It has a population of about 1,460,253 inhabitants (2006), ethnically diverse, with multiple languages, different customs and social structures. Almost 99% of Guineans are black and can be divided into the following three categories:
- The Fula and Mandinka speaking people, which constitute the largest portion of the population and are concentrated in the north and northeast.
- The Balanta and Papel, who live in the southern coastal regions.
- The Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas.
Most of the remaining group are of mixed race descendant of Portuguese and black, including a Cape Verdean minority. The pure Portuguese form only a very small portion of Guineans.
Evolution of the population between 1961 and 2003
Many Portuguese settlers left the country after Guinea-Bissau gained independence. Only 14% of the population speaks the official language Portuguese. 44% of the population speaks Creole and the rest speaks native African languages including: Badjara, Balanta-Kentohe, Basary Pulaar, Bayote, Bainoukgunyuno, Biafada, Bidyogo, Cassanga, Ejamat, Kobiana, Mancanha, Mandinka, Mandajak, Mansoanka, Nalu , Pepel and Soninke. Most of the population (50%) are farmers with traditional religious beliefs (animism), 45% are Muslims, mainly Fula and Mandinka, and less than 5% are Christians, most of them are Catholic.
Guinea Bissau is divided into eight regions and one autonomous sector, which are subdivided into thirty-seven sectors. The regions are:
- Bafatá (capital city: Bafatá)
- Biombo (capital city: Quinhamel)
- Autonomous sector of Bissau (capital city: Bissau)
- Bolama (capital city: Bolama)
- Cacheu (capital city: Cacheu)
- Gabú (capital city: Gabú)
- Oio (capital city: Farim)
- Quinara ((capital city: Quinara)
- Tombali ((capital city: Catió)
Government and Policital System
Guinea Bissau has a multiparty National Popular Assembly since mid-1991. It consists of 100 members and is governed by the President, who are elected by popular vote. The President chairs the Cabinet and appoints the Prime Minister after consulting with the parties in the Assembly. Among the political parties are: the Social Renewal Party (PRS), Guinea Bissau Resistance (RGB), Bafatá Movement, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Democratic Front (FD), Union for Change Coalition, Front for Liberation and Independence of Guinea (FLING), and the Social Democratic Front (SDF).
In July 1999, the Parliament approved a new constitution.
This is a country characterized by frequent cycles of civil wars and weak government structures, since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.
In 1956 Amílcar Cabral founded the Association of Sports and Recreation that would turn into the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC). After three years the PAIGC initiated a guerrilla war. The areas liberated by the PAIGC proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Guinea, in 1973, recognized by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Guinea-Bissau was the first Portuguese colony of Africa that obtained the independence.
In Bissau was born the predecessor of the Movement of the Armed forces, responsible for the overthrow for the Portuguese dictatorial regime in 1974. Four months later, Portugal recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau.
In 1980 João Bernardo Vieira, commander of the guerrilla struggle led a coup that ended the presidency of Luis Cabral and interrupted the merger with Cape Verde when both countries were planning a constitutional union.
The incipient progress achieved during the decade of 1990 was reverted by wars that occurred during 1998 and 2000, and by the bloody inflicted by the military in 2003, which left a large number of displaced: 300,000 inhabitants and 13,000 refugees.
João Bernardo Vieira remained in the exile up to 2005, nine years after the end of a civil war of eleven months which had ousted him from the power, he returned to present himself to the elections destined to restore the democracy.
In the early morning on March 2, 2009 (4:00 GMT) the Chief of Staff, Tagmé Na Waié, was killed in a bomb attack on the army headquarters. Some soldiers believed that this murder was ordered by the President of Guinea, João Bernardo Vieira. Hours later, he was killed by soldiers at the presidential residence. Previously he refused the offering of the Embassy of Angola to evacuate to its diplomatic head office. He died at the age of 69, after being more than 23 years at the head of Guinea Bissau.
After Vieira’s death, the country's military pledged to respect the constitutional order of succession. The spokesman of the National Assembly, Raimundo Pereira took over temporarily until a national election, which occurred on June 28, 2009, was won by Malam Bacai Sanha, who took office on September 8 of that same year.
According to the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), Guinea Bissau is among the underdeveloped countries, with low economic performance and precarious nutrition. With a population of around 1.5 million people, this nation has a per capita income of US$162. The socio-economic indicators place it at number 176, of a total of 187, in the PNUD 2011 Human Development Report.
The poverty prevails in the rural area: almost 80 % of the population is composed by farmers of scarce resources. All regions of the country have a deficit in terms of food and basic services. The most recent study on poverty indicates that 88 % of the people of the country live on less than US$1 per day.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, which represents 50 % of the Internal Product Gross (GDP) and 93 % of the yield of exportation (the raw cashew chestnut constitutes over 90% of the external yield). 82 % of the working population works in agriculture. The subsistence agricultural lands depend on the rain.
The main diet is composed by: rice, yucca, corn, sorghum and black corn. 30 % of the territory is occupied by forests, allowing the exploitation of wood and rubber.
The most relevant industrial activity in Guinea-Bisáu is the treatment of the agricultural products, production of beer, and petroleum in joint exploration with Senegal. There are large reserves of bauxite and phosphorus that begun to be explored in 2010. The emission of postal stamps, mainly intended for collectors, is also an important source of revenue for its economy.
Health and Nutrition
Mortality indicators are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa with a child mortality rate of 211 per 1000, infant mortality rate of 130 per 1000 and maternal mortality of 910 per 100 000 born alive babies.
The primary education system is in deep crisis. Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that the global average of enrollment was 69% (55% Raparigas and 85% Rapazes) in 2001. Only 47% of enrolled children completed primary education.
The music of Guinea Bissau belongs in general to the Gumbe, a genre of polyrhythmic nature, which is the most relevant musical export. However, the instability of the society and relatively small development caused that the Gumbe and other associated genres have not achieved the required level to transcend borders and reach larger audiences.
The calabash is the most popular musical instrument in Guinea Bissau. It is built using the dried fruit of the gourd and used to create music with complex rhythmical features. The lyrics are usually in Capeverdean Creole language (Kriolu), and Creole language of Portuguese roots. They are common songs with humoristic content or about specific topics related to everyday events or controversial, especially AIDS.
The word Gumbe sometimes is used in generic form, to refer to all kinds of native music, although it actually refers to a specific style that is the merger of numerous folkloric music traditions of the country. Other popular musical genres are Tina and the Tinga, while among the most widely used folkloric traditions there are the ceremonial music used in funerals, initiation ceremonies and other rituals, like the Brosca and Kussundé Balanta, the Djambadon of the ethnic group Mandinga and the rhythm Kundere of the Bijagós islands.