Government documents are written in Portuguese, students beyond the first few years of elementary school are taught in Portuguese, and government officials speak that language. However, only about 10 percent of the citizens are fluent in Portuguese. The national lingua franca is Criolu, which is derived primarily from Portuguese. Almost all Guineans born after 1974 know Criolu, although most speak it as a second language. Criolu developed in the era of slave trading, when it was used for communication between Portuguese merchant-administrators and the local populations.
Since the end of the 1998-99 war, the economic, political and social situation in Guinea-Bissau has been difficult and has had a negative impact on the living conditions of its populations. The real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew only 1 percent from 2000 to 2004. The country's high level of instability did not permit it to focus government initiatives on the search for ways and means to tackle the challenges of the country's development, particularly those linked to poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Following a decade-long freedom war with Portugal, Guinea-Bissau became independent in 1974, though the country remained plagued by political instability and conflicts. The government of the first president, Luis Cabral, was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by the prime minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira in 1980. Several coup attempts against the Vieira government followed in 1983, 1985, and 1993. In 1994, the country's first multiparty legislative and presidential elections were held
Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry in 1973, and party leadership fell to Aristides Pereira, who later became the first President of the Republic of Cape Verde. The PAIGC National Assembly met at Boe in the southeastern region and declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1973. Following Portugal's April 1974 revolution, it granted independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974. The United States recognized the new nation that day. Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cabral's half-brother, became President of Guinea-Bissau. In late 1980, the government was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by Prime Minister and former armed forces commander Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira.
In 1956, Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa organized the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) clandestinely. The PAIGC moved its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea, in 1960 and started an armed rebellion against the Portuguese in 1961. Despite the presence of Portuguese troops, which grew to more than 35,000, the PAIGC steadily expanded its influence until, by 1968, it controlled most of the country.
Portuguese Guinea and the Cape Verde islands become separately independent , in 1974 and 1975, as the republics of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Leading members of the PAIGC provide the two presidents - Cabral's brother (Luis Almeida de Cabral) in Guinea-Bissau, and Aristides Pereira in Cape Verde. The original intention on both sides is to merge the new states, but Cape Verde changes its view after Luis Cabral is ousted in a coup in Guinea-Bissau in 1980. Pereira changes the name of his party from PAIGV to PAICV (Partido Africano da Independencia da Cabo Verde). The coup in Guinea-Bissau brings to power a major in the army, João Bernardo Vieira. He rules first through a revolutionary council and then, from 1984, through a council of state supported by an assembly of 150 appointed members.
Before World War I, Portuguese forces, with some assistance from the Muslim population, subdued animist tribes and eventually established the territory's borders. The interior of Portuguese Guinea was brought under control after more than 30 years of fighting; final subjugation of the Bijagos Islands did not occur until 1936. The administrative capital was moved from Bolama to Bissau in 1941, and in 1952, by constitutional amendment, the colony of Portuguese Guinea became an overseas province of Portugal.
The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 40% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel, living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha, occupying the central and northern coastal areas. According to the 2009 census, 42.5% of the population is under 15 years of age; 3.2% is 65 and older, and 49.6% are women aged between 15 and 49. The country has 1,361 schools and 537 health centers.
A neighbor of Senegal and Guinea in West Africa, on the Atlantic coast, Guinea-Bissau is about half the size of South Carolina. The country is a low-lying coastal region of swamps, rain forests, and mangrove-covered wetlands, with about 25 islands off the coast. The Bijagos archipelago extends 30 mi (48 km) out to sea.
The land now known as Guinea-Bissau was once the kingdom of Gabú, which was part of the larger Mali empire. After 1546 Gabú became more autonomous, and at least portions of the kingdom existed until 1867. The first European to encounter Guinea-Bissau was the Portuguese explorer Nuño Tristão in 1446; colonists in the Cape Verde islands obtained trading rights in the territory, and it became a center of the Portuguese slave trade. In 1879, the connection with the islands was broken.