Gabon Information

General Information for Gabon

Country: Gabon
Location: Central Africa
Independence: August 17, 1960
Nationality: Gabonese
Capital City: Libreville
Population: 1,155,749
Important Cities: Port Gentil, Lambarene, Franceville
Head of State: Omar Bongo
Area: 264,180
Type of Government: Republic
Currency: 500 FCFA=1 USD
Major peoples: Fang, Eshira, Bateke, Bopounou
Religion: Christian 60%, African religion 39%, Muslim 1%
Climate: Equatorial
Literacy: 61%
Official Language: French
Principal Languages: Fang, Bateke
Major Exports: Timber, Petroleum, Manganese, Uranium
Pre-Colonial History During the last seven centuries, Bantu speaking peoples arrived in the area from several directions to escape enemies or find new land. There are no documents of life before European contact, but art suggests a rich and ancient cultural heritage. Gabon's first European visitors were Portuguese traders who arrived in the 15th century and named the country after the Portuguese word gabao, a coat with sleeves and hood resembling the shape of the Como River estuary. American missionaries from New England established a mission at Baraka in 1849. French explorers penetrated Gabon's dense forests between 1862 and 1887. The most famous, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, used Gabonese bearers and guides in his search for the headwaters of Congo River. France occupied Gabon in 1885. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. The territories became independent in 1960 as the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, and Gabon.
Post-Colonial History Under the 1961 constitution (revised in 1975 and rewritten in 1991), Gabon became a republic with a presidential form of government. The unicameral National Assembly has 120 deputies elected by universal suffrage, also for a five-year term. In 1990 the government made major changes in the political system. A transitional constitution was drafted in May 1990, as an outgrowth of a national political conference in March and April and later revised by a constitutional committee. Among its provisions are a Western-style bill of rights; creation of a National Council of Democracy, which oversees the guarantee of those rights; a governmental advisor board on economic and social issues; and an independent judiciary. In January 1991, the Assembly passed by unanimous vote a law governing the legalization of opposition parties.

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