The Sosso kingdom (12th to 13th centuries) briefly flourished in the void but the Islamic Mandinka Mali Empire came to prominence when Soundiata Kéïta defeated the Sosso ruler, Soumangourou Kanté at the semi-historical Battle of Kirina in c. 1235. The Mali Empire was ruled by Mansa (Emperors), the most famous being Kankou Moussa, who made a famous hajj to Mecca in 1324. Shortly after his reign the Mali Empire began to decline and was ultimately supplanted by its vassal states in the 15th century.
The most successful of these was the Songhai Empire, expanding its power from about 1460, and eventually surpassing the Mali Empire in both territory and wealth. It continued to prosper until a civil war over succession followed the death of Askia Daoud in 1582. The weakened empire fell to invaders from Morocco at the Battle of Tondibi just 3 years later. The Moroccans proved unable to rule the kingdom effectively, however, and it split into many small kingdoms. Fulani Muslims migrated to Fouta Djallon in Central Guinea and established an Islamic state from 1735 to 1898 with a written Constitution and alternate rulers.
Guinea's colonial period began with French military penetration into the area in the mid-19th century. French domination was assured by the defeat in 1898 of the armies of Samory Touré, Mansa (or Emperor) of the Ouassoulou state and leader of Malinké descent, which gave France control of what today is Guinea and adjacent areas.
France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and Liberia. Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar. Lieutenant governors administered the individual colonies, including Guinea.
De Gaulle withdrew the French administration, with much of the French population following, which took much of the country’s infrastructure and large amounts of capital. Guinea quickly aligned itself with the Soviet Union and adopted socialist policies. This alliance was short lived, however, as Guinea moved towards a Chinese model of socialism. Despite this, however, the country continued to receive aid and investment from capitalist countries such as the U.S.. Even the relationship with France improved after the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as president — trade increased and the two countries exchanged diplomatic visits.
Within a few years of independence, Touré led the nation into one-party rule. Advocating a hybrid African Socialism domestically and Pan-Africanism abroad, Touré quickly became a polarising leader, and his government became intolerant of dissent, imprisoning hundreds, and stifling free press. At the same time, the government nationalised land, removed French appointed and traditional chiefs from power, and broke ties with French government and companies. Vacillating between support for the Soviet Union and (by the late 1970s) the United States, Guinea's economic situation became as unpredictable as its diplomatic line. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Touré’s regime targeted real and imagined opponents driving thousands of political opponents into exile.
In 1970, rebel forces from neighbouring Portuguese Guinea, supported by the Portuguese, invaded Guinea. The Portuguese wanted to get rid of Sekou Toure because he supported the liberation movement PAIGC in their colony. Only after several days of fierce fighting the Guinea army was able to repel the attackers.
Sékou Touré died on March 26, 1984 after a heart operation in the United States, and was replaced in an interim role by Prime Minister Louis Lansana Beavogui. Beavogui’s rule was brief, however, and a military junta headed by Lansana Conté and Diarra Traoré seized power on April 3, 1984 in a bloodless coup. Conté assumed the role of president with Traoré as his prime minister.
Conté immediately denounced the previous regime’s record on human rights, released 250 political prisoners and encouraged approximately 200,000 more to return from exile. He also made explicit the turn away from socialism, but this did little to alleviate poverty and the country showed no immediate signs of moving towards democracy.
In 1992, Conté announced a return to civilian rule, with a presidential poll in 1993 followed by elections to parliament in 1995 (in which his party - the Party of Unity and Progress - won 71 of 114 seats.) Despite this, Conté's grip on power remained tight. In September 2001 the opposition leader Alpha Condé was imprisoned for endangering state security, though he was pardoned 8 months later. He subsequently spent a period of exile in France. In 2001 Conté organized and won a referendum to lengthen the presidential term and in 2003 begun his third term after elections were boycotted by the opposition. In January 2005, Conté survived a suspected assassination attempt while making a rare public appearance in the capital Conakry. His opponents claim that he is a "tired dictator" whose departure is inevitable whereas his supporters believe he is winning a battle with dissidents. As of 2005 Guinea still faces very real problems and according to the International Crisis Group is in danger of becoming a failed state.
In 2000 Guinea became embroiled in the instability which had long blighted the rest of West Africa as rebels crossed the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone and it seemed for a time that the country was headed for civil war. Conté blamed neighbouring leaders coveting Guinea's natural resources, though these claims were strenuously denied. In 2003 Guinea agreed plans with her neighbours to tackle the insurgents. In 2007 they were big protests against the government. So the president choose a new prime minister.