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Most of Upper Guinea fell within the area influenced by the medieval empire of Ghana at the height of its power, but none of present-day Guinea was actually within the empire. The northern half of present-day Guinea was, however, within the later Mali and Songhai empires.

Malinké did not begin arriving in Guinea until the 13th century, nor did the Fulani come in considerable numbers until the 17th century. In 1725, a holy war (jihad) was declared in Futa Jallon by Muslim Fulani. The onslaught, directed against the non-Muslim Malinké and Fulani, was ultimately successful in establishing the independence of the Fulani of Futa Jallon and effecting their unity within a theocratic kingdom under Almamy Karamoka Alfa of Timbo.


Meanwhile, European exploration of the Guinea coast was begun by the Portuguese in the middle of the 15th century. By the 17th century, French, British, and Portuguese traders and slavers were competing with one another. When the slave trade was prohibited during the first half of the 19th century, the Guinea creeks afforded secluded hiding places for slavers harried by the ships of the Royal Navy. French rights along the coast were expressly preserved by the Peace of Paris (1814), and French—as well as British and Portuguese—trading activities expanded in the middle years of the 19th century, when trade in peanuts, palm oil, hides, and rubber replaced that in slaves. The French established a protectorate over Boké in 1849 and consolidated their rule over the coastal areas in the 1860s. This inevitably led to attempts to secure a more satisfactory arrangement with the Fulani chiefs of Futa Jallon. A protectorate was established over the region in 1881, but effective sovereignty was not secured for another 15 years.

In 1891, Guinea was constituted as a French territory separate from Senegal, of which it had hitherto been a part. Four years later, the French territories in West Africa were federated under a governor-general. The federation structure remained substantially unchanged until Guinea attained independence. In 1946, Africans in Guinea became French citizens, but the franchise was at first restricted to the Europeanized évolués, and was not replaced by universal adult suffrage until 1957.


The End of Colonial Rule

In September 1958, Guinea participated in the referendum on the new French constitution. The electorate of Guinea rejected the new constitution overwhelmingly, and Guinea as a consequence became an independent state on 2 October 1958, with Ahmed Sékou Touré, leader of Guinea's strongest labor union, as president.

Touré died on 26 March 1984. On 3 April, just as the Political Bureau of the ruling Guinea Democratic Party (PDG) was about to name its choice as Touré's successor, the armed forces seized power. The constitution was suspended, the National Assembly dissolved, and the PDG abolished. The leader of the coup, Col. Lansana Conté, assumed the presidency on 5 April, heading the Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire de Redressement National—CMRN).


Multi-party Democracy Initiated

Under pressure locally and abroad, Guinea embarked on a transition to multiparty democracy, albeit with considerable reluctance from the military-dominated government. It legalized parties in April 1992, but did not really allow them to function freely. It postponed presidential elections for over a year (until 19 December 1993) The legislative elections were delayed until 11 June 1995. These elections were supposed to have preceded the presidential elections, but the regime switched the order in 1993.




The first coat of arms was adopted in 1958. Probably the original design was in the colours of the french flag (as it was intended that Guinée would be an integral part of the French Republic) and in that form it was printed on coins minted for the tenth anniversary of independence.

The commonly known coat of arms is in the panafrican colors red, yellow and green. The coat of arms is:



Arms: Parted per pale, Gules and Vert, an elephant contourné, trunk erect  Or.

Crest: A pigeon flying to the sinister, Argent, in its beak a twig of olive, proper.

Motto: TRAVAIL  JUSTICE  SOLIDARITÉ in yellow lettering on a green ribbon.


Sometimes the arms are parted per pale Gules and Or, the elephant and the pigeon Vert.


In these arms the elephant symbolizes strength and the pigeon the wish to live in peace with the neighbouring countries.


After the coup of 3rd of April 1984 the arms were changed:


Parted per pale Gules and Or, a pigeon sitting on the upper rim of the shield, its twig of olive hanging on the shield and over all a sword and a rifle in saltire all proper.



A third coat of arms appeared after the legalization of political parties in 1992.

It is the same as the arms of 1985 but with the sword and rifle left out.


See illustration in the head of this article.



© Hubert de Vries 2008-10-31

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