Gabon’s rare and somewhat perplexing wealth, earned through the country’s oil trade, has a dramatic effect on the West African country’s modern day life. Though issues of poor health care and public education plague Gabon’s reputation, the nation has invested heavily in propelling a rich image to the world, with the big city vibe of its capital, Libreville, as well as the fashionable restaurants, bars and cafés of towns like Port-Gentil. Heart-wrenchingly high everyday expenses are a further result of Gabon’s pursuit of modernity.
Due to this first-world mindset, traditional Gabonese culture has pretty much been tossed out the window. Instead, travellers look to the country’s ideal rainforests, where the abundance of wildlife is enough to match the abundance of wealth in the national purse.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes as they migrated.
In the 15th century, the first Europeans arrived. The nation’s present name originates from “Gabão”, Portuguese for “cloak”, which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River by Libreville. French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza led his first mission to the Gabon-Congo area in 1875. He founded the town of Franceville, and was later colonial governor. Several Bantu groups lived in the area that is now Gabon when France officially occupied it in 1885.
In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. These territories became independent on August 17, 1960. The first president of Gabon, elected in 1961, was Léon M’ba, with Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president. French interests were decisive in selecting the future leadership in Gabon after Independence; French logging interests poured funds into the successful election campaign of M’ba, an ‘evolué’ from the coastal region.
After M’ba’s accession to power, the press was suppressed, political demonstrations banned, freedom of expression curtailed, other political parties gradually excluded from power and the Constitution changed along French lines to vest power in the Presidency, a post that M’ba assumed himself. However, when M’ba dissolved the National Assembly in January 1964 to institute one-party rule, an army coup sought to oust him from power and restore parliamentary democracy. The extent to which M’ba’s dictatorial regime was synonymous with “French Interests” then became blatantly apparent when French paratroopers flew in within 24 hours to restore M’ba to power.
After a few days of fighting, the coup was over and the opposition imprisoned, despite widespread protests and riots. The French government was unperturbed by international condemnation of the intervention; and paratroops still remain in the Camp de Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon’s capital. When M’Ba died in 1967, Bongo replaced him as president, and continued to be the head of state until his death in 2009, winning each contested election with a substantial majority.
Official Portal of Gabon Republic
Official site provides news and information about the country and its government, history, art and culture, geography and biodiversity, tourism, investment.
Flag of Gabon
The flag of Gabon has colours which are green, representing the forests; gold, representing the equator; and blue, representing the sea.
Coat of arms of Gabon
The supporters of the symbol are panthers which symbolize the vigilance and courage of the president who protects the nation. The bezants (golden discs) in chief of the shield symbolize the mineral wealth of the country. The ship at the lower part represents Gabon moving towards a brighter future. The okoumé tree at the top of the shield symbolizes the timber trade.
Location of Gabon
Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west.
Official languages: French
Government: Presidential republic
Area: 267,667 km2
Population: 1,475,000 (2009 estimate)
GDP (PPP): 2014 estimate – Total $32.682 billion – Per capita $20,612
GDP (nominal): 2014 estimate – Total $20.664 billion – Per capita $13,032
Currency: Central African CFA franc (XAF)