Most of the time since independence in 1960,
Gabon has been dominated by the Bongo family and its
party PDG: first President Omar Bongo from 1967 and
after his death in 2009 his son Ali Ben Bongo.
At independence in 1960, the political situation in
Gabon was calm and was characterized by cooperation
between the two political parties in the country,
President Léon M'Bas Democratic Gabonese bloc (BDG) and
Gabonese Democratic and Social Union (UDSG), under
Foreign Minister Jéan-Hilaire Aubame.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Gabon. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
At the beginning of 1963, the contradictions between
the parties intensified. BDG demanded that the smaller
UDSG join forces with BDG or resign from the government.
Elections were announced until February 1964 and when it
became clear that the UDSG would not compile a list of
approved candidates for the election, the military
intervened. M'Ba was deposed in a bloodless coup but was
reinstated the following day with the help of French
forces. After the failed coup, President M'Ba gradually
transformed the country into a one-party state.
M'Ba, around whom a cult of personality had already
emerged prior to independence, died in 1967 and
succeeded by Vice President Albert-Bernard Bongo. He
decided in 1968 to also formally introduce one-party
systems. The newly formed Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG),
became the only allowed party.
During the 1970s, Gabon experienced rapid economic
growth thanks to rising oil revenues and liberal foreign
investment rules. Bongo was re-elected in 1973 with over
99 percent of the vote. In 1975 he converted to Islam
and changed his first name to Omar.
At the end of the 1970s, falling oil prices on the
world market slowed growth in the Gabonese economy, with
social problems and rising population dissatisfaction as
In 1981, a moderate opposition group was formed, the
Movement for the Nation's Restoration (Morena). The
group accused Bongo of corruption and economic
mismanagement and demanded multi-party democracy. Many
Morena supporters were arrested, sentenced to harsh
prison sentences for state security violations, or fled
When Bongo was re-elected as president in 1986, all
Morena members had been released from prison after
international pressure. In 1989, Morena's leader Paul
Mba Abessole returned to Gabon after twelve years in
exile. When he declared support for Bongo's regime, he
was excluded from Morena and instead formed a party that
came to be known as the National Forest Collection (RNB).
Multi-party systems are introduced
In the early 1990s, strikes and demonstrations broke
out in which participants demanded democratization. A
national conference was convened which voted for an
immediate transition to multi-party systems. President
Bongo accepted the proposal for multi-party systems and
already in the autumn, a choice was held in which
several parties participated. The election had to be
held in rounds since the opposition had accused the
government side of electoral fraud. Although the result
was delayed, PDG formed government in November along
with some opposition parties. Only in March 1991 could
the final election result be presented: Bongo's party,
PDG, received just over half of the mandate.
The strikes and unrest continued. In the 1993
presidential election, Bongo won by more than half the
votes. International election overseers said they had
not seen any direct irregularities, but as soon as the
election results had been announced, protests and unrest
erupted by security forces broke out.
In the fall of 1994, the African Unity Organization (OAU)
(predecessor to the African Union, AU) managed to get
the opposition and the government to meet in Paris. It
included an agreement to change the electoral law, set
up an independent electoral commission and announce a
new parliamentary election within 18 months. In a 1995
referendum, the agreed constitutional amendments were
approved, which meant, among other things, that
Parliament would be expanded by a Senate whose members
would be appointed by the country's regional and local
Continued PDG dominance
Bongo and his party continued to dominate. Bongo,
which has amassed a huge fortune, won followers and
disarmed oppositionists with generous gifts. He placed
family members and friends on leading positions.
PDG won a major election in both the National
Assembly and the newly formed Senate in 1996, and Bongo
took home the 1998 presidential election with 67 percent
of the vote.
The following parliamentary elections were delayed
due to accusations of cheating and boycott calls. Only
after six months, in the summer of 2002, was there a
result and it was clear that PDG had consolidated its
dominance. Meanwhile, Bongo had invited the opposition
to join a unity government. Among four opposition
politicians who accepted a ministerial post were Paul
Mba Abessoles, whose party RNB changed its name to
Collection for Gabon (RPG). Both the RPG and the Social
Democratic Party (PSD) eventually formally joined the
Bongo's position was further strengthened when
Parliament voted in the summer of 2003 to remove the
presidential reelection bar.
