Africa

Gabon country profile

  • 22 December 2015
  • From the section Africa
Map of Gabon

Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, is one of the region's more stable countries.

Since independence from France in 1960, Gabon has had just three presidents. Late President Omar Bongo ruled for more than four decades until his death in 2009.

During Omar Bongo's rule, Gabon maintained a close relationship with France under a system known as "Francafrique", receiving both political and military support in exchange for business favours.

But relations have cooled since his son Ali won a contested election in 2009 and French authorities launched a long-running corruption investigation into the family's assets.

Gabon is a major oil producer but a third of its population live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

FACTS

The Gabonese Republic

Capital: Libreville

  • Population 1.5 million

  • Area 267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles)

  • Languages French, Bantu-group languages

  • Religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 62 years (men), 64 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

LEADER

President: Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba

Image copyright Getty Images

Ali Bongo was elected in 2009, following the death of his father and long-time president Omar Bongo, in a poll disputed by the opposition.

In 2011, the main opposition candidate in the 2009 vote, Andre Mba Obame, declared himself the rightful winner and legitimate president. Mr Bongo responded by banning Mr Obame's opposition National Union.

His presidency has been overshadowed by a long-running French investigation into allegations of embezzlement involving the Bongo family's assets.

Born in 1959 in Brazzaville, Congo where his father was serving in the armed forces, Mr Bongo was educated in France. His family converted from Christianity to Islam in 1973.

He entered politics in 1981 and has served as both foreign and defence minister.

MEDIA

Gabon's main broadcast media are government-controlled.

In 2013, Reporters Without Borders acknowledged the authorities had made some progress in media freedom but said journalists still faced "police brutality and intimidation by officials". The watchdog called for an overhaul of the country's 2001 media law.

There were more than 670,000 internet users out of a population of 1.5 million by November 2015. (Internetworldstats.com).

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Gabon's history:

14th-19th century - European settlers: Arrival of Portuguese slave traders, followed by French, Dutch and British.

1839 - France signs treaties with Gabonese coastal chiefs. Local Mpongwe ruler signs away sovereignty to the French.

1910 - Gabon becomes one of four territories making up French Equatorial Africa.

1958 - Gabon votes to become autonomous republic in the French Community.

1960 - Gabon declares independence.

1967 - Omar Bongo becomes president after the death Leon Mba.

1967-2009 - Omar Bongo dominates Gabonese politics, serving seven consecutive terms.

1990s - Multi-party political system introduced.

2003 - Constitution amended to repeal term limits, ensuring President Bongo holds the presidency for life.

2009 - Death of Omar Bongo, succeeded by his son Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Omar Bongo was Africa's longest serving head of state when he died, having been in power for 42 years

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