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Gabon

french west libreville established

Gabon (officially Gabonese Republic), independent state in West Africa straddling the equator. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon on the north, and the Republic of the Congo on the east and south.

Land and climate

The Atlantic coastline is backed by a narrow coastal plain that rises to rolling hills, leading to plateaus and mountains cut by the Ogooué River and its tributaries. The climate is tropical, with heavy, daily rainfall.

People

The largest ethnic groups are the Fang and Eshira; other groups include the Batoka, and Omiéné. The official language is French, but tribal languages are also spoken. The largest city and capital is Libreville. Port Gentil is the other major center. Lambaréné, in the interior, is renowned as the site of a hospital established in 1913 by Dr. Albert Schweitzer and run by him until his death in 1965.

Economy

Gabon is rich in timber and oil. The latter accounts for 80% of export earnings, but other minerals, including manganese and gold, are also exported. Cocoa is also an important cash crop. Gabon is an associate member of the European Economic Community.

History

Gabon was a center of the slave trade from the arrival of the first Portuguese navigators in the late 15th century until the 1880s. Libreville was established in 1849 by slaves freed from a slaving ship. By the end of the century, the French had taken over most of the territory that is now Gabon. In 1910 the area officially became a French colony. Following World War II, Gabon became an overseas territory, and in 1958 it became a self-governing member of the French Community. Two years later Gabon proclaimed its independence and became a member of the United Nations. Close relations have been maintained with France, while rising living standards have contributed to relative political stability. In 1990 a multi-party system was introduced.

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