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History of Gabon

The earliest settlers of Gabon were people of Pygmy origin. In the centuries that followed, new waves of Bantu tribal migrations took place till the advent of the Portuguese in 1472. From then onwards, Gabon and its tribes became a battlefield of colonial interests between rival European nations like England, France and Holland, in their bid for control of the lucrative trade in ivory and slaves. The slave trade died out in the mid 1850s but by then, inter tribal relations had deteriorated to the point of no return.

In 1849, Libreville the capital was used as a settlement for the freed slaves. The area around the Gabon River was taken over by the French during the mid-19th century as a province of French Equatorial Africa. The status quo remained till the French allowed the Gabonese a measure of self-government, to ease transition into complete independence in 1960. A French-style constitution was adopted in 1961, Gabon became the Republic of Gabon, and Léon M'Ba was sworn in as the first President.

The country experimented with multiparty system and single-party rule, but fortunately stayed within democratic parameters and remained pro-west. President Omar Bongo, the current president came to power in 1967 on the death of Leon M’ba and is now Africa's second longest standing head of state. In 1990, the Bongo government returned to a pluralistic political system that gave the 120-member National Assembly genuine political power. Gabon continues to have close relations with the French, and is France’s principal supplier of uranium and other strategic minerals.

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