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Gabon | Wikipedia audio article

Gabon | Wikipedia audio article


Gabon (; French pronunciation: ​[ɡabɔ̃]),
officially the Gabonese Republic (French: République gabonaise), is a country on the
west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered
by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on
the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres
(100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2 million people. Its capital and largest city is Libreville. Since its independence from France in 1960,
the sovereign state of Gabon has had three presidents. In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party
system and a new democratic constitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process
and reformed many governmental institutions. Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment
have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the
4th highest HDI and the fourth highest GDP per capita (PPP) (after Mauritius, Equatorial
Guinea and Seychelles) in the region. GDP grew by more than 6% per year from 2010
to 2012. However, because of inequality in income distribution,
a significant proportion of the population remains poor.==Etymology==
Gabon’s name originates from gabão, Portuguese for “cloak”, which is roughly the shape of
the estuary of the Komo River by Libreville.==History==The earliest inhabitants of the area were
Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by
Bantu tribes as they migrated. In the 15th century, the first Europeans arrived. By the 18th century, a Myeni speaking kingdom
known as Orungu formed in Gabon. On February 10, 1722, Bartholomew Roberts,
a Welsh pirate known as Black Bart, died at sea off Cape Lopez. He raided ships off the Americas and West
Africa from 1719 to 1722. French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
led his first mission to the Gabon-Congo area in 1875. He founded the town of Franceville, and was
later colonial governor. Several Bantu groups lived in the area that
is now Gabon when France officially occupied it in 1885. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories
of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. In World War II, the Allies invaded Gabon
in order to overthrow the pro-Vichy France colonial administration. The territories of French Equatorial Africa
became independent on August 17, 1960. The first president of Gabon, elected in 1961,
was Léon M’ba, with Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president. After M’ba’s accession to power, the press
was suppressed, political demonstrations banned, freedom of expression curtailed, other political
parties gradually excluded from power, and the Constitution changed along French lines
to vest power in the Presidency, a post that M’ba assumed himself. However, when M’ba dissolved the National
Assembly in January 1964 to institute one-party rule, an army coup sought to oust him from
power and restore parliamentary democracy. French paratroopers flew in within 24 hours
to restore M’ba to power. After a few days of fighting, the coup ended
and the opposition was imprisoned, despite widespread protests and riots. French soldiers still remain in the Camp de
Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon’s capital to this day. When M’Ba died in 1967, Bongo replaced him
as president. In March 1968, Bongo declared Gabon a one-party
state by dissolving the BDG and establishing a new party—the Parti Democratique Gabonais
(PDG). He invited all Gabonese, regardless of previous
political affiliation, to participate. Bongo sought to forge a single national movement
in support of the government’s development policies, using the PDG as a tool to submerge
the regional and tribal rivalries that had divided Gabonese politics in the past. Bongo was elected President in February 1975;
in April 1975, the position of vice president was abolished and replaced by the position
of prime minister, who had no right to automatic succession. Bongo was re-elected President in both December
1979 and November 1986 to 7-year terms.In early 1990 economic discontent and a desire
for political liberalization provoked violent demonstrations and strikes by students and
workers. In response to grievances by workers, Bongo
negotiated with them on a sector-by-sector basis, making significant wage concessions. In addition, he promised to open up the PDG
and to organize a national political conference in March–April 1990 to discuss Gabon’s future
political system. The PDG and 74 political organizations attended
the conference. Participants essentially divided into two
loose coalitions, the ruling PDG and its allies, and the United Front of Opposition Associations
and Parties, consisting of the breakaway Morena Fundamental and the Gabonese Progress Party.The
April 1990 conference approved sweeping political reforms, including creation of a national
Senate, decentralization of the budgetary process, freedom of assembly and press, and
cancellation of an exit visa requirement. In an attempt to guide the political system’s
transformation to multiparty democracy, Bongo resigned as PDG chairman and created a transitional
government headed by a new Prime Minister, Casimir Oye-Mba. The Gabonese Social Democratic Grouping (RSDG),
as the resulting government was called, was smaller than the previous government and included
representatives from several opposition parties in its cabinet. The RSDG drafted a provisional constitution
in May 1990 that provided a basic bill of rights and an independent judiciary but retained
strong executive powers for the president. After further review by a constitutional committee
and the National Assembly, this document came into force in March 1991.Opposition to the
PDG continued after the April 1990 conference, however, and in September 1990, two coup d’état
attempts were uncovered and aborted. Despite anti-government demonstrations after
