From its independence in 1960 to Wednesday’s coup d’état against outgoing president Ali Bongo, who has been in power for 14 years, here are ten key dates in Gabon’s history.
A former French colony, Gabon proclaimed its independence on August 17, 1960. In February 1961, Léon Mba became president. Deposed by a coup d’état three years later, he was brought back to power by French military intervention.
1967: Omar Bongo in power for 41 years
In December 1967, on the death of Léon Mba, Albert-Bernard Bongo came to power. He imposed the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) as the sole party and ruled the country with an iron fist, profiting in particular from the oil windfall. In 1973, after converting to Islam, he became El Hadj Omar Bongo, to which he added his father’s name, Ondimba, in 2003.
The only candidate, he was elected president in 1973, 1979 and 1986. From January to April 1990, serious social unrest turned into riots. In May, a multi-party system was introduced, but Omar Bongo won every presidential election (1993, 1998, and 2005) against an opposition that he divided or rallied to his cause.
2009: Ali Bongo, the heir
On October 16, 2009, Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of Omar Bongo who died in June, was sworn in as president. He was elected in August in a disputed election. Post-election violence and looting rocked Port-Gentil (west), leaving several people dead.
The opposition denounced an “authoritarian drift”.
In 2010, the French justice system opened an investigation into the considerable wealth amassed in France by Omar Bongo and certain of his relatives (“biens mal acquis” affair).
2014: Social tensions
In December 2014, violent clashes erupted between demonstrators and police during a banned rally demanding Ali Bongo’s departure.
Confronted with an economic crisis due to the collapse of oil prices from 2014-2015, the regime faces growing social tensions.
2016: post-election violence
The announcement of Ali Bongo Ondimba’s re-election in the August 2016 presidential election provokes unprecedented violence in Gabon: demonstrations against the government, hundreds of people arrested, the National Assembly set on fire, and an assault by security forces on the headquarters of the outgoing president’s rival, Jean Ping. Three people were killed, according to the authorities, and around thirty according to the opposition.
2018: Ali Bongo suffers a stroke
On October 24, 2018, Ali Bongo suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia, leaving him absent for many months, convalescing abroad and then in Gabon.
2019: failed coup –
On January 7, 2019, an attempted military coup fails
In November, the country was rocked by a wave of arrests amid suspicions of corruption. On December 5, Ali Bongo’s eldest son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, is appointed “coordinator of presidential affairs”.
2022: nine Bongo children indicted in France
From March to July 2022, nine of Omar Bongo’s children were indicted in France, notably for handling misappropriated public funds as part of the “ill-gotten gains” investigation. This property, built up in France with public money embezzled from Gabon, is valued by the courts at “85 million euros”.
April 2023: Revision of the Constitution
In April 2023, Parliament voted to revise the Constitution, reducing the presidential term of office from seven to five years and reverting to a single ballot.
Part of the opposition denounces this as a maneuver designed to facilitate Ali Bongo’s re-election by a relative majority.
**August 2023: Post-electoral coup d’état **
On August 30, the military announced that it had “put an end to the regime”, shortly after the announcement of Ali Bongo’s re-election (with 64.27% of the vote).