Foreign policy and defense
Gabon is a nation in Central Africa. Its capital city is Libreville. Relations with the old colonial power of France have mostly been good. France has a strategically important military base in Gabon as well as a military force. Relations with neighboring countries are generally good.
Omar Bongo (President 1967–2009) supported France’s ambition to be a kind of “regional police” in West Africa. He also tried himself to play the role of mediators in various conflicts in the region, for example in Congo-Kinshasa, where Gabon sent soldiers as part of a peacekeeping force from the West African cooperation organization Cemac (Communuté Economic and Monetaire de l’Afrique centrale). ivory Coast. However, Gabon’s influence in the region was largely linked to Omar Bongo and his good personal relationships with other African leaders. But also under the son of Ali Ben Bongo, Gabon has lined up with soldiers in African horrors, such as the two UN-supported missions Misca 2013 and Minusca 2014 in the Central African Republic.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Gabon for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Accusations of illegal money transfers from French oil company Elf (now part of Total) to Omar Bongo negatively impacted relations between France and Gabon in the late 1990s. After a period of more cordial relations, the situation again became more difficult when a prosecutor in Paris in 2007 began investigating Omar Bongo’s property purchase in Paris. (Similar investigations were going on at the same time against, among others, Omar Bongo’s father-in-law Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Congo-Brazzaville, but none of the cases then resulted in some concrete measures but were closed down, but they are expected to be reopened).
The wave of French hostility that swept through Gabon in February – March 2008, fueled by articles by the government agency L’Union, is believed to have been due, among other things, to a report in French TV about the many houses, floors and luxury cars allegedly owned by Bongo in Paris. Others sought explanations in a hidden power struggle over who in Gabon would succeed Omar Bongo and where France would have supported Ali Ben Bongo and “helped” him to power. Ali Ben Bongo has continued good relations with France – he also has a French wife – and has visited Paris on a couple of occasions, most recently in the fall of 2014, at the invitation of French President François Hollande. However, he has also tried to broaden Gabon’s economic and political contacts with other countries.
Since the turn of the millennium, France has faced competition in Gabon by the US and China, both of whom wanted to increase their influence in the oil-rich country. China has, among other things, invested in the mining and forestry industry. As newly elected president, Ali Ben Bongo visited the United States in March 2010, since Gabon began a two-year term as a member of the UN Security Council at the turn of the year. Ali Ben Bongo described relations with the United States as “excellent.”
Good neighborly conditions
Gabon generally has a good relationship with its neighboring countries, although it has sometimes been tense since Gabon expelled guest workers. The country’s only more significant dispute concerns some islands in the Bay of Corisco that both Equatorial Guinea and Gabon claim. In 2006, UN-led negotiations began and two years later, the two countries announced that they would jointly exploit the oil resources that exist around the islands, pending the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to decide the case. Negotiations were suspended after Ali Ben Bongo’s power took office but resumed in early 2011. No results have yet been reached.
Gabon participated in the founding of the Guinea Bay Commission in 2001, which aims to promote peaceful cooperation in the oil-rich waters off Central Africa. The Commission also includes Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Cameroon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. Gabon was one of the countries that signed in June 2013 under the Code of Conduct, which the Commission, during the UN review, helped set up to access the rising piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Gabon’s defense force is directly subordinate to the president. It consists of army, air force and navy as well as a presidential guard. All soldiers are professional soldiers.
Several times during the 2000s, Omar Bongo re-furnished the military leadership and gave key posts to people from his own people group, téké. His successor, the son Ali Ben Bongo, was previously Minister of Defense and has good relations with the military.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 3,200 men (2017)
The air Force: 1,000 men (2017)
The fleet: 500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.1 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 9.3 percent (2017)
President Bongo re-elected
President Omar Bongo wins as expected in the presidential election. He receives almost 80 percent of the vote, but turnout is low. The opposition accuses the regime of cheating, while international observers believe the election was right. The main challenger to Bongo later accepts the election result but at the same time admits that Bongo donated a large amount of money to his constituency.