ndependence: from AD 1960

During the French colonial period, the northern boundaries of Gabon have been agreed with German Cameroon in 1885 and with Spanish Guinea in 1900. The eastern border, with Middle Congo, is an internal French matter between colonies which from 1910 are both part of French Equatorial Africa. On the dissolution of French Equatorial Africa, Gabon become independent in 1960.

The first president of the new republic, L¬Ľon M'ba, puts in place a single-party regime. A miltary coup in 1964 briefly topples M'ba, but a military force sent from France on the orders of the French president, de Gaulle, restores him to power.

On the death of M'ba in 1967, Omar Bongo follows him in the presidency. Under his rule opposition groups are suppressed, until economic decline in the late 1980s (caused by the fall in the price of oil, Gabon's main export) provokes such unrest that a multiparty constitution is finally adopted in 1990.

Violent disorders in the run-up to the subsequent elections provoke further French military intervention, to protect French property and nationals. Allegations of fraud follow the election result, a victory for President Bongo's PDG (Parti Democratique Gabonais). But a number of opposition candidates also win seats. Bongo forms a coalition government.

All the important portfolios are retained in PDG hands, with the result that in June 1991 the opposition parties resign from the government in protest at this PDG dominance. Nevertheless the first multiparty presidential election is allowed to take place in December 1993.

Amid widespread accusations of fraud it is won by the incumbent, Omar Bongo, with just 51% of the vote. The candidate in second place, a Roman Catholic priest Paul M'ba Abessole, claims victory and threatens to form a rival government. The country is almost brought to a standstill during 1994 by riots resulting from this election. The situation is so tense that Bongo agrees to attend a peace conference with opposition groups in Paris in September.

It is decided that there will be a coalition government until new elections can be held. These take place in December 1996, giving the PDG a clear majority in the national assembly. The president's party wins a similar position in a new upper house, the senate, for which elections are held in February 1997.

In 1997 a law is passed extending the presidential term from five to seven years. During 1998 Abessole's party, the National Rally of Woodcutters, splits in two. As a result Bongo has an easy victory in the presidential election of that year, winning 66% of the vote.
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