The history of Gabon (L’histoire du Gabon)
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President: Ali Bongo Ondimba (2009)
Prime Minister: Daniel Ona Ondo (2014)
Land area: 99,486 sq mi (257,669 sq km); total area: 103,346 sq mi (267,667 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 1,672,597 (growth rate: 1.94%); birth rate: 34.64/1000; infant mortality rate: 47.03/1000; life expectancy: 52.06
Capital and largest city (2014 est.): Libreville, 695,000
Monetary unit: CFA Franc
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Longest-Serving Head of State Bongo Is Sworn in As Gabon’s President
This West African country with the Atlantic as its western border is also bounded by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Congo. Its area is slightly less than Colorado’s. Most of the country is covered by a dense tropical forest.
The earliest humans in Gabon were believed to be the Babinga, or Pygmies, dating back to 7000 B.C., who were later followed by Bantu groups from southern and eastern Africa. Now there are many tribal groups in the country, the largest being the Fang peoples, who constitute 25% of the population.
Gabon was first explored by the Portuguese navigator Diego Cam in the 15th century. In 1472, the Portuguese explorers encountered the mouth of the Como River and named it “Rio de Gabao,” river of Gabon, which later became the name of the country. The Dutch began arriving in 1593, and the French in 1630. In 1839, the French founded their first settlement on the left bank of the Gabon estuary and gradually occupied the hinterland during the second half of the 19th century. The land became a French territory in 1888, an autonomous republic within the French Union after World War II, and an independent republic on Aug. 17, 1960.