According to thesciencetutor, archaeological finds in the jungle of Gabon reveal that the land has been populated for millennia. Yet, one does not know the history of the country before the 16th century migration. The emigration of a number of peoples triggered a crisis in the old kingdom of Congo (see Angola). To Gabon, the Myrians immigrated, followed in the 18th century by the fang people, who today are the largest ethnic group. They monopolized the trade of slaves and ivory to Europeans.
According to Countryaah data, the first Europeans to reach the coast of what is today Gabon were the Portuguese who arrived in 1472, but it was not until the mid-19th century that French, Dutch and British created permanent trading posts through which trade in ivory, rare woods and slaves were mediated. In 1849 the town of Libreville was established, which became a center for freed slaves from other French colonies. The area did not immediately offer economically attractive activities, so the French used it as a strategic base for their expeditions into the interior of the continent.
The country gained its independence without major blows when the two local parties – Gabon’s Mixed Movement led by León M’Ba and Jean-Hilaire Aubame’s Social and Democratic Union – appeared willing to accept the country’s new neo-colonial situation.
Gabon has significant mineral resources of iron, uranium and manganese, wood and oil. At the same time, the oil company Shell recently discovered new oil reserves in Rabikuna in the Port-Gentil region. The new field’s reserves will last for 50 years and have already been put into use. Unlike the country’s other offshore oil fields, Rabikuna is onshore, which is why production costs are much lower. Shell’s share in the field is 80% while the French Elf has the remaining 20%. At the same time, the North American company Amoco and the Brazilian Braspetro were authorized to continue exploration in the Port-Gentil area.
Until a few years ago, the limited timber industry was the only one of any magnitude in the area, but multinational companies have now discovered that this “peaceful spot” can serve as a gateway to markets in Central Africa, and therefore an industrialization process has been initiated. This development process that is dependent on foreign capital has only helped to increase the country’s social problems. The promise of urban work has accelerated the emigration from the country and the change in social structures in the way that small farmers are transformed into cheap labor for the multinational companies. At the same time, the destruction of the agricultural economy has destroyed the possibilities of self-sufficiency in food and liquidated the last sector that did not depend on foreign capital.
This neo-colonial order is based on a 1960 treaty on military alliance between Libreville and Paris. When M’ba died in 1967, he was followed by his defense minister Omar Bongo, who faithfully continued M’ba’s political line. In addition to safeguarding the interests of the French, the country developed after North American inspiration into a “sub-imperialist” center. Bongo became the “gendarme” of Central Africa, and the country’s base for aggression against its progressive neighboring countries. In January 1977, for example, the country asked. aircraft and weapons available to a group of mercenaries who carried out a failed attack on the Benin People’s Republic.
Gradually, Bongo developed a more flexible foreign policy. Relations with neighboring countries – including Angola – improved without altering their close ties with France. Like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad and the Central African Republic, Gabon also has French troops in the country.
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Bongo was re-elected as president in 1979 and 1986 with 99% of the vote – in elections where he was the only candidate.