Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Guinea Bissau

(Portuguese Guinea)

Capital : Bissau

Size: 13 900 sq m Popn: 1 006 000


This is a tiny country by African standards. Like its larger neighbour, Guinea, it was at the centre of the slave trade after the Portuguese arrived in 1446. It was claimed by Portugal in 1879 and administered with the Cape Verde islands before becoming a separate colony as Portuguese Guinea.

The country was not fully subjugated for 70 years and only briefly controlled before the guerrilla war under Amilcar Cabral and Aristides Pereira began in 1961. By 1972, the Cabral's independence group, the African Party for the Independence of Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) founded as nationalism arose during the 1950s, controlled most of the countryside apart from the capital, Bissau. It held elections for a national people's assembly in 1973 and proclaimed independence with Luiz Cabral as president of a state council. Continued fighting between the rebels and Portuguese troops led to many deaths and was only ended by the coup in which Salazar, the Portuguese dictator, was overthrown in 1974.

A merger with Cape Verde was proposed but there was opposition to the mixed (African and Cape Verdian) race leadership and in 1980 President Luiz Cabral was deposed by Joao Bernardo Vieira's African mainlander revolutionary council and the idea was abandoned. Four coups were attempted from 1980-1985 and Vieira's stable position came at a considerable price in human rights with the PAIGC the only legal political party. In 1984, the new constitution made him head of government as well as head of state and he was re-elected in 1989. A multipartycommission organized presidential elections and an assembly in 1992.

Portuguese is the official language, ethnic groups are the Balante, Fula and Mandinka and Atlantico, Mande and other tribal languages are spoken. 64% retain traditional beliefs, 35% are Muslim an 1% Christian.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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