An overview of Guinea-Bissau (Bissau, Cufar & Cassaca)

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been doing a series of posts highlighting various locations featured within my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba©.

For this post, I’ll give a high level walk through of Guinea-Bissau, another location featured in my upcoming novel.

Economy

Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. The official language of Guinea-Bissau is Portuguese, and its currency is the CFA Franc. As of the time of me writing this post, 1 USD = 483 CFA Francs. Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest GDP rates in the world, with majority of the nation living below the poverty line. The nation’s economy is predominantly built on agriculture despite the fact that it is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, including untapped offshore petroleum deposits (currently under research). The country’s economic plight is mostly due to many years of political instability, civil war, and criminal exploitation.

Geography

Geographically Guinea-Bissau is about three times the size of the US state of Connecticut. It has a tropical climate, with a heavy rainy season between June — November and a dry season (Harmattan) from December — May. Its terrain consists of mostly low coastal plains and Savannah, with thick swamps along its western coasts. Guinea-Bissau also has an Archipelago off its coast called the Bissagos Islands (the green regions in the map below). The islands themselves are beautiful and home to many forms of marine and tropical wildlife. However, political instability prevents these islands from reaching their full tourism potential, and today the islands are used as a transit depot for international drug trafficking:

Bissagos Archipelago in green

History

Historically, the Guinea-Bissau region was one of the first areas in Africa to be explored by the Portuguese. The Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde islands would go on to become one of the major slave trade routes for the Portuguese during the slave trade era. After the slave trade era, and after many years of fighting with resistance movements, Portugal brought the region (then called Portuguese Guinea) under its control, and in 1952 the region became a province of Portugal.

This leads us to one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in all my research of the Cold War years:

Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral, or simply Amilcar Cabral, was a Guinea-Bissauan revolutionary, poet, philosopher, author, intellectual and political leader who led Guinea-Bissau’s and Cape Verde’s anti-colonial movements and independence war against the Portuguese via his party, the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde). Born in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau, he studied agricultural science abroad in Lisbon, and was employed as an agronomist by the Portuguese colonial government in his homeland. The nature of his job allowed him to travel all over the country and surrounding islands, and it was during these years that he formed alliances with key individuals in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and neighboring Angola. In 1956, Cabral formed the PAIGC, which similar to the African National Congress in apartheid South Africa, started out as a peaceful resistance movement involving demonstrations and strikes. However, as with most movements of change in history, a violent response from the Portuguese colonial forces in the form of the Pidjiguiti massacre (August 1959) made the PAIGC switch their tactics from peaceful to violent. In 1963, Cabral and his PAIGC forces engaged in open guerrilla style warfare with the Portuguese forces for the independence of Portuguese Guinea, and by the late 1960s the PAIGC had taken back most of their lands, with Cabral serving as the de facto ruler. Cabral’s last act would be to establish the Guinean People’s National Assembly, as an act towards creating a government for independence. Cabral would not live to see the full liberation of his people, as he was betrayed and assassinated by one of his own, a guerrilla fighter named Innocencio Kani, in 1973. Ironically, Cabral was shot right in front of the PAIGC headquarters. Kani was believed to have been influenced by Portuguese agents to assassinate Cabral.

Cabral was an avid student of Marxist theory and a firm believer in national consciousness. He wrote journals/articles on classicism, socialism and nationalism, and was a gifted orator. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, the fact remains that he was a unique individual, and an interesting key player during the Cold War years in Africa:

Amilcar Cabral

So, how does Guinea-Bissau play into my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba?

Guinea-Bissau, specifically the city of Bissau and the towns of Cufar and Cassaca are featured within my novel in the 1960s. Of all three locations, Cassaca plays the most significant role. Cassaca is a small town which had alot of administrative and historical relevance to the PAIGC. One of the strongest characters in my novel makes his first appearance here.

I’ll leave you with this video of Amilcar Cabral paying homage to Kwame Nkrumah at his (Nkrumah’s) funeral.