the untimely death of an opposition leader, the first multiparty National Assembly elections
in almost 30 years took place in September–October 1990, with the PDG garnering a large majority.Following
President Omar Bongo’s re-election in December 1993 with 51% of the vote, opposition candidates
refused to validate the election results. Serious civil disturbances and violent repression
led to an agreement between the government and opposition factions to work toward a political
settlement. These talks led to the Paris Accords in November
1994, under which several opposition figures were included in a government of national
unity. This arrangement soon broke down, however,
and the 1996 and 1997 legislative and municipal elections provided the background for renewed
partisan politics. The PDG won a landslide victory in the legislative
election, but several major cities, including Libreville, elected opposition mayors during
the 1997 local election.Facing a divided opposition, President Omar Bongo coasted to easy re-election
in December 1998, with large majorities of the vote. While Bongo’s major opponents rejected the
outcome as fraudulent, some international observers characterized the results as representative
despite many perceived irregularities, and there were none of the civil disturbances
that followed the 1993 election. Peaceful though flawed legislative elections
held in 2001–2002, which were boycotted by a number of smaller opposition parties
and were widely criticized for their administrative weaknesses, produced a National Assembly almost
completely dominated by the PDG and allied independents. In November 2005 President Omar Bongo was
elected for his sixth term. He won re-election easily, but opponents claim
that the balloting process was marred by irregularities. There were some instances of violence following
the announcement of his win, but Gabon generally remained peaceful.National Assembly elections
were held again in December 2006. Several seats contested because of voting
irregularities were overturned by the Constitutional Court, but the subsequent run-off elections
in early 2007 again yielded a PDG-controlled National Assembly. On June 8, 2009, President Omar Bongo died
of cardiac arrest at a Spanish hospital in Barcelona, ushering in a new era in Gabonese
politics. In accordance with the amended constitution,
Rose Francine Rogombé, the President of the Senate, became Interim President on June 10,
2009. The first contested elections in Gabon’s history
that did not include Omar Bongo as a candidate were held on August 30, 2009 with 18 candidates
for president. The lead-up to the elections saw some isolated
protests, but no significant disturbances. Omar Bongo’s son, ruling party leader Ali
Bongo Ondimba, was formally declared the winner after a 3-week review by the Constitutional
Court; his inauguration took place on October 16, 2009.The court’s review had been prompted
by claims of fraud by the many opposition candidates, with the initial announcement
of election results sparking unprecedented violent protests in Port-Gentil, the country’s
second-largest city and a long-time bastion of opposition to PDG rule. The citizens of Port-Gentil took to the streets,
and numerous shops and residences were burned, including the French Consulate and a local
prison. Officially, only four deaths occurred during
the riots, but opposition and local leaders claim many more. Gendarmes and the military were deployed to
Port-Gentil to support the beleaguered police, and a curfew was in effect for more than three
months.A partial legislative by-election was held in June 2010. A newly created coalition of parties, the
Union Nationale (UN), participated for the first time. The UN is composed largely of PDG defectors
who left the party after Omar Bongo’s death. Of the five hotly contested seats, the PDG
won three and the UN won two; both sides claimed victory.==Government==Gabon is a republic with a presidential form
of government under the 1961 constitution (revised in 1975, rewritten in 1991, and revised
in 2003). The president is elected by universal suffrage
for a seven-year term; a 2003 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits
and facilitated a presidency for life. The president can appoint and dismiss the
prime minister, the cabinet, and judges of the independent Supreme Court. The president also has other strong powers,
such as authority to dissolve the National Assembly, declare a state of siege, delay
legislation, and conduct referenda.Gabon has a bicameral legislature with a National Assembly
and Senate. The National Assembly has 120 deputies who
are popularly elected for a 5-year term. The Senate is composed of 102 members who
are elected by municipal councils and regional assemblies and serve for 6 years. The Senate was created in the 1990–1991
constitutional revision, although it was not brought into being until after the 1997 local
elections. The President of the Senate is next in succession
to the President.Despite the democratic system of government, the Freedom in the World report
lists Gabon as “not free”, and elections in 2016 have been disputed.===Political culture===
In 1990, the government made major changes to Gabon’s political system. A transitional constitution was drafted in
May 1990 as an outgrowth of the national political conference in March–April and later revised
by a constitutional committee. Among its provisions were a Western-style
bill of rights, creation of a National Council of Democracy to oversee the guarantee of those
rights, a governmental advisory board on economic and social issues, and an independent judiciary.After
approval by the National Assembly, the PDG Central Committee, and the President, the
Assembly unanimously adopted the constitution in March 1991. Multiparty legislative elections were held
in 1990–91, despite the fact that opposition parties had not been declared formally legal. In spite of this, the elections produced the
