Gabon country

GABON

GABON, the Gabonese Republic, is a state on the west coast of Central Africa, located on both sides of the equator. It borders Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and the People’s Republic of the Congo to the east and south. The country is washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Of all the former colonies in French Equatorial Africa, Gabon is the last in terms of population and the first in terms of forests and minerals. It has an area of 267,700 sq km. Population approx. 1.608 mln (2012 estimate).

The capital is Libreville (619 thousand people, 2009). The second largest city is Port-Gentil.

Nature.

The territory of Gabon is divided into four physiographic regions.

The coastal region.

Includes low forested mountains of Mayombe in the south and a lowland, stretching along the coastline from 30 to 200 km, which is crossed by the lower reaches of several rivers, including the Ogowe, the main trade artery of the country. To the north of the mouth of the Ogowe the coast is rugged with estuaries of rivers where there are convenient natural harbors. The coast south of the Ogowe River is sandy, dissected by river valleys. Here there are lagoons, fringed with reed beds and mangrove forests.

Vegetation is dominated by extensive tropical forests, less represented by savannas. Average annual rainfall ranges from 1500 mm in the south to 4000 mm in the north. The average monthly temperature is 21-27°C in the south and 25-28°C in the north. Throughout the year, there is an alternation of four seasons – wet and dry, with the latter in the south being longer and more pronounced. The Benguela Current has a moderating effect on the climate of the coast.

The Crystal Mountains, located north of the Ogowe River, are highly dissected. Heights range from 150 to 600 m. Crossing these mountains, the rivers form rapids and waterfalls. The forest cover is closed, but thinned in places of erosion development. Gabon’s highest and most extensive mountains, Shayyu (Birogou) in the south of the country reach a maximum height of 1024 m (Mount Ibunji, the highest point of the country). It manifests the vertical zonality of climate and landscapes.

Wole-Ntem Plateau

Plateau, up to 760 m high, composed of dense ancient rocks, is located in the north-east of the country – east of the Crystal Mountains and north of the river Ogove. Rivers, deeply cutting into the surface of the plateau, form numerous rapids. Widespread wet tropical forests. Average annual rainfall of 1800 mm, the average monthly temperature ranges from 23 ° to 27 ° C, in the south of the spread of tall grass savannah with squat trees.

Bateke Plateau.

The low plateau, up to 830 m high, composed of sandstones, is located in southeastern Gabon. It is the hottest and driest region of the country. Average temperatures during the hot months exceed 32° C and the average annual rainfall is 1,500 mm. Tall grass savannas predominate, with only forests along the slow-flowing rivers.

Population.

In 2012, more than 1.6 million people lived in Gabon. The largest ethnic group Fang, which constitutes a third of the population of the country, is concentrated in the areas north of the Ogowe River. This people appeared on the territory of modern Gabon in the mid-19 century. (He probably migrated from the Bahr el-Ghazal in Sudan). Fang adopted the customs of the indigenous population and adapted to their way of life in the forest environment. Many of the Fang people were encouraged by the government to convert to sedentary farming.

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Mpongwe (Mien), along with other smaller tribes close to them, speaking the language omene, in 16 century inhabited the coast of Gabon. During the colonial period they constituted the majority of skilled laborers and civil servants. After independence began competition between the Mpongwe and Fang for positions in the state apparatus. In the northeast of Gabon live Bakota, famous as skilled carvers of small flat wooden statuettes (most often a schematic representation of a human head). Forest areas along the upper and middle reaches of the Ogowe River are inhabited by a group of related peoples Mbete, Punu, etc., which are sometimes grouped under the common name Nyabi. Pygmies live in the depths of tropical forests.

The distribution of the population of Gabon is generally uneven and confined to the main roads, logging areas and large cities. Vast interior areas, especially in the east of the country, are still unpopulated.

Missionaries in Gabon have contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity, which is practiced by approx. 65% of the population. About 10% of the population belongs to the established Fang sect, which combines elements of the Christian religion and the cult of the ancestors. Several thousand Gabonese practicing Islam.

The official language is French; Omene is spoken in the cities, while Fang is used throughout the country. Some Bantu languages are common in the southern regions. The government does not encourage the use of local languages in the media.

State system.

The basic law is the Constitution of Gabon 1991, according to which the head of state is a president elected by universal direct suffrage for a seven-year term. Since 1967 the president is Albert-Bernard Bongo.

