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keskiviikko 30. syyskuuta 2015

Guinea, Cool Facts #71

<= 70. Mali                                                                                                                          72. Togo =>

1. Guinea's name 

The name Guinea comes from Saharan Berber language, which means "the land of the black". During the colonial time Guinea was called French Guinea "Guinee francaise". Sometimes the name Guinea-Conakry was used to distinguish Guinea from other similar sounding countries.

Guineas of the world: 

Guinea - French-speaking, Western Africa
Guinea-Bissau - Portuguese-speaking, Western Africa
Equatorial Guinea - French, Spanish and Portuguese official languages, Central Africa
Papua New Guinea - Over 800 languages, Oceania 


Equatorial Guinea
Papua New Guinea

2. French Guinea

Guinea was the first French colony in Africa to become independent in 1958.

In 1888 Guinea was declared as a French colony.
In 1898 the troops of Samory Ture lost to the French.
In 1904 Guinea was attached to the French West Africa
In the 1940s Sekou Toure created the Guinean national movement
In 1946 a national movement covering the whole Western Africa, RDA, was established
In 1957 the Guinean subdivision of RDA, the PDG demanded for independence
In 1958 Guinea became independent after a referendum. Sekou Toure became the first president and France stopped all of its economic aid, trade relations and investments.

The socialist PDG became the only permitted party and Guinea shifted to state-led economy. Natural resources were nationalized and Toure's regime relieved the tension between ethnic groups and improved social services. Many educated Guineans migrated abroad though, because of the authoritarian regime which suppressed the opposition.

First Guinean president Sekou Toure visiting Yugoslavia

3. Tribes and languages

Fulani people 40,3% 
Mandinka 25,8% 
Susu 11,0% 

The population of Guinea comprises about 24 ethnic groups. The biggest groups are the Fulani, Mandinka and Susu people.

French and eight local languages are taught in the schools of Guinea.

There are about 10,000 non-Africans living in Guinea, who are predominantly Lebanese, French or other Europeans. 

Fulani people

4. Flag similarities 

The flag of Guinea resembles many other African flags. The reason for this similarity is that Guinea, Ghana and Mali were planning to unite their countries, which never happened. Guinea got also inspiration for the colors of their flag from Ethiopia, which was the only African country to resist European colonization (it was occupied for a while by Italy though). 


5. World's biggest bauxite reserves

Guinea has the world's biggest bauxite reserves in the world. Guinea produced 4th most bauxite in 2014 after Australia, China and Brazil. 

Bauxite is the most important aluminum ore. Aluminum is used very widely in different products. 

Usage of Aluminum: 

1. Household products: door knobs, kitchen utensils, toasters, refrigerators, kettles, furniture
2. Construction: wiring, bridges, ladders, pipes, tubes
3. Package: trays, foils, bottle caps, cans
4. Cars and transportation: in many parts of different vehicles
5. Power lines: long distance power lines and high voltage electrical transmission

Guinea has also other natural resources like diamonds, gold, uranium and iron ore. Despite Guinea's vast natural reserves the country is one of the poorest in Africa. The economy is inefficient and corrupted. This is why Guinea is one of the most miserable and unfair countries.

Simandou mine


900s Ghana Empire rules
1200-1400s Mali Empire rules the area
1400-1582 Songhai Empire rules the area
1735-1898 Fulani Muslims establish an Islamic state
1878-1898 Wassoulou state led by Samori Ture ruled in parts of Guinea
1898 After fighting many times against the French, Ture's troops are defeated by the French
1904 Guinea is attached to the French West Africa
1946 RDA, the independence movement covering the whole West Africa is established
1957 RDA's subdivision PDG in Guinea wins the elections and demands for independence
1958 Guinea becomes independent after a referendum and France withdraws quickly from Guinea after the result and stops all economic, trade and professional aid to Guinea
1984 Sékou Touré dies after being the president of Guinea for 26 years, colonels Lanzana Conté and Diarra Traoré seize power. Conté becomes the president and Traoré the prime minister
1992 Guinea shifts officially to multiparty system, but the soldiers have had a stronghold over the country
2001 Civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia spread to Guinea where Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and Liberian government's troops chase the half million people who are fleeing to Guinea
2008 Lanzana Conté dies and the soldiers make a coup and since then the voting results have been faked and parliament elections postponed from year to year


tiistai 22. syyskuuta 2015

Mali, Cool Facts #70

<= 69. Benin                                                                                                                     71. Guinea =>

1. French Sudan - Mali Federation

In 1880 Mali became part of the French West Africa as French Sudan. French Sudan got autonomy in 1958 and in 1959 French Sudan was joined together with Senegal forming the Mali Federation. In 1960 Mali Federation became independent but after only 2 months Senegal separated from the federation.

