The Gabonese Republic
Origins of name: Portuguese explorers came upon the estuary of the Como river in 1472 and named it Rio de Gabão (meaning ‘hooded cloak’) because of its shape. The country later adopted the name
Ali Ben Bongo
In 1910, Gabon was founded as part of four territories of French Equatorial Guinea.
Gabon became independent on August 17, 1960.
Form of Government
Structure of Government
Head of State – the President, elected for seven-year term (no term limits), Head of Government – the Prime Minister (appointed by President), Council of Ministers appointed by Prime Minister in consultation with the President, Bicameral Parliament
Manpower: 10,000-member armed forces, plus 1,500-member presidential guard
Expenditures: 3.4% of GDP
Branches: Army, Navy, Airforce and Gendamerie
1961-1976 Leon M’ba
1967-2009 Omar Bongo Ondimba
Altitude: 35 metres
Population: 661,000 people
Size: 1,534,000 (2011)
Life expectancy: 53.1 years
Gender make-up: Male: 49.67%; Female: 50.33%
Border countries: Cameroon 298km, Republic of the Congo 1,903km, Equatorial Guinea 350km
GDP per capita
$ 16,400 (2011)
$ 15,700 (2010)
French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi
Christian 55%-75%, Traditionalist, Muslim less than 1%
Bantu tribes, including four major tribal groupings (Fang, Bapounou, Nzebi, Obamba), other Africans and Europeans, 154,000, including 10,700 French and 11,000 persons of dual nationality
Crude oil, Timber, Manganese, Uranium
Crude oil 70%, Timber, Manganese, Uranium
Arable land: 2%
Permanent crops: 1%
Main (oil-exporting) port: Port Gentil
Main airport: Leon M’Ba International Airport located 3km from Libreville city centre
Gabon has an abundance of forest cover, but this is threatened by overlogging, especially on coastal areas
Pollutants from the oil industry affect the nation’s water sources
Gabon’s cities produce 0.1 million tonnes of solid waste annually, which is gross compared to the small population
Gabon has remained relatively stable in a violent neighbourhood
Abundant oil revenues have contributed to political stability
One-third of the population are employed by the Government, an unusually high figure. Shows the high dependence on the government and its oil revenues. School, offices and businesses close down from noon to 3pm
In 2011, Bongo was given a formal invite by Barack Obama to the White House, where they were to discuss the advancement of a partnership between their two countries. Barack Obama came under fire for extending the invite to an African dictator who has plundered billions of dollars from his own country.
Gabonese enjoy over four times the per capita incomes of average Africans. This has allowed for a relatively high standard of living, however, the wealth is heavily skewed between an urban elite and a poor rural population
Over-reliance on oil revenues has left agriculture undeveloped
Majority of the population is concentrated in towns like Libreville and Port Gentil.
Domestic violence and single-mother families are a serious problem, which is sometimes abetted by law, which recognises only women’s unfaithfulness in marriage as grounds for divorce
With a bar on nearly every corner and a taste for homemade beer and wine, Gabonese are copious drinkers.
Concerned about stability in Central Africa, Gabon has been directly involved with mediation efforts in Chad, the CAR, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, the DR Congo, and Burundi. In December 1999, through President Bongo’s mediation, a peace accord was signed in Congo-Brazzaville between the government and leaders of an armed rebellion. (President Bongo was related by marriage to Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou-Nguesso).
The Major Conflicts
Who: Army against Leon M’ba
Why: Dispute between President M’ba and coalition partners over legislative elections in 1963 which M’ba’s party won by default
Outcome: French paratroopers were flown overnight to crush the coup attempt
What to see?
Rare lowland gorillas in the country’s national parks, which form 11% of land area. Gabon has the world’s largest gorilla population
As in most of Africa, soccer is the national sport
Martial arts are very popular
Basketball, for both men and women.
Famous sportsmen and sportswomen
Stephane Lasme – Basketball player
Country has been run as a political dynasty starting with President Omar Bongo to his son Ali Ben Bongo, the current President
Who said pygmies are extinct? They are sound and fine in the Gabonese rainforest