It is official at last–what country watchers had been expecting is finally taking place in Guinea Bissau. No, the country is not becoming a municipality in Senegal. There is a coup d’etat unfolding in its capital, Bissau, by the military (apparently just 20 soldiers; just like Mali) against the Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Jr., who was favored to win an upcoming presidential run-off in April in which he would have been the sole candidate as his opponent announced he planned to boycott the vote (now that was a mouthful). I am sure the average person googling “Guinea-Bissau” is by now wondering what I am rambling about … what is a Guinea-Bissau? I am glad you asked. Before the foreign and diaspora die-hards of Guinea Bissau get into a media music or cultural war of words, I thought it would be helpful to provide some base information about the country to novices here. In the spirit of brevity and over-simplification, here are ten (10) facts you should know about Guinea Bissau before it becomes the new “capital” of Africa for the next month or so it takes for ECOWAS to take action and resolve the crisis there (Hint: Drug trafficking is not mentioned below).
1. Guinea-Bissau occupies an area about three times the size of the state of Connecticut in the US.
2. Guinea Bissau was the subject of “late decolonization” in West Africa and gained its independence in 1974 from the Portuguese unlike its neighbours who gained theirs in the late 50s and early 60s. (And it did that through an armed struggle.)
3. Portuguese is the official national language of the country although only 14% of the country speaks it.
4. Guinea Bissau’s most famous son is Amilcar Cabral, a Revolutionary and philosopher, who led the fight for Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (which used to be one country until 1980) from Portuguese colonial rule (that armed struggle mentioned earlier).
5. Guinea-Bissau had the second, arguably, female President in Africa in 1984, Ms. Carmen Pereira. She was in the position in an acting capacity lasting just three days.
6. Guinea Bissau is the sixth largest producer of cashew nut in the world.
7. Guinea Bissau’s prospective minerals include bauxite, diamond, gold, heavy minerals, petroleum, and phosphate rock.
8. People from Guinea-Bissau are called Guineans, not Bissauns.
9. ‘Gumbe’ makes for the most popular form of music in Guinea-Bissau. The genre of music is derived from the countries folk singing tradition.
10. Guinea Bissau has one of the highest fertility rate (births per women) in Africa.
Oh, and there are the stories about the Chinese, minerals and the Guineans ….