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Gabon: A Brief History of a Central African Nation




Gabon is a country located in Central Africa. The history of Gabon dates back to the 14th century when Bantu migrants settled in the area. The Portuguese explorers and traders arrived in the late 15th century, and the coast subsequently became a center of the transatlantic slave trade with European slave traders arriving to the region in the 16th century.

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In 1839 and 1841, France established a protectorate over the coast. In 1849, captives released from a captured slave ship founded Libreville. In 1862–1887, France expanded its control including the interior of the state, and took full sovereignty. In 1910 Gabon became part of French Equatorial Africa and in 1960, Gabon became independent.

At the time of Gabon’s independence, two principal political parties existed: the Gabonese Democratic Bloc (BDG), led by Léon M’Ba, and the Gabonese Democratic and Social Union (UDSG), led by Jean-Hilaire Aubame. In the first post-independence election, held under a parliamentary system, neither party was able to win a majority; the leaders subsequently agreed against a two-party system and ran with a single list of candidates. In the February 1961 election, held under the new presidential system, M’Ba became president and Aubame became foreign minister. The single-party solution disintegrated in 1963, and there was a single-day bloodless coup in 1964. In March 1967, Leon M’Ba and Omar Bongo were elected president and vice president. M’Ba died later that year. Bongo declared Gabon a one-party state, dissolved the BDG and established the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).

Gabon is known for its rich biodiversity with over 20 national parks and reserves. The country is also home to several ethnic groups including Fang, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi, Bakota or Kota, Mbere, Mbwisi or Bwisi, Okande or Akandé, Myene or Mien, Nzebi or Nzébi, Obamba, Teke or Bateke, and Pygmies.