• Monday, June 24, 2024
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What you should know about Gabon

A failed coup in Gabon highlights the staying power of Africa’s ageing leaders

The Gabonese Republic, formally known as Gabon, is a nation on the west coast of Central Africa. The official language of the country is French.

Past Presidents

Gabon has had three presidents since gaining its independence from France in August 1960.

It established a multi-party system and a democratic constitution in the 1990s with the goal of improving electoral transparency and reforming some governmental institutions.

Léon M’ba was chosen as the first president of Gabon in 1961, while Omar Bongo Ondimba served as his vice president.

In 1967, after M’Ba passed away, Bongo took over as president. Bongo declared Gabon a one-party state in March 1968 after dissolving BDG and founding the Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG).

The vice president position was eliminated in April 1975 and was replaced by the prime minister, who did not have the right to succeed themselves automatically. Bongo was re-elected president for a seven-year term in December 1979 and November 1986.

In September 1990, two coup d’état attempts were discovered and failed. The first multiparty National Assembly elections in nearly 30 years took place in September and October 1990, with protests following the death of an opposition leader. PDG won a majority.

Read also: Military officers announce coup in Gabon

In December 1993, Bongo was re-elected with 51% of the vote, but the opposition candidates refused to recognise the results.

In December 1998, Bongo easily won re-election. He was re-elected for a sixth term in November 2005.

At a Spanish hospital in Barcelona on June 8, 2009, Bongo passed away from a heart arrest. On June 10, 2009, Rose Francine Rogombé, President of the Senate, assumed the position of Interim President in accordance with Gabon’s modified Constitution.

On August 30, 2009, 18 candidates ran for president in the first contested elections in Gabon’s history where Omar Bongo was not a candidate.

Following a three-week Constitutional Court review, Ali Bongo Ondimba, the head of the ruling party, was officially proclaimed the victor.

A military-led coup attempt against President Ali Bongo occurred in January 2019, although it ultimately failed.

Following Ali Bongo’s re-election as president, a number of senior Gabonese military officials went on television early on August 30 to declare their assumption of power.

The officers claimed to speak for all of the country’s security and military forces when they appeared on the national television network Gabon 24. The soldiers said that the election results had been thrown out, that all borders had been shut, and that all state institutions had been disbanded.


Gabon is the fourth largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oil accounts for about 40% of the country’s GDP and 80% of its exports. It also has a significant reserve of natural gas.

The central African country is also one of the world’s largest producers of manganese, a metal used in steelmaking and other industrial applications.

Other natural resources there include diamond, uranium, gold and timbre.