French Sudan map
Mali Federation (Senegal + Mali)

2. Kanaga removal of the flag 

In 1961 after the requirement of the Islamic community, the kanaga, the dancing man was removed from the Malian flag because orthodox Islam rule doesn't accept depicting human figures. The change was awkward for Ruanda, which had to add a R letter to separate the Ruandan flag from the almost similar flags of Mali and Guinea. 

Old Mali Flag

3. Mansa Musa, the richest man in history

Mansa Musa was the king of the ancient Mali Empire between 1312-1337. He is nicknamed as the "Bill Gates" of ancient times, because his inflation adjusted wealth was estimated at 400 billion dollars making him the richest man in the world history. Mans Musa made Islam the official religion of Mali Empire and their capital, Timbuktu, was the center of Islamic scholarship and culture. High class manuscripts about mathematics and astronomy were produced in Timbuktu. The Mali Empire flourished between the 1200-1400s and the current state of Mali started using the name of this ancient kingdom as their name. 

Mansa Musa, the 400 billion dollar man
Mali Empire map

4. Azawad State

In 2012 an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali in January. Tuareg rebels took control over the northern part of Mali and declared it as the state of Azawad. During the conflict the military displaced the government of the president Amadou Toumani Touré, which made things worse. The military finally let the interim government rule the country. The Tuareg national movement called MNLA had declared the independence of Azawad in April, 2012 but they got into conflict with Ansar Dine, an islamistic group which supported them first. By July the north of Mali was under Islamist rule. Finally in January, 2013 France and the government of Mali carried out a military intervention restoring the power over northern Mali back to the national government. 

5. Natural resources

- Cotton is Mali's largest crop export
- Gold, livestock and agriculture amount to 80% of Mali's exports
- 3rd largest gold production in Africa after South Africa and Ghana
- Kaolin, salt, phosphate and limestone other important natural resources
- Profits from the vast cotton and gold resources end up to the narrow elite because of the widespread corruption in Mali

Gold mine
Cotton in Mali


1000s Muslim Almoravids invade to the area belonging to the Empire of Ghana
1300s Mansa Musa, the king of the Mali Empire makes Islam the official religion
1400s The Songhai Empire supplants the Mali Empire
1591 Moroccon berbers led by Judar Pasha attack to the area and Songhai Empire scatters into small tribal kingdoms
1800s The Europeans start conquering the inner lands of Africa
1880 Mali becomes part of the French West Africa as French Sudan
1958 French Sudan gets autonomy
1959 French Sudan is attached to Senegal, which form the Mali Federation
1960 Mali Federation becomes independent, after two months Senegal leaves the federation
1961 The flag of Mali is changed
1968 Mali's first president Mobido Keita is displaced in a military coup led by general Moussa Traore
1973-1974 Over 100,000 people die in the famine
1983 Mali and Algeria reach an agreement about their border in the Sahara desert
1985 Brief war with Burkina Faso, which was resolved by the Hague International Court of Justice
1991 General strike and military coup led by Amadou Toumani Toure
1992 Alpha Oumar Konare won the presidential elections
1994 Truce with the rebelling Tuaregs in the northern parts of Mali
2002 Amadou Toumani Toure becomes the president
2012 Tuareg rebellion in the north
2013 France intervenes the crisis by the request of interim government

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

sunnuntai 20. syyskuuta 2015

Benin, Cool Facts #69

<= 68. Burkina Faso                                                                                                            70. Mali =>

1. Dahomey Kingdom - Black Sparta

The Dahomey Kingdom became the biggest force in Benin in the 1700s. Dahomey concentrated heavily on military preparation and achievement. Young boys were apprenticed to older soldiers and taught the military customs before they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey had also an elite female soldier corps, called the Ahosi, which the European called the Dahomean Amazons. This military culture of Dahomey earned them the nickname of black Sparta. The city-state of Porto-Novo was a longtime rival to the kingdom of Dahomey.

