Sitting on the equator, the Gabonese Republic, widely known as Gabon, has a population of 2.173 million (2019) and is sometimes referred to as a 'rainforest nation' being 85% covered by tropical rainforest. Gabon was first visited by Portugeuse traders and explorers in the fifteenth century who named it after their name for 'cloak' (Gabao) as that was the shape of the river estuary at Libreville. The French arrived in the area, now known as Gabon in 1875, and twenty years later formally occupied it. In 1910 Gabon became one of the territories of French Equatorial Africa and sixty years later finally gained its independence in 1960 with Leon M'ba becoming the country's first elected president in 1961.
Naturally, after a democratic election in a newly emerging African nation, M'ba quickly sought to suppress the press, ban political demonstrations and erode the existence of opposition political parties, ensuring all power was invested in his presidency; all achieved with the ongoing support of France, much to the dismay of the wider international community. M'ba died in 1967 and his vice president, Omar Bonga, succeeded him to the presidency and went on to dominate the politics of Gabon for four decades becoming one of the longest serving heads of state in the world. He died in 2009 and was succeeded in elections in August of that year by ..... his son. In January 2019, there was an attempted coup d'etat led by soldiers against the President Ali Bongo however it failed.
Today, Gabon is a relatively wealthy country, benefiting from the exports of its off-shore oil fields and is in 119th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and the living standards of a country. However oil output is declining and, despite attempts to diversify the economy, poverty remains widespread standing at around 33% especially in rural areas where children also suffer from a lack of educational provision. For others, whilst education is free, other school expenses put it beyond the reach of many poor families. This rural poverty has seen a rise in children moving to urban conurbations such as Libreville where they can be seen begging on the streets in front of bus stops and department stores. Many of these children end up in domestic servitude or in agricultural labour working alongside other children who have been brought into Gabon through trafficking. HIV is also an issue in Gabon with thousands of its children orphaned through the virus. In total there are 64,000 orphans in Gabon, just over one in ten of all children. The video (below) explores more about Gabon itself, particularly its forest industry.
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