In 1968 President Bongo announced the introduction of a one-party system in the country and the creation of the Gabonese Democratic Party (GDP). Since then, President Bongo and members of the National Assembly have been re-elected almost unanimously in all presidential and parliamentary elections, obliged to be members of the ruling PPD party. Over the years of independence Gabon’s presidential powers have increased significantly, while the prerogatives of parliament have been narrowed.

Under the 1991 constitution, the country was legalized political parties. Under the constitution, the president appoints a prime minister who heads the government. The structure of the parliament has been changed. The legislative body consists of two chambers: the Senate (91 senators) and the National Assembly (120 deputies), which is elected for five-year terms by direct universal suffrage. The last elections to the National Assembly took place in December 1996. The Senate is elected by the electoral college of local communities. The first election of senators was held in January 1997. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party has a majority in both chambers of the legislature.

Gabon’s foreign policy is based on the principles of non-alignment. The country maintains friendly relations with Western countries. Traditional ties with France remain strong. The Government of Gabon is cautious about pan-African plans, as well as proposals to recreate a union of French-speaking African states. It favors such organizations as the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC), the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the UN. In 1975 the country joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Economy.

Gabon is one of the richest countries in Africa. The country’s per capita income is four times higher than in most sub-Saharan African countries, but due to high inequality in income distribution, living standards of most of the population remains low. Gabon’s GDP was $5,400 per capita in 1996, and by 2012 the figure was $16,300 per capita.

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Since the late 1960s, the main source of prosperity of the country has become oil production, exports of which bring about. 75% of revenues to the state budget. Gabon’s subsoil is rich in uranium, manganese and iron ore. Before the development of the oil industry, the main source of government revenue was the export of timber, but in 1995 its share of total exports was only 14%. The rest of the economy is underdeveloped. About 70% of the economically active population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. In 1980 began a program of economic development, which provided for the use of proceeds from oil exports for the development of agriculture and industry. GDP at purchasing power parity in 2011 was close to $24.7 billion.

Gabon has depended on timber and manganese while oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. The economy depends on oil for about 50% of its GDP, about 70% of its income, and 87% of its exports of goods in 2010, although some fields are past their peak production. The rebound in oil prices from 1999 to 2008 helped the growth, and the decline in production prevented Gabon from fully realizing the potential profits.

Agriculture.

Although most of the economically active population is employed in the agricultural sector, Gabon is not self-sufficient in food and has to import about half of the food needed. Only a small proportion of arable land is cultivated. The main food crops are cassava and other root crops, bananas, sugarcane, vegetables and fruits. Cash crops, such as cocoa, oil palm, and coffee, are grown in small quantities.

Forestry.

About 80% of Gabon’s land area is covered with forests, and until the late 1960s, timber and timber products were the country’s main export item. By the early 1980s, most of the forests in the Coastal Region had been cleared, while in the less accessible interior areas, forests remained. In recent years, some reforestation has taken place, and timber exports have been reduced to 4.3 million cubic meters per year. Gabon is the world’s largest supplier of Clyne aucumea, whose soft wood goes for plywood production. In the forests of Gabon there are also valuable species of hardwood – ebony, kaya and others.

Mining industry.

Gabon’s mineral resources have played an important role in the development of its economy. The main source of income – oil, which is produced in the area of Port-Gentil since the 1970s. After the discovery of new fields in the 1990s, production rose to 20 million tons per year. Gabon is one of the world’s leading producers of manganese ore. The Mwanda deposit near Franceville is in operation. In the mid-1990s annual production was 2 million tons (most of it is exported to the United States). Uranium ore is mined at the Munana deposit near Franceville (600 tons of uranium concentrate per year). Due to unfavorable conditions in world markets and low profitability of this production is scheduled to roll in 2000. The country has large reserves of iron ore (500 million tons).

Industry.

Only about. 2% of the population of Gabon employed in industry and trade. The greatest importance have industrial branches, connected with the primary processing of raw materials: oil refining, woodworking, food industry (production of vegetable oils, sugar, flour). There are several enterprises producing cement, soap, dyes, fabrics and clothes.

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Transportation.

Development of the interior of Gabon is hampered by poor transport development. Length of roads is approx. 8 thousand km, of which only 1.5 thousand km are paved. For transportation, rivers are used, especially the Ogowe, but inland navigation is hampered by rapids. Transgabon railroad links mining and logging centers with the coast. Gabon has an extensive airline network, with five international and 54 local airports. The national airline company Air Gabon operates domestic and international flights. The main seaports are Ovendo (near Libreville) and Port Gentil.

