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Previously known as French Guinea, the Republic of Guinea is a West African country with an Atlantic Ocean coastline. Bordering countries include Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Liberia, and Sierre Leone. In order to avoid confusion with Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea, the country is sometimes referred to as Guinea-Conakry, Conakry being its capital city.

There are four defined geographic regions in Guinea. The Coastal Maritime region is characterized by mangrove swamps and rich soil plains with palm trees. The coastal belt is home to the Susu, one of the country's chief ethnic groups, as well as other smaller groups. Guinea's capital city, as well as the mining towns of Fria and Kamsar, are in this region.

The interior region is known as the Futa Jallon, which is a mountainous region with cooler temperatures. The Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers begin in the Futa Jallon, which includes several streams and waterfalls. The chief ethnic group in this region is the Fulbe, who are sometimes known as the Peul. Labé is the largest city in the Futa Jallon region, and its town of Timbo was the region's capital during the pre-colonial era.

East of the Futa Jallon is the Upper Guinea, a savannah region with plains and river valleys. The Milo and Niger rivers serve the region's transportation, irrigation, and fishing needs. The Maninka are this region's main ethnic group, and its chief cities are Siguiri and Kankan.

Guinea's southern region is the Forest Region, where rainfall is heavy, and there were dense forests of mahogany, teak, and ebony trees, although agriculture and a demand for hardwoods have begun a process of deforestation. This region has experienced a large rise in its population since the early 1990s, largely due to refugees from Liberia and Sierre Leone.

Aside from its native ethic groups, Guinea is home to several merchants and artisans from Senegal and other African countries, and a large number of Americans and Europeans live Guinea, largely in its capital city of Conakry and the mining towns of Fria, Kamsar, and Siguiri.

Although the first president of Guinea, following independence, abolished the use of French, its second president restored French as the official language of Guinea in 1985, although more than thirty ethnic languages are also considered official languages, and many Guineans speak more than one language. French is the language of Guinea's administration and educational system.

Islam is the chief religion of Guinea, with only about eight percent of its population practicing Christianity and about seven percent adhering to traditional African religions.

Literacy rates in Guinea are among the lowest in the world. Just over forty percent of its population are literate. Although six years of primary education is compulsory, most Guinean children do not attend school that long, and many don't attend school at all, as children, especially girls, are kept home to assist in domestic work and agriculture, and Guineans tend to marry young.

Most Guineans are employed in agriculture. Although rice is grown in the flooded areas between streams and rivers, Guineans consume more rice than the country produces. Other agricultural products include bananas, coffee beans, cucumbers, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pineapples, peppers, and potatoes. More recently introduced crops include apples, pears, pomegranates, and strawberries.

Guinea has approximately one-third of the world's bauxite deposits, which are mined in cooperation with international companies. Diamonds, gold, and iron ore are mined also, which brings revenue to the country but without employing many Guineans. Guinea has some light industry, but its underdeveloped transportation system has hampered growth in this area.

Until France colonized the region in the 1890s, the land that is now Guinea was on the fringe of a number of African empires. When the major West African empires failed, various kingdoms ruled Guinea, and it became an Islamic state in 1735. Coming to the area primarily for the slave trade, France negotiated Guinea's current boundaries with the British and Portuguese in the late 1800s, after which the region became French Guinea.

Guinea became an independent republic in 1958, and quickly aligned itself with the Soviet Union, becoming the People's Revolutionary Republic of Guinea. Under its first president, the country was intolerant of dissent. Political opponents were arrested, executed, or exiled. A military coup took place in 1984, after which the government turned away from socialism, released political prisoners, and scheduled elections. This did not bring about long-term stability, however. The country has experienced other coups and political violence. Despite its natural resources, Guinea is a poor country, and political violence is common.



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