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Guinea - People

Guinea must now face up to two major challenges: lifting its 12,000,000 [as of 2016] people out of poverty and ensuring the country's food security with a population growing at 3% per year and expected to reach 1820 million in 2030.

Foreign observers estimated the size of the de facto population at 4.2 million in early 1973. A Guinean census of 1972 indicated a total of over 5.1 million, but this figure appeared to be for the de jure population, thus including people involved in the large, semipermanent emigration that took place mainly during the 1960s when an estimated 600,000 to 1 million individuals, including family members, departed from Guinea. This outward movement consisted of people whose motivation fell into two principal categories: political disillusionment resulting from the increasingly totalitarian aspects of the government; and economic reasons, principally the great shortage of consumer goods and the belief that living conditions and work opportunities were better outside Guinea.

The small, relatively isolated community of ten to 100 families was traditionally the principal unit of social organization for the majority of Guineans. Within most Guinean villages the basis of organization was the patrilineage, consisting of all the descendants in the male line of a known common ancestor. Among a few peoples, such as the Coniagui, the Bassari, and other small ethnic groups, social organization was based on the matrilineage, which consisted of all the descendants through the female line of a common female ancestor. In either case an individual's closest friends and neighbors were also his closest kinsmen. Friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance followed the network of kinship ties.

Lineages were ranked according to the length of time they had been settled in the area, highest status being accorded to the descendants of the village founder. The founder of a lineageusually no more than four or five generations removedwas one of the principal objects of reverence, for it was he who first cleared the land and established the rights to ownership and use.

The approximately nine million Guineans are divided into nearly thirty ethnic groups each speaking their own language. Given that the last official census based on ethnic groups dates back to 1955, before independence (1958), it is difficult to rely on these statistics. On the basis of these data, one might say that the Fulani (or Poulars) constituted the numerically largest ethnic group (40% in 1955), followed by the Maninkas (known as Malinke: 35% in 1955) Soussos (15% in 1955), then Guerzs, Kissiens, Tomas, Landoumas, Bagas and others. In Guinea-Conakry, belonging to an ethnic group proves to be all the more complex because there are many "groupings" that must be taken into account. The "assimilated" (for example, the Bagas and the Landoumans in relation to the Soussous), the "related" (for example Toucouleurs and the Peuls) and the subgroups (for example, Kourankos, Leles, Etc., compared to the Malinke).

We then arrive at different proportions. Between 30% and 35% of the population, the Malinks (Maninkas) and the "assimils" would constitute the largest group; They would be followed closely by the Fulani and Toucouleurs with 30%; Followed by the Soussous and "assimilated", followed by the "foresters" (those who live in Guine Forestire), with 18%. As for the other small ethnic groups, they represent only 2% to 3% of the population. However, Peuls, Malinks and Soussous alone account for three-quarters of the population.

The three main ethnic groups are located in the four major geographical regions of Guinea. Maritime Guinea is home to almost 75% of Soussos, but almost all of the country's ethnic groups are also found there, due to the presence of the capital, Conakry, which attracts Guineans. In the Fouta-Djallon region, or Middle Guinea, there are 80% of the Fulani and 14% of the Malinke; The latter are more numerous in Upper Guinea (45% of them). As for forestry Guinea, it mainly shelters Malinke (35% of them), but also small ethnic groups such as Kissians, Tomas, Guerzs, etc.

Guineans mainly use Niger-Congolese languages, such as the Pular (32%) spoken by the Fulani, maninka (24%) spoken by Malinke, soussou (10%), guerze (3.8% Kissi (3.5%), toma (1.8%), dialonke (1.8%), and the like.

French is the official language of the country, but only 15% to 25% of Guineans do so; In the remote countryside, this language remains almost unknown. French is used as a lingua franca between the ethnic groups, but also the poular, malink and sometimes soussou. As far as the Arabic language is concerned, this language is only used by followers of the Koran. From a religious point of view, Muslims are clearly the most numerous in Guinea, with almost 85% of the population. There are 5% Guineans who follow traditional animist religions and 4% Christians (3% Catholics and 1% Evangelical Protestants).

Approximately twenty-four ethnic groups are represented within the Guinean population, but three of them constitute about 75 percent of the total. Guinea has three main ethnic groups:

  1. Peuhl (Foula or Foulani), who inhabit the mountainous Fouta Djallon;
  2. Malinke (or Mandingo), in the savannah and forest regions;
  3. Soussous in the coastal areas; and

Middle Guinea is the traditional domain of the Peul, the largest group; the Malink predominate in Upper Guinea; and the Soussou are preponderant in Lower Guinea. French, a legacy of the country's colonial past, is the official language. In choosing a national language after independence, however, the government did not wish to offend any of the ethnic groups by giving one of the many spoken vernaculars preeminence over the others. The national languages, therefore, are the country's eight major vernaculars: Poular, Malink, Soussou, Kissi, Guerz, Toma, Coniagui, and Bassari.

The Fulani would be Caucasian breed with reddish brown or caf au lait skin. The Jalonke are black with features close to the Maninka. Other West Africans make up the largest non-Guinean population. Non-Africans total about 10,000 (mostly Lebanese, French, and other Europeans). Seven national languages are used extensively; major written languages are French, Peuhl, and Arabic.

A lack of literacy and vocational training programs limit job prospects for youth, but even those with university degrees often have no option but to work in the informal sector. About 60% of the countrys large youth population is unemployed.

Tensions and refugees have spilled over Guineas borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote dIvoire. During the 1990s Guinea harbored as many as half a million refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, more refugees than any other African country for much of that decade. About half sought refuge in the volatile Parrots Beak region of southwest Guinea, a wedge of land jutting into Sierra Leone near the Liberian border. Many were relocated within Guinea in the early 2000s because the area suffered repeated cross-border attacks from various government and rebel forces, as well as anti-refugee violence. As of 2016, Guinea sheltered more than 7,000 Ivoirians.

Guineas rapid population growth is a result of declining mortality rates and sustained elevated fertility. The population growth rate was somewhat tempered in the 2000s because of a period of net outmigration. Although life expectancy and mortality rates have improved over the last two decades, the nearly universal practice of female genital cutting continues to contribute to high infant and maternal mortality rates. Guineas total fertility remains high at about 5 children per woman because of the ongoing preference for larger families, low contraceptive usage and availability, a lack of educational attainment and empowerment among women, and poverty.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2017 19:10:55 ZULU