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Guinea Bissau, History

Balante, PAIGC, Bolama, coup attempt, Portuguese colony

The early history of Guinea-Bissau is obscure, but some of the major ethnic groups of the country, such as the Balante and Pepel, were apparently established there by the 12th century. The area was visited in 1446 by Nuno Tristao, a Portuguese slave trader, and became an important slave center. A Portuguese post was established at Bissau in 1687, but the Portuguese claim was disputed by the French and the British, and in 1792 the latter briefly had a settlement at Bolama. In 1879 the region was constituted a Portuguese colony, and border disputes with the French were settled by treaty in 1886. Not until 1915, however, were the Portuguese able to exercise effective control over the country.

The status of Guinea-Bissau was changed from colony to overseas province in 1952; soon afterward an African nationalist movement arose, led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). After sporadic violence, the party launched a war of independence in the early 1960s. By September 1973 the rebels proclaimed an independent republic and sought international recognition. On September 10, 1974, Portugal formally granted Guinea-Bissau independence.

Guinea-Bissauís new government, under the presidency of PAIGC leader Luis de Almeida Cabral, established a monopoly over foreign trade and moved toward a socialist state by authorizing nationalization of all landholdings. In 1980 President Cabral was overthrown in a coup led by Prime Minister Joao Bernardo Vieira. Elected to a five-year term in 1984, President Vieira and his military-dominated government survived a coup attempt in 1985. Vieira was reelected in 1989 and again in 1994.

In mid-1998 an army rebellion erupted following Vieiraís dismissal of the army chief of staff, General Ansumane Mane. Fighting between rebel troops and soldiers loyal to the government raged off and on through May 1999, when rebel forces, led by Mane, successfully overthrew Vieira. Mane turned power over to PAIGC statesman Malan Bacai Sanha, the speaker of the National Peopleís Assembly, who was declared acting president. Kumba Yala of the Party of Social Renovation defeated Sanha in presidential elections, held in two rounds, in November 1999 and January 2000.

Article key phrases:

Balante, PAIGC, Bolama, coup attempt, Portuguese colony, army chief of staff, socialist state, African Party, Pepel, independent republic, war of independence, presidential elections, border disputes, major ethnic groups, acting president, monopoly, rebels, treaty, foreign trade, settlement, Cape Verde, Portugal, colony, speaker, rounds, effective control, century, power, government, country, French, region, area


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