n African Security Review - Gabon : continuity in transition : Africa watch

Volume 18, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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The last time Gabon had to manage a political transition after the death of a president was in 1967 when the then president and father of the country's independence, Leon Mba, succumbed after a long illness. Superbly orchestrated by the Elysée Palace in Paris and executed by the very influential and legendary presidential adviser Foccart, the presidency was offered to a young and promising politician whose most important quality at the time was his loyalty to France. Promising prospects of oil exploitation led Paris to exercise a tight control over the 'democratic stability' of the country in the Gulf of Guinea. It was not unusual at that time that France used its leverage to control the appointment of ministers and the 'election' of presidents. Forty-two years down the line, supporters of Bongo praise the political stability and the economic prosperity of Gabon whereas his opponents point to the appalling discrepancies between the rich and the poor in a country of just one million inhabitants and impressive oil wealth. In addition, it has always been contended that President Omar Bongo made use of this wealth to 'buy off' the opposition and ensure his re-election over the years by not very legitimate means.

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