Dahomey Amazons

2. Dahomey - Benin 

In 1972 major Mathieu Kerekou rose in power and declared Dahomey as a Marxist country. Three years later in 1975 Kerekou changed the name of the country from Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin. The name was selected for its neutrality, Dahomey was a name taken from the Dahomey Kingdom which didn't represent the whole country such as Porto-Novo, Atakora and the kingdom of Borgu. Benin used the Ghanaian flag as a model for their flag with Pan-African colors and like Ghana, Benin had adopted a name from a historical kingdom which located somewhere else than in the current Benin or Ghana. The ancient Ghana was located in Sahel area and Benin in the current Nigeria.  

Flag of Dahomey Kingdom

3. Slave Coast

In the 1600-1700s European slave traders arrived to the coast of Benin and established trade bases, where from they traded slaves with the king of Dahomey. The slave trade began first in 1472 with an agreement with the Portuguese, and lasted until 1885, when the last slave ship departed to Brazil. In the most profitable years the king of Dahomey was estimated to earn 250,000 British pounds from the slave trade. In 1780s about 100,000 slaves were traded but by the 1860s the number had declined to 24,000 per decade as a result of slavery being abolished in most parts of the world.

Nicknames for different African countries during the colonial times: 

Slave Coast = Benin
Ivory Coast = Ivory Coast
Gold Coast = Ghana
Pepper Coast = Liberia

4. Birthplace of Voodoo

Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo. The Voodoo culture spread from Benin to the Caribbean with the slaves. The town of Ouidah in the coast of Benin is the spiritual center of Beninese Voodoo. According to the statistics 17.3% of the population practice Voodoo in Benin. Other countries where it's still practiced are for example Haiti, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Brazil. Nowadays Voodoo incorporates also many aspects of Christianity.

Voodoo ceremony in Ouidah

5. Democracy

The beginning of the independence was hard for Benin, there were 8 military coups, before Mathieu Kerekou managed to stabilize his power in 1972. Benin was Marxist from 1972 until 1990. In 1991 first free elections were held after three decades. Nicephore Soglo won Kerekou and thus Kerekou became the first black African president to step down after an election. In 1996 and again in 2001 Kerekou won the presidential elections, but in 2006 Kerekou rejected to run for the presidency, because the constitution prevented the re-election. Currently Benin is a model country in Africa about pluralistic democracy.

Nicephore Soglo (left) and Mathieu Kerekou (right)


1600s Dahomey Kingdom is ruled by king Wegbaja with Abomey as the capital
1600-1700s The European slave traders started slave trade with the king of Dahomey
1700s Profitable slave trade gave Dahomey the nickname Slave Coast
1890s The French went into war with the Foni conquering Abomey
1894 The French defeat finally king Behanzin's troops and attaches Dahomey to the French West Africa
1946 Dahomey becomes an overseas territory of France
1952 The first political parties are born after the general strike
1958 Dahomey becomes an autonomic republic
1960 Dahomey becomes independent
1972 After many military coups, major Mathieu Kerekou managed to stabilize his power and declared Benin as a socialist people's republic
1975 The name of the country was changed from Dahomey to Benin
1990 Multiparty system was permitted after the renunciation of Marxism-Leninism
1991 First free elections in three decades, Nicephore Soglo won the elections
1996 Mathieu Kerekou becomes the president
2001 Kerekou wins the presidential elections again

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

lauantai 19. syyskuuta 2015

Burkina Faso, Cool Facts #68

<= 67. Senegal                                                                                                                    69. Benin =>

1. Upper Volta

Burkina Faso was known as Upper Volta until the year 1984, when the name and flag of the country were changed. Upper Volta became Burkina Faso, "The country of honest people". The country is located along the Volta River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The river branches into Black Volta (Mouhoun), White Volta (Nakambe) and Red Volta (Nazinon) in Burkina Faso, that's why their previous flag had black, white and red before they changed into a Pan-African style flag with red, green and yellow colors. 

Upper Volta flag 1959-1984
Burkina Faso map

2. Mossi people

The Mossi people are the biggest ethnic group in Burkina Faso. They moved to the area in 11th century from Central and East Africa. In the 1300s the Mossi people founded a flourishing kingdom with Ouagadougou as their capital. In the 1600s the Mossi Kingdom lost areas to the surrounding kingdoms of Mali and Songhai. The Mossi king was still in power in Burkina Faso before the French conquered Ouagadougou in 1897 and attached it as part of the French West Africa.