As oil revenues fell during the first years of the
21st century and the economy deteriorated, an increased
dissatisfaction with the regime was felt. To divert
criticism, Omar Bongo used hostile attitudes towards
immigrants and conducted several mass expulsions. The
president also used the security service and the
presidential guard to harass political opponents, and
critical mass media was silenced.
New big win for Bongo
Prior to the presidential election in the autumn of
2005, four candidates were approved, besides Omar Bongo
himself. Among them were former Minister Zacharie Myboto,
who resigned from the 2004 ruling party and joined the
opposition through his newly formed party, the Gabonese
Union for Democracy and Development (UGDD), and Pierre
Mamboundou of the Gabonese People's Union (UPG), who had
also served in presidential election in 1998. Before the
election, the authorities announced that no new
passports would be issued for opposition leaders.
Opposition politicians who tried to leave the country
would have their travel documents withdrawn. Ten
opposition parties refused to join the Election
Commission in protest at how the election had been
prepared. To attract voters, Omar Bongo introduced free
schooling for everyone, distributed cash and promised
free electricity and water for a month to tens of
thousands of households.
In the 2006 parliamentary elections, PDG and support
parties won, as usual, by far.
UPG leader Pierre Mamboundou, who had long been seen
as the regime's leading opponent, in 2006 stopped
publicly criticizing the president. Mamboundou made no
secret that he promised to give him over $ 20 million
"to develop his constituency."
In June 2007, French police opened an investigation
into whether President Bongo and his colleagues from
Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea had seized
public funds and used them to buy luxury properties in
France. In a previous investigation, Omar Bongo and his
father-in-law Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of
Congo-Brazzaville, had been accused of receiving
hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from the
French oil company Elf. In 2008, a manifesto spread on
the internet in which opposition attacked not only
President Bongo but also two of his children, the
daughter and former Foreign Minister Pascaline Bongo
Ondimba as well as the son and defense minister Ali Ben
Bongo Ondimba. The latter two were accused of treating
Gabon as their private property and were also alleged to
be involved in a power struggle over who would succeed
In the first half of 2009, protracted strikes
occurred in Gabon's school and medical services, in
protest of poor wages and working conditions.
Omar Bongo dies
In May of that year, President Bongo "temporarily"
relinquished power to his vice president. It soon became
clear that he was in a hospital in Barcelona where he
was being treated for cancer. On June 8, 2009, an
official Gabonese affirmation came about the death of
President Omar Bongo. Thirty days of country grief was
After Omar Bongo's death, the ruling party appointed
Ali Ben Bongo as its candidate in the August
presidential election. Four ministers, including two PDG
veterans who opposed Ali Ben Bongo's candidacy, were
fired or possibly resigned voluntarily to, like Prime
Minister Ndong, be able to stand as independent
UPG and four other opposition parties jointly
nominated Pierre Mamboundou as its presidential
candidate. Other opposition representatives joined
former Interior Minister André Mba Obame.
Ali Ben Bongo takes over
Even before the votes began to count, both Bongo and
Mba Obame and Mamboundou had declared themselves
victors. When the election results were delayed, the
military gathered in the capital Libreville. On
September 3, Ali Ben Bongo was declared the winner. The
announcement of the election results triggered unrest,
especially in the city of Port-Gentil in the southwest,
the base of the people group to which Mamboundou
belonged. Following rumors that Ali Ben Bongo won with
French help, crowds set fire to the city's French
consulate and also attacked other French-affiliated
The Constitutional Court granted requests from
opposition politicians that the votes be checked. On
October 12, the Constitutional Court confirmed that Ali
Ben Bongo had won the election. After the recalculation,
his share of the votes had been adjusted slightly; Bongo
won with 42 percent of the vote against just over 25
percent each for Mamboundou and Mba Obame.
In early 2011, Mba Obame tried to carry out a coup
and proclaimed himself the rightful president of Gabon,
but he failed to win any major support for his campaign
within the country and no other country recognized him
as president. Mba gave up after a month and went into
exile in France.
President can sit "for life"
Parliament adopts a constitutional change which means that the president can
be elected on any number of occasions.