When the West African republic of Guinea celebrates its 56th independence day from France Oct 2, the usual parties will most definitely be muted thanks to the current Ebola outbreak. But in commemoration of this naturally beautiful country, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Guinea:
Sources: Lonely Planet, BBC News
1. Part of Mali empire
Guinea was once part of the vast Mali empire that stretched across much of western Africa between the 13th and 15th centuries.
2. European arrival
The Portuguese arrived first in the mid-1400s and were followed by other European traders. In 1891 Guinea became a French colony.
3. Beginning of the end
Guinea was the first West African nation under French rule to be granted independence on Oct 2, 1958. This event signaled the beginning of the end of the French colonial era on the continent.
4. Compromise denied
When under the leadership of President Sekou Toure the people demanded independence from France, the French initially attempted to offer Guinea membership in a commonwealth government. Toure turned them down stating: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery.”
5. Freedom with a cost
Independence was granted on Oct 2, 1958, but the French immediately also cut off all financial and physical aid and fled the country in droves.
6. Socialist utopia gone wrong
Sekou Toure modeled Guinea’s government on the revolutionary Chinese pattern of snatching up farms and industries in an attempt to form a socialist utopia. The result was disastrous and plunged the country into poverty.
7. Paranoid mess
Over the years Sekou Toure’s paranoia regarding conspiracies against him increased and his rule became a reign of terror as many people seen as dissidents were either killed out right, or left to rot in jail.
8. Mass exodus
The French weren’t the only ones who fled: by the 1960s more than 250,000 Guineans had also left.
9. Toure’s death
Toure’s reign came to an end in March 1984 when he died. A few days later a military coup put Lansana Conte in control. Described as a “chain-smoking diabetic” by Lonely Planet, Conte is still running the country today, although he rarely if ever appears in public.
10. Future unknown
Guinea’s economy has been in a decline for a while now, and the impact of the Ebola virus will surely only serve to make things worse for this already struggling nation.
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