The History of Guinea
The History of Guinea
- Mohamed Saliou CamaraMohamed Saliou CamaraDepartment of African Studies, Howard University
Like most of post-colonial African nation-states, Guinea is the product of Europe’s colonial partition of the continent at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. France followed up on the Berlin arrangements with military campaigns against West African rulers and treaties with other European colonial powers (Britain and Portugal) vying for territories in the region and the Republic of Liberia. However, the ancient communities whose descendants inhabit the Republic of Guinea were part and parcel of some of the greatest kingdoms and empires that marked West Africa’s history between the 6th and 19th centuries (Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Batè, Wassolon, and Futa-Jallon). Islam, which was introduced into the region through trans-Saharan trade, scholarship, and wars involving Muslim North Africa and Islamized elites of the Bilad as-Sudan, gained prominence and ultimately became the dominant religion in Guinea. The Atlantic Slave Trade spearheaded by the Portuguese, and the succeeding legitimate trade opened West Africa to colonial conquest and occupation in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Under French occupation, Guinea underwent major political, cultural, social, and economic mutations brought about by events and processes such as its integration into the French West Africa Federation and its multifaceted participation in the World Wars, as well as in France’s colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. In the process, a nationalist anti-colonial consciousness evolved and crystallized, leading to the country’s advent to independence in 1958. As the sole French colony to reject Charles de Gaulle’s Franco-African Community, its modern history is in many ways unique. Since independence, Guinea has gone through a pro-Soviet single-party regime, military rule, and a shaky transition to the current civilian leadership, whose record of democratic governance has been checkered at best. Economic development has also been largely elusive, despite the abundance of arable land and mineral resources. This notable uniqueness notwithstanding, the history of Guinea does epitomize in some respects that of the African continent.
- West Africa