Foreign trade and investment.

Gabon’s main trading partners are France and the United States. The leading exports: oil (3/4 of the volume), manganese ore, uranium concentrate and timber. Imports are dominated by food, equipment, cars, rolled metal and chemical products. The country has a trade surplus. In 1995, imports had a value of $700 million, export receipts – $2.7 billion. France is in the first place among foreign investors.

Currency.

Gabon is a member of the Bank of Central Africa and has a common currency unit the CFA franc.

Education.

Education is compulsory for children from 6 to 16 years of age. Most children complete six years of elementary school. In the early 1990s there were 210,000 students in elementary schools and 56,700 in high schools. There are universities in Libreville and Franceville. Many students receive government scholarships to attend foreign universities.

History.

There is very little information about the history of Gabon before the advent of the Portuguese there in the last quarter of 15 centuries. In the 16-18 centuries the country was part of the state of Loango. At the time of its power Loango occupied a vast area between the Ogowe and Congo Rivers. Loango was a federation of provinces ruled by chiefs chosen from the most influential clans. In 1663 Portuguese missionaries arrived in Loango and established a mission there. In 1776 the French priest Leuven-Bonaventure Prouillard, who was engaged in the conversion to Catholicism of the population on the coast, also collected information about the history and customs of the Loango and Congo states.

In the 16th century Portuguese traders, acting in concert with coastal chiefs, began a lucrative trade in slaves from the interior. They were soon joined by slave traders from the Netherlands, Britain, and France. After pressure from the European public prohibited the slave trade, the French navy was ordered to put an end to it in Gabon as well. In 1830-ies the French government ordered the commander of the French squadron Edouard Bue-Viyome create in the area of Christian missions, trading posts and bases for refueling ships. In 1839 and 1841 he concluded treaties ceding to France the southern and northern shores of Gabon Bay, which were respectively owned by the Mpongwe chiefs of Anguwe Kove Raponchombe (“King Denis”) and Re Dove (“King Louis”). In 1842-1862 the French signed similar treaties with the rulers of the adjoining territories. Bue-Viyome intercepted in the coastal waters of the slave ships, and on his orders, the freed slaves landed at the Bay of Gabon, where in 1849 they founded the settlement of Libreville, the future capital of Gabon.

In 1855-1883 the Frenchmen Paul du Chaillou and Pierre Savornian de Brazza explored the Ogowe River Basin. In the late 19th century the French government, which by then owned a large part of the territory of Gabon, gave French companies a monopoly on trade in these lands and their development.

Initially, Gabon was part of the French Congo, then from 1903 became a separate colony within the French Congo, and from 1910 to 1958 – the French Equatorial Africa. In 1946-1958 Gabon had the status of an “overseas territory” of France, with an elected Territorial Assembly and representation in the French Parliament. In November 1958, Gabon became a self-governing autonomy within the French Community, and August 17, 1960 was proclaimed an independent state.

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Party leader Gabon Democratic bloc (GDB) Leon Mba elected president in 1961, tried to neutralize the opposition, including in the government leader of the party Gabon Democratic and Social Union (GDSU), Jean-Hilaire Obama. This action did not bring the desired result, and in 1963 J.-I. Obama was removed from the government. When in 1964 President Mba dissolved the parliament and called for new elections, the army performed a coup d’etat. Withdrawn from power L. Mba was restored to office as president thanks to the intervention of French troops, who acted in accordance with the military agreement between Gabon and France in 1961. Obama was arrested for his participation in the coup. Later in 1964 elections were held, which resulted in a majority of seats in parliament, and L. Mba retained the presidency.

After Mba’s death in 1967, former vice president Albert-Bernard Bongo became president of Gabon. The following year he instituted a one-party system, and the only ruling party was the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDC) which he created. In 1973, Bongo was re-elected for another seven-year term. At the same time he converted from Catholicism to Islam and became known as Omar Bongo. In the 1970s, Gabon’s economy grew rapidly. In 1979 and 1986 O. Bongo was re-elected for a seven-year term.

Under growing opposition pressure, the government legalized political parties in 1990, and a new constitution went into effect in 1991. In 1993, 1998, and November 2005, with 79% of the vote, Bongo was reelected president.