Mossi people with masks

3. French Colony

France ruled Burkina Faso as their colony from 1897 and it lasted until the year 1960. Burkina Faso had already fought for freedom during the colonial times, for example in 1915-1916 during the First World War when people fought against the colonial powers. The uprising was suppressed by the French. In 1958 France granted Burkina Faso autonomy and finally independence in 1960. During the independence Burkina Faso has seen many coups and military leaders. 

French West Africa

4. Coups

Since the beginning of independence, Burkina Faso has seen many military coups with authoritarian and corrupted governments. The exception was between 1983-1987 when Thomas Sankara rose in power and tried to improve the conditions in this one of the poorest countries in the world. Sankara's government started revolutionary programs like mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, expansion of women's rights, anti-desertification projects and many more from nationalizing companies and getting rid of corruption.

Sankara's attempt to reform the society ended in 1987, when he was assassinated in a military coup. Sankara's long-time colleague Blaise Compaore took the power and ruled 27 years until 2014, when he had to resign after demonstrations. In September 2015, the military seized the power and declared themselves the new national government. The unstable political situation remains a problem in Burkina Faso.

Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso between 1987-2014

5. Over 60 languages

It's estimated that 69 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso of which about 60 are indigenous. French is the official language and used mainly in administration, political and judicial institutions, public services and the press. 

Here are some other commonly spoken languages in Burkina Faso: 

Mossi - spoken by about 40% of the population
Gurunsi languages - comprises 20 languages spoken by the Gurunsi people
Mande languages - for example Dyula, Bobo, Samo and Marka languages
Fula - widespread in the north
Gourmanché - spoken in the east
Bissa language - spoken in the south


1000s The Mossi people move to Burkina Faso from Central and East Africa
1300s The Mossi people establish a flourishing kingdom with Ouagadougou as their capital
1600s The Mossi Kingdom shrunk as the surrounding Mali and Songhai Kingdoms grew
1897 The French conquer Ouagadougou from the Mossi people and attach Burkina Faso as part of the French West Africa
1915-1916 Volta-Ban war against the colonial rulers during the World War
1947 France separates Burkina Faso as the province of Upper Volta
1958 Upper Volta obtains autonomy
1960 Upper Volta becomes independent
1966 A coup by Sangoule Lamizana after which soldiers have ruled the country 
1984 Upper Volta changed name to Burkina Faso 
1985 Malian troops invade the mineral rich Agacher strip, after 5 days the disputed area is split into two
1987 Thomas Sankara is assassinated as Blaise Compaore seizes the power 
1991 Compaore is elected the president in elections which was boycotted by the majority of people

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

keskiviikko 16. syyskuuta 2015

Senegal, Cool Facts #67

<= 66. Madagascar                                                                                               68. Burkina Faso =>

1. Dakar Rally

Between the years 1979 and 2007 the famous Dakar Rally started from Paris, France and ended in Dakar, Senegal. In 2008 the event was cancelled because of the terrorism threats in Mauritania, through which the route passed in the rally. Since 2009 the Dakar Rally has been organized in South America.  There are four competitive groups in the rally: motorbikes, quads, cars and trucks.

2. Serer Religion

The Serer people comprise almost 15% of the 13 million strong population. In Senegal 92% of the population are Muslims, but the Serers resisted islamization over 1000 years and just recently  the Serers have started converting into Islam or Christianity.

Some of the Muslim festivals in Senegal have been borrowed from Serer culture like: 

Weri Kor

The universal supreme deity of the Serers is called "Roog".

In Serer Religion there is no heaven or hell. They believe in reincarnation and the immortality of the soul.

Serer cosmogony, the three worlds: 1. the invisible world 2. the terrestrial world 3. the nocturnal world

3. Africa's westernmost country

Senegal is the westernmost country in the African continent and the capital, Dakar, is the westernmost point in the continent.
If you include the islands then Cape Verde would be the westernmost country in Africa.

4. Casamance conflict

The Casamance conflict is a low-level civil war in Senegal. The problem is the discontent by the Jola people in Casamance region towards the Wolof led country. Casamance is connected to East Senegal but it's separated from the north by Gambia. The Jola feel like Dakar, the capital reaps most of the profit made in Casamance, which produces most of Senegal's food, rice and cotton. The majority of the population are Muslims, but in Casamance people are either Christians or Animists. The fights started in 1982 and currently there is a unilateral ceasefire. The bloodiest years were between 1992-2001.

5. No Coups !

Senegal is a really exceptional country in Africa, because during the independence there has been no military coups like in so many other African countries. After the elections, the power has shifted peacefully respecting the voting results. Despite being the peace mediator in Africa, Senegal hasn't managed to solve its own civil war. 

