Little is known about the pre-colonial events in what is now the state’s territory, which is partly due to the fact that the tribes originally living in the region did not leave any cultural or written records. It is believed that the southern part of the country was loosely linked to the province of Loango, which in turn was part of the Kingdom of the Congo.
The history of the European presence began in 1492, when Portuguese penetrated from the upstream and already colonized and planted archipelago of São Tom¨¦ and Pr¨ªncipe to the Gabonese coastal region and traded with the local tribes. Dutch, French, Spanish and English traders also sailed the Gabon coasts in the following centuries, mostly to exchange clothing, iron products, alcohol and weapons for wood, ivory and – initially isolated – slaves.
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Slave trade and colonization
The slave trade intensified from the second half of the 18th century, because labor was needed especially for the plantations of the colonies in Brazil and Cuba. Prisoners or those exposed from their tribes were brought to the coast by African tribes and sold there to European seafarers. Only the tribes of the warlike Fang refused to participate in the slave trade, at the same time they also ensured that the section of the coast largely depopulated by advancing to the Atlantic. The slave trade ended in the mid-19th century, and the French founded Libreville (in German: free city) in the north of the Gabonese Atlantic coast in 1849. As early as 1843, the French had established a base here with the Fort d ‘Aumale fortification and concluded contracts with the tribes resident there, which laid down French sovereignty in the region.
The path to independence
In 1910 Gabon became part of French Equatorial Africa. According to AbbreviationFinder, contracts with the German colonial powers in Cameroon and Spain in Spanish Guinea in the north had clarified the course of the borders and subsequently allowed further undisturbed advances, explorations and land gains in the interior.
At the same time, the French began to set up training opportunities for the African population in the country, so that between the world wars an African elite emerged, from which the Gabonese politicians were recruited during the Fourth Republic of France, which led Gabon to independence in 1960. Extensive French funds flowed into the African country’s economy, education and health system, which among other things meant that Gabon, which had become independent, continued to maintain close economic, cultural and military relations with France.
The first President of the Republic was L¨¦on Mba, who remained in office from 1960 – supported by French military intervention in 1964 – until his death in 1967. He was succeeded by Omar Bongo Ondimba as President. He introduced a one-party system (Parti D¨¦mocratique Gabonais, PDG) and was re-elected several times.
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The latest time
Attempts by the opposition in the early 1980s to introduce multi-party parliamentary democracy were unsuccessful. Opposition parties were not admitted until 1990. The first elections with approved opposition candidates confirmed Omar Bongo Ondimba in office. At home and abroad, the proper conduct of the elections was questioned, so that in 1994 an agreement was negotiated with the opposition’s government participation and new elections for 1996 were agreed. The incumbent ruling party, the PDG, won this. In 1998 and 2005 the people of Ondimba each confirmed for another seven years in the office of head of state and president.
Omar Bongo Ondimba died in 2009. In the new elections in August 2009, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, son of Omar Bongos and former Minister of Defense, was elected new President with almost 42% of the vote. Since the contenders Andr¨¦ Mba Obame (former interior minister) and Pierre Mamboundou (long-time opposition leader) each received slightly more than 25% of the vote, they also claimed the election victory. Riots and massive protests across the country led to a recount of votes, confirming the previous result with only a minimal deviation. The new President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba was sworn in in October 2009.