On June 8, 2009, President Omar Bongo died at the age of 73. In the August 2009 elections that followed, the main struggle was between three candidates: O. Bongo’s son Ali Ben, supported by the ruling party, André Mba Obame and the opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou.

Ali Ben Bongo won with 41.73% of the vote. Andre Mba Obame and Pierre Mamboundou each received 25.9% and 25.2% of the vote, respectively. After the announcement of the election results, Mamboundou and Obame claimed significant fraud. However, the supreme judicial authority of the African country dismissed the complaint of the oppositionists.

Gabon

The Anthem of Gabon

Gabon is a state in Central Africa, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, covering an area of 267,600 km². Almost in the middle of its territory crosses the equator. Europeans came to this land at the end of the XV century, and from 1903 until independence in 1960, Gabon was a colony of France. French has remained the official language of the country. In the western part of Gabon is located coastal lowlands in the width of 30 to 300 km. The main area is occupied by the vast South Guinea highlands, which rise to 300-800 m above sea level. The uplands are separated from the coastal areas by low mountain ranges: the Crystal Mountains with a maximum height of 1,000 m (Mount Dana), Mount Shayyu (the main summit of Ibunji reaches a height of 1,580 m) and Mount Mayumba. The river network is extensive and abundant: the main river is the Ogowe, in the north the Ntem, and in the south the Nyanga.

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Highlights

In terms of rainfall, the year is divided into four seasons: two rainy seasons (mid-January to May and October to mid-December) and two relatively dry seasons – a large winter season (May to September) and a small summer season (December to January). Annual precipitation of 2500-3000 mm on the coast (in the north up to 4000 mm), inland – 1800-2300 mm. Marked variations in temperature are absent, the average annual temperature is about 26 ° C.

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Three-quarters of Gabon occupied by evergreen rainforest equatorial forests, although native tall forests (with trees taller than 60 m) are preserved only in remote mountainous areas. In the rest of the country, younger forests grow from old clearcuts. In the south and east of Gabon, there are some areas of tall grass savannah (in the place of the decommissioned forests), along the coast – the mangrove vegetation. The fauna is various: there are elephants, buffalos, several species of antelope, leopards, hyenas, wyverns and various kinds of monkeys. The peculiarity of the Gabonese fauna is the abundance of humanoid chimpanzees and gorillas. Crocodiles and hippos live in rivers, in the coastal lagoons and the mouth of the Ogowe River – the rare manatee. Famous nature reserves and national parks of Gabon – Lope, Wonga-Wongue, Mukalaba.

The population (more than 1.7 million people) is represented mainly by the Bantu language family – Fang, Bakele, Mpongwe, Bakoto. The southeast is populated by the Congolese Bateke and Bawili peoples, with low-growing Pygmies living in the forests. Half of the faithful practice Christianity, but most retain local cultural traditions and crafts. Especially famous for carving wood and ivory: elegant wooden figurines and flat figurines “Mbulu-ngumu”, upholstered with copper plates, ritual masks. The capital, Libreville, was founded in 1849 by Africans freed from a slave ship. Now it has a university and colleges, museums, many modern buildings. Another major city is Port-Gentil.

The Geography of Gabon

The state in the west of Central Africa. In the east and south, it borders the Congo (the borderline length is 1,903 km), in the north – Cameroon (298 km), in the northwest – Equatorial Guinea (350 km), the country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean waters in the west. The total length of the border is 2 551 km, coastline length – 885 km. The total area of Gabon is 267 667 km² (land area – 257 670 km²). Along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean are lowlands. The relief gradually rises inland towards the plateaus and mountain ranges (up to 1,580 m high). The main river is the Ogowe. Among the main natural resources – oil, uranium, gold, iron ore, manganese, timber. Most of the territory is occupied by tropical rainforests and woodlands (78%).

Gabon’s economy

Because of the natural reserves of oil, gas, manganese and uranium ore, and the relatively small population Gabon is one of the richest countries in Black Africa, although about 40% of the working population is engaged in agriculture or logging. 80% of exports are petroleum and petroleum products. Trade partners are France, the United States and Germany.

History of Gabon

The territory of modern Gabon was discovered by the Portuguese in the XV century. Before that the territory was inhabited by pygmies. Colonization of the country ended with the accession of Gabon to the French Congo in 1889 becoming part of the French Equatorial Africa in 1910, Gabon gained independence in 1960.

Since then, Gabon has been one of the continent’s most stable countries, and per capita income in the country is one of the highest in Africa.

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