Macky Sall, Senegalese president since 2012


700-800 Kingdom of Ghana is the first organized state operating in Senegal 
1300s The Wolofs separate from the Kingdom of Mali 
1400s The Portuguese, Dutch, French and British arrive at Senegal 
1758 The British defeated the French trade posts and established the colony of Senegambia 
1783 Treaty of Versailles, after which the French returned their rule in the area 
1886 The last Wolof king, Lat Dior is defeated 
1895 Senegal was attached to the French West Africa
1958 Senegal got autonomy
1959 Senegal and French Sudan was merged into Mali Federation 
1960 Mali Federation became independent, after 2 months the federation ended and Senegal became a separate country from French Sudan which adopted the name Mali and the flag 
1981 A coup attempt in Gambia was prevented with Senegalese troops 
1989 Gambia left from the federation with Senegal 
1998 Senegal sent troops to Guinea-Bissau to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the rebels of Casamance in Senegal 
2000 The socialist party lost for the first time
2004 Truce after fighting 20 years the civil war 
2009 The fightings erupt again

Maailman maat liput ja historia by Kimmo Kiljunen

lauantai 12. syyskuuta 2015

Madagascar, Cool Facts #66

<= 65. Haiti                                                                                                                      67. Senegal =>

1. Unique nature 

Madagascar lies 600km from the African coast, but evolutionary the distance between the African continent and the island of Madagascar is 100 million years. Over 90% of the plants and animals can't be found anywhere else on earth than in Madagascar. They have developed in isolation for millions of years in Madagascar. 

2. Mixture of Cultures

The culture of Madagascar is a mixture of the Southeast Asian, African, Arabic and European culture. Malagasy, the only official language besides French, has been influenced by Southeast Asian languages. The Malagasy language has Austronesian and Malay origins, but it has also been influenced by Swahili and Bantu languages. The white and red in the flag refer to Southeast Asia and the green refers to African roots. 

3. Malagasy People

The Malagasy people descend from Southeast Asian and East African people. People from Borneo sailed across the Indian Ocean and inhabited the highlands of the inland in Madagascar, where the climate was much milder than on the tropically hot coast. 

The Malagasy population is divided into about twenty groups, which have inhabited different parts of the island. 

Sakalava people - practice cattle breeding
Marina people - live in the high lands
Betsileo - grow rice
Betsimisaraka - cultivate tropical small plantations
Vezo - live in the southwest and practice fishing

4. Razana

Nature worship is still dominant in Madagascar. The faith in the presence and power of the ancestors, Razana, affects the Malagasy everyday life. Yearly families arrange ceremonies, where the tombs are opened and the dead ancestors are being worshipped by turning the body around and changing the shrouds. 

Famadihana festival in Madagascar

5. French Rule

1883 France starts a war with Madagascar and gets the base of Diego Suarez
1890 France recognizes the British supremacy in Sansibar so that Britain abandons their rights for Madagascar in France's favor 
1894 France starts a new war and conquers the capital Antananarivo. 
1896 Queen Ranavalona III had given up the throne and the French colonial flag started waving in Madagascar. 
1958 France grants Madagascar autonomy
1960 Madagascar becomes independent from France


800s Arabs start arriving to the island to capture black Africans as slaves 
1500s The Portuguese are the first Europeans to visit Madagascar 
1500-1600s The most influential states in Madagascar are Menabe, Boina and Betsileo
1600s The greatest state Imerina is established with Antananarivo as their capital city
1818 King Radama the Great declares himself the king of Madagascar
1883 France starts a war and forces Madagascar to relinquish them the base of Diego Suarez and to pay for the reparations
1894 France starts another war and conquers the capital, Antananarivo.
1896 Madagascar became a French colony and the queen of Madagascar Ranavalona III gives up the throne
1920s The national movement arises
1947 Uprising against the French, which was violently suppressed leading to martial law, lasting until  the year 1956
1958 France grants Madagacar autonomy
1960 Madagascar becomes independent
1972 Tsiranana is overthrown in a military coup
1975 Commodor Didier Ratsiraka becomes the president
1992 After a failed military coup, Madagascar shifts to multiparty system
2002 Madagascar is in the brink of civil war as there was a dispute about the presidential elections, finally the other presidential candidate flees to France
2009 This time the former president Ravalomana flees to South-Africa and Andry Rajoelina becomes the president