first representative, multiparty National Assembly. In January 1991, the Assembly passed by unanimous
vote a law governing the legalization of opposition parties.After President Omar Bongo was re-elected
in 1993, in a disputed election where only 51% of votes were cast, social and political
disturbances led to the 1994 Paris Conference and Accords. These provided a framework for the next elections. Local and legislative elections were delayed
until 1996–97. In 1997, constitutional amendments put forward
years earlier were adopted to create the Senate and the position of vice president, as well
as to extend the president’s term to seven years.In October 2009, newly elected President
Ali Bongo Ondimba began efforts to streamline the government. In an effort to reduce corruption and government
bloat, he eliminated 17 minister-level positions, abolished the vice presidency and reorganized
the portfolios of numerous ministries, bureaus and directorates. In November 2009, President Bongo Ondimba
announced a new vision for the modernization of Gabon, called “Gabon Emergent”. This program contains three pillars: Green
Gabon, Service Gabon, and Industrial Gabon. The goals of Gabon Emergent are to diversify
the economy so that Gabon becomes less reliant on petroleum, to eliminate corruption, and
to modernize the workforce. Under this program, exports of raw timber
have been banned, a government-wide census was held, the work day has been changed to
eliminate a long midday break, and a national oil company was created.In provisional results,
the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) won 84 out of 120 parliamentary seats. On January 25, 2011, opposition leader André
Mba Obame claimed the presidency, saying the country should be run by someone the people
really wanted. He also selected 19 ministers for his government,
and the entire group, along with hundreds of others, spent the night at UN headquarters. On January 26, the government dissolved Mba
Obame’s party. AU chairman Jean Ping said that Mba Obame’s
action “hurts the integrity of legitimate institutions and also endangers the peace,
the security and the stability of Gabon.” Interior Minister Jean-François Ndongou accused
Mba Obame and his supporters of treason. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said
that he recognized Ondimba as the only official Gabonese president.The 2016 presidential election
was disputed, with very close official results reported. Protests broke out in the capital and met
a brutal repression which culminated in the alleged bombing of opposition party headquarters
by the presidential guard. Between 50 and 100 citizens were killed by
security forces and 1,000 arrested. International observers criticized irregularities,
including unnaturally high turnout reported for some districts. The country’s supreme court threw out some
suspect precincts, but a full recount was not possible because ballots had been destroyed. The election was declared in favor of the
incumbent Ondimba. European Parliament issued 2 resolutions denouncing
the unclear results of the election and calling for an independent investigation on the human
rights violations.===Foreign relations===Since independence, Gabon has followed a nonaligned
policy, advocating dialogue in international affairs and recognizing each side of divided
countries. In inter-African affairs, Gabon espouses development
by evolution rather than revolution and favors regulated private enterprise as the system
most likely to promote rapid economic growth. Gabon played an important leadership role
in the stability of Central Africa through involvement in mediation efforts in Chad,
the Central African Republic, Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (D.R.C.), and Burundi. In December 1999, through the mediation efforts
of President Bongo, a peace accord was signed in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville)
between the government and most leaders of an armed rebellion. President Bongo was also involved in the continuing
D.R.C. peace process, and played a role in mediating the crisis in Ivory Coast. Gabonese armed forces were also an integral
part of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) mission to the Central African
Republic. Gabon is a member of the United Nations (UN)
and some of its specialized and related agencies, as well as of the World Bank; the IMF; the
African Union (AU); the Central African Customs Union/Central African Economic and Monetary
Community (UDEAC/CEMAC); EU/ACP association under the Lome Convention; the Communaute
Financiere Africaine (CFA); the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the Nonaligned
Movement; and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC), among others. In 1995, Gabon withdrew from the Organization
of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), rejoining in 2016. Gabon was elected to a non-permanent seat
on the United Nations Security Council for January 2010 through December 2011 and held
the rotating presidency in March 2010.===Military===Gabon has a small, professional military of
about 5,000 personnel, divided into army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, and police. Gabonese forces are oriented to the defense
of the country and have not been trained for an offensive role. A 1,800-member guard provides security for
the president.===Administrative divisions===Gabon is divided into nine provinces, which
are further subdivided into 50 departments. The president appoints the provincial governors,
the prefects, and the subprefects.The provinces are (capitals in parentheses): Estuaire (Libreville)
Haut-Ogooué (Franceville) Moyen-Ogooué (Lambaréné)
Ngounié (Mouila) Nyanga (Tchibanga)
Ogooué-Ivindo (Makokou) Ogooué-Lolo (Koulamoutou)
Ogooué-Maritime (Port-Gentil) Woleu-Ntem (Oyem)==Geography==Gabon is located on the Atlantic coast of
central Africa on the equator, between latitudes 3°N and 4°S, and longitudes 8° and 15°E.
