Since its independence from France on August 17, 1960, the Republic has been ruled by three presidents. In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new democraticconstitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed many governmental institutions. The small population density together with abundant natural resources and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in the region, with the highest HDI in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The 1964 Gabon coup d'état was staged between 17 and 18 February 1964 by Gabonese military officers who rose against Gabonese PresidentLéon M'ba. Before the coup, Gabon was seen as one of the most politically stable countries in Africa. The coup resulted from M'ba's dissolution of the Gabonese legislature on 21 January 1964, and during a takeover with few casualties 150 coup plotters arrested M'ba and a number of his government officials. Through Radio Libreville, they asked the people of Gabon to remain calm and assured them that the country's pro-France foreign policy would remain unchanged. A provisional government was formed, and the coup's leaders installed Deputy Jean-Hilaire Aubame, who was M'ba's primary political opponent and had been uninvolved in the coup, as president. Meanwhile, M'ba was sent to Lambaréné, 250 kilometres (155 mi) from Libreville. There was no major uprising or reaction by the Gabonese people when they received word of the coup, which the military interpreted as a sign of approval.
After being informed of the coup by Gabonese Chief of Staff Albert-Bernard Bongo, French President Charles de Gaulle resolved to restore the M'ba government, honoring a 1960 treaty signed between the deposed government and France when Gabon became independent. With the help of French paratroopers, the provisional government was toppled during the night of 19 February and M'ba was reinstated as president. Afterward, M'ba imprisoned more than 150 of his opponents, pledging "no pardon or pity" but rather "total punishment". Aubame was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor and 10 years of exile, a sentence that was later commuted. (Read more...)
Omar Bongo was promoted to key positions as a young official under Gabon's first President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, before being elevated to Vice-President from 1966 to 1967, eventually succeeding M'ba to become Gabon's second President upon the latter's death in 1967.
Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when he was forced to introduce multi-party politics in Gabon in the face of great public pressure. He then survived intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s, succeeding in consolidating power again mainly by bringing most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s over to his side. He was re-elected in extremely controversial 1993 presidential election, and again in the subsequent elections of 1998 and 2005, with his respective majorities increasing and the opposition becoming more subdued on each election. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-serving non-monarch ruler.