Birth of Modern Gabon: in eight important dates

On August 17, 1960, Gabon was the eighth African colony in France to gain independence. Its future head of state, Léon Mba, who had preferred his country to remain in the French week, almost reluctantly proclaimed the independence of his people. The first contacts between Europe and the future Gabon date back to the 15th century. Back to Franco-Gabonese history, from discovery to decolonization, including colonial exploitation.

1472: on the triangular trade route

Landing of the first Europeans off the coast of Gabon. They were Portuguese sailors, but very quickly the territory also aroused the interest of French, Danish and British sailors whose ships regularly anchored off these coasts. It was the beginning of a fruitful trade between European merchants and local tribes, focusing on ivory, precious woods and, of course, slaves.

February 9, 1839: beginning of French colonization

Signing of an agreement between the French Admiral Édouard Bouët-Willaumez and Antchuwè Kowè Rapontchambo, alias “King Denis”, a chief in Mpongwe, which allows the creation of a first trading post at the mouth of the Como. It was from this small colony that Pierre Savorgna de Brazza set out, which laid the foundation for the future French Equatorial Africa (AEF). In 1849, Libreville, the capital of the future Gabon, was founded to house slaves freed from a Brazilian ship aboard French sailors under the law that formally prohibits the slave trade.

1886: colonization and scandal of concessionaires

Gabon officially becomes a French colony with the appointment of a first governor. The colony was integrated into the French Congo, before joining the AEF from 1910. Libreville’s loss of its capital status in favor of Brazzaville will be the origin of the rivalries between the two capitals, which will not end until Gabon becomes a separate constituency from the Congo. -Brazzaville after World War II. It was the beginning of the colonial exploitation of Gabonese territory with the creation and establishment of large concessionaires responsible for developing the country’s forest and mining resources. Some will talk about “systematic looting” of natural resources of private interests with the blessing of the colonial administration.

1906-1912: resistance and revolts

The colonial occupation of the Gabonese territory encountered strong resistance from the taxpayers, forced labor demanded by concessionaires, various forms of torture and brutality. The history of the first decades of the colonization of Gabon is full of uprisings and uprisings caused by abuses by the colonists. Among the most important rebel movements that marked the spirits, it is necessary to quote Tshogho’s revolt in 1904 against the challenges of concessionaires, the Punu revolt led by the fearless Nyonda Mkita or the resistance movement in “Binzima” (soldiers, in a hurry) against the colonial administration, which mobilized between 1907 1910 more than a hundred thousand men. These movements were ruthlessly suppressed in the blood.

1920–1940: Libreville the “Vichy” vs. Brazzaville “Gaullisten”

During this period of the interwar period, the colonial regime established itself firmly in the country and resource utilization intensified with the development of the forest industry in the coastal areas, the development of cocoa cultivation. And coffee in Woleu-Ntem and mining in Ngounié. The reins of the economy were in European hands, but economic prosperity favored the emergence of a domestic bourgeoisie within which the first trade union and political demands were directed at the colonial administration. Then the political situation develops with the Second World War breaking out in Europe. In 1940, Gabon was first subordinated to the Vichy government, before its governor finally assembled General de Gaulle. The war breathes new life into the rivalry between Libreville the “Vichy” and the Brazzaville “Gaullist” par excellence.

1946–1958: from the French Union to the Community

As in the other colonies, it was during this period immediately after World War II that Gabon’s future fate was falsified, with new rules of the game introduced by the metropolis under pressure from an African political class. Increasingly aware of its importance in public opinion. In 1946, we witnessed the creation of the French Union, which abolished the domestic status of the colonies in favor of a unified French citizenship. The administrative status of the colonies is also evolving towards a foreign territory, equipped with a local assembly and the right to send representatives to metropolitan legislative assemblies. This development gives a boost to the political life in the colonies. Libreville thus sees the emergence of new political parties, including Gabon’s Democratic and Social Union (USDG) and Gabon’s Democratic Bloc (BDG). Their founders, Jean-Hilaire Aubame and Léon Mba respectively, stand out as leading figures in the Gabonese political scene. Political opponents, however, they will fight in 1958 for the benefit of the “French community”, a project launched by General de Gaulle, who returned to power in Paris. This new project proposes that the status of the colonies be changed towards greater autonomy. On November 28, 1958, with the “yes” victory, Gabon became a “Member State of the Community”, and Léon Mba was appointed the newly created Prime Minister.

August 17, 1960: “Independent like everyone else”

However, the “Community” turns out to be a fleeting project where most Member States decide to take their independence. The Gabonese political class saw the breaking of ties with the old metropolis as a tragedy, as the economies of the two countries were inextricably intertwined. Concerned about the future of his country, Léon Mba, head of the Gabonese government, had proposed to General de Gaulle in 1958 that Gabon become a French branch. In response, Paris sent him a scorching end to rejection. It becomes “independence like everyone else!” “Thus, it is reluctant that the leaders of Gabon proclaimed the independence of their country on August 17, 1960, without forgetting to pay tribute to the old metropolis in their speech to the nation:” During these solemn hours when this country will be born to its new fate, my thoughts turn to friendly France with deep gratitude ”. “Let Gabon know! France remains by his side, replied André Malraux, Foreign Minister sent by Paris to represent the Franceaux celebration of independence in Libreville.

February 17, 1964: this faithful Léon Mba!

France will keep its word by intervening when LéonMba, on 17 February 1964, who was meanwhile elected president of his country, was overthrown by a coup led by his longtime opponent, Jean-Hilaire Aubame. Paris responded immediately by sending its paratroopers to restore the loyal Léon Mba to power. It must also be said that Gabon, with its subsoil rich in manganese, uranium and oil, is an ally that we do not want to lose.


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More