Gabon generally has an equatorial climate with an extensive system of rainforests covering
8.5% of the country.There are three distinct regions: the coastal plains (ranging between
20 and 300 km [10 and 190 mi] from the ocean’s shore), the mountains (the Cristal Mountains
to the northeast of Libreville, the Chaillu Massif in the centre), and the savanna in
the east. The coastal plains form a large section of
the World Wildlife Fund’s Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion and contain patches
of Central African mangroves especially on the Muni River estuary on the border with
Equatorial Guinea. Geologically, Gabon is primarily ancient Archean
and Paleoproterozoic igneous and metamorphic basement rock, belonging to the stable continental
crust of the Congo Craton, a remnant section of extremely old continental crust. Some formations are more than two billion
years old. Ancient rock units are overlain by marine
carbonate, lacustrine and continental sedimentary rocks as well as unconsolidated sediments
and soils that formed in the last 2.5 million years of the Quaternary. The rifting apart of the supercontinent Pangaea
created rift basins that filled with sediments and formed the hydrocarbons which are now
a keystone of the Gabonese economy. Gabon is notable for the Oklo reactor zones,
the only known natural nuclear fission reactor on Earth which was active two billion years
ago. The site was discovered during uranium mining
in the 1970s to supply the French nuclear power industry. Gabon’s largest river is the Ogooué which
is 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long. Gabon has three karst areas where there are
hundreds of caves located in the dolomite and limestone rocks. Some of the caves include Grotte du Lastoursville,
Grotte du Lebamba, Grotte du Bongolo, and Grotte du Kessipougou. Many caves have not been explored yet. A National Geographic Expedition visited the
caves in the summer of 2008 to document them.Gabon is also noted for efforts to preserve the
natural environment. In 2002, President Omar Bongo Ondimba designated
roughly 10% of the nation’s territory to be part of its national park system (with 13
parks in total), one of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. The National Agency for National Parks manages
Gabon’s national park system. Natural resources include petroleum, magnesium,
iron, gold, uranium, and forests.==Economy==Gabon’s economy is dominated by oil. Oil revenues constitute roughly 46% of the
government’s budget, 43% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and 81% of exports. Oil production is currently declining rapidly
from its high point of 370,000 barrels per day in 1997. Some estimates suggest that Gabonese oil will
be expended by 2025. In spite of the decreasing oil revenues, planning
is only now beginning for an after-oil scenario. The Grondin Oil Field was discovered in 50
m (160 ft) water depths 40 km (25 mi) offshore, in 1971 and produces from the Batanga sandstones
of Maastrichtian age forming an anticline salt structural trap which is about 2 km (1.2
mi) deep.Gabonese public expenditures from the years of significant oil revenues were
not spent efficiently. Overspending on the Trans-Gabon Railway, the
CFA franc devaluation of 1994, and periods of low oil prices caused serious debt problems
that still plague the country.Gabon earned a poor reputation with the Paris Club and
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the management of its debt and revenues. Successive IMF missions have criticized the
government for overspending on off-budget items (in good years and bad), over-borrowing
from the Central Bank, and slipping on the schedule for privatization and administrative
reform. However, in September 2005 Gabon successfully
concluded a 15-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF. Another 3-year Stand-By Arrangement with the
IMF was approved in May 2007. Because of the financial crisis and social
developments surrounding the death of President Omar Bongo and the elections, Gabon was unable
to meet its economic goals under the Stand-By Arrangement in 2009. Negotiations with the IMF were ongoing.Gabon’s
oil revenues have given it a per capita GDP of $8,600, unusually high for the region. However, a skewed income distribution and
poor social indicators are evident. The richest 20% of the population earn over
90% of the income while about a third of the Gabonese population lives in poverty.The economy
is highly dependent on extraction, but primary materials are abundant. Before the discovery of oil, logging was the
pillar of the Gabonese economy. Today, logging and manganese mining are the
next-most-important income generators. Recent explorations suggest the presence of
the world’s largest unexploited iron ore deposit. For many who live in rural areas without access
to employment opportunity in extractive industries, remittances from family members in urban areas
or subsistence activities provide income.Foreign and local observers have lamented the lack
of diversity in the Gabonese economy. Various factors have so far limited the development
of new industries: the market is small, about a million
dependent on imports from France unable to capitalize on regional markets
entrepreneurial zeal not always present among the Gabonese
a fairly regular stream of oil “rent”, even if it is diminishingFurther investment in
the agricultural or tourism sectors is complicated by poor infrastructure. The small processing and service sectors that
do exist are largely dominated by a few prominent local investors.At World Bank and IMF insistence,
the government embarked in the 1990s on a program of privatization of its state-owned
companies and administrative reform, including reducing public sector employment and salary
growth, but progress has been slow. The new government has voiced a commitment
to work toward an economic transformation of the country but faces significant challenges
to realize this goal.==Society=====
Demographics===Gabon has a population of approximately 2
million. Historical and environmental factors caused
Gabon’s population to decline between 1900 and 1940. Gabon has one of the lowest population densities
of any country in Africa, and the fourth highest Human Development Index in Sub-Saharan Africa.===Ethnic groups===
Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin. Gabon has at least forty ethnic groups with
differing languages and cultures. The Fang are generally thought to be the largest,
although recent census data seem to favor the Nzebi. Others include the Myene, Kota, Shira, Puru,
and Kande. There are also various Pygmy peoples: the
Bongo, Kota, and Baka; the latter speak the only non-Bantu language in Gabon. More than 10,000 native French live in Gabon,
including an estimated 2,000 dual nationals.Ethnic boundaries are less sharply drawn in Gabon
than elsewhere in Africa. Most ethnicities are spread throughout Gabon,
leading to constant contact and interaction among the groups, and there is no ethnic tension. One important reason for this is that intermarriage
is extremely common and every Gabonese person is connected by blood to many different tribes. Indeed, intermarriage is often required because
among many tribes, marriage within the same tribe is prohibited because it is regarded
as incest. This is because those tribes consist of the
descendants of a specific ancestor, and therefore all members of the tribe are regarded as close
kin to each other (identical to the clan system of Scotland or the Gotra system in India). French, the language of its former colonial
ruler, is a unifying force. The Democratic Party of Gabon (PDG)’s historical
dominance also has served to unite various ethnicities and local interests into a larger
whole.===Population centres======
Languages===It is estimated that 80% of Gabon’s population
can speak French, and that 30% of Libreville residents are native speakers of the language. Nationally, 32% of the Gabonese people speak
the Fang language as a mother tongue.In October 2012, just before the 14th summit of the Organisation
internationale de la Francophonie, the country declared an intention to add English as a
second official language, reportedly in response to an investigation by France into corruption
in the African country, though a government spokesman insisted it was for practical reasons
only. It was later clarified that the country intended
to introduce English as a first foreign language in schools, while keeping French as the general
medium of instruction and the sole official language.===Religion===Major religions practiced in Gabon include
Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism), Bwiti, Islam, and indigenous animistic religion. Many persons practice elements of both Christianity
and traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Approximately 73 percent of the population,
including noncitizens, practice at least some elements of Christianity, including the syncretistic
Bwiti; 12 percent practice Islam (of whom 80 to 90 percent are foreigners); 10 percent
practice traditional indigenous religious beliefs exclusively; and 5 percent practice
no religion or are atheists. A vivid description of taboos and magic is
provided by Schweitzer.===Health===Most of the health services of Gabon are public,
but there are some private institutions, of which the best known is the hospital established
in 1913 in Lambaréné by Albert Schweitzer. Gabon’s medical infrastructure is considered
one of the best in West Africa. By 1985 there were 28 hospitals, 87 medical
centers, and 312 infirmaries and dispensaries. As of 2004, there were an estimated 29 physicians
per 100,000 people. Approximately 90% of the population had access
to health care services. In 2000, 70% of the population had access
to safe drinking water and 21% had adequate sanitation. A comprehensive government health program
treats such diseases as leprosy, sleeping sickness, malaria, filariasis, intestinal