Sékou Touré whose Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) had won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections — voted overwhelmingly for independence. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as president.
Sékou Touré's rule
De Gaulle withdrew the French administration, with much of the French population following, which took much of the country’s infrastructure and large amounts of capital. Three thousand French left the country, taking all their property and destroying anything that could not be moved: schools, nurseries, and public administration buildings were crumbled; cars, books, medicine, research institute instruments, and tractors were crushed and sabotaged; horses and cows on farms were killed; food in warehouses was burned or poisoned. The purpose was to send a clear message to other colonies that the consequences for rejecting France were high.
Guinea quickly aligned itself with the Soviet Union and adopted socialist policies. This alliance was short lived, however, as Guinea moved towards a Chinese model of socialism. Despite this, however, the country continued to receive aid and investment from capitalist countries such as the U.S.. Even the relationship with France improved, after the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as president, trade increased and the two countries exchanged diplomatic visits.
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 free press. At the same time, the government nationalised land, removed French appointed and traditional chiefs from power, and broke ties with French government and companies. Vacillating between support for the Soviet Union and (by the late 1970s) the United States, Guinea's economic situation became as unpredictable as its diplomatic line. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Touré’s regime targeted real and imagined opponents, driving thousands of political opponents into exile.
In 1970, Portuguese forces, from neighboring Portuguese Guinea, staged Operation Green Sea, a raid into Guinea with the support of exiled Guinean opposition forces. Among other goals, the Portuguese military wanted to kill or capture Sekou Toure due his support of the PAIGC, a guerilla movement operating inside Portuguese Guinea. After several days of fierce fighting, the Portuguese forces retreated without achieving most of their goals. The regime of Sékou Touré increased the number of internal arrests and executions.
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.
Lansana Conté's rule
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. He also made explicit the turn away from socialism, but this did little to alleviate poverty and the country showed no immediate signs of moving towards democracy.
In 1992, Conté announced a return to civilian rule, with a presidential poll in 1993 followed by elections to parliament in 1995 (in which his party - the Party of Unity and Progress - won 71 of 114 seats.) Despite his stated commitment to democracy, Conté's grip on power remained tight. In September 2001 the opposition leader Alpha Condé was imprisoned for endangering state security, though he was pardoned 8 months later. He subsequently spent a period of exile in France. In 2001 Conté organized and won a referendum to lengthen the presidential term and in 2003 begun his third term after elections were boycotted by the opposition. In January 2005, Conté survived a suspected assassination attempt while making a rare public appearance in the capital Conakry. His opponents claimed that he was a "tired dictator"  whose departure was inevitable, whereas his supporters believed that he was winning a battle with dissidents. Guinea still faces very real problems and according to Foreign Policy is in danger of becoming a failed state.
In 2000 Guinea became embroiled in the instability which had long blighted the rest of West Africa as rebels crossed the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone and it seemed for a time that the country was headed for civil war. Conté blamed neighbouring leaders for coveting Guinea's natural resources, though these claims were strenuously denied. In 2003 Guinea agreed plans with her neighbours to tackle the insurgents. In 2007 there were big protests against the government, resulting in the appointment of a new prime minister.
Lansana Conté died on December 23, 2008, leading to a coup d'état by the military. The junta, under the name National Council for Democracy and Development (Fr: Conseil National de la Démocratie et du Dévelopement, CNDD), is led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.
On September 28, 2009 an opposition demonstration was met by troops who fired on demonstrators and raped many women among them.
In late February/early March 2013, opposition supporters took to the streets of Conakry to protest against the government’s alleged attempts to rig the May elections in 2013. The opposition coalition withdrew from the electoral process in mid-February, mainly due to President Conde's insistence on using a suspicious South African firm Waymark Infotech to draw up the registered voter list. The ensuing violence resulted in at least nine deaths and hundreds injured, many from the brutality of the security forces who reportedly used live fire to disperse some of the crowds.
- History of Africa
- History of West Africa
- List of heads of government of Guinea
- List of heads of state of Guinea
- Politics of Guinea
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- Background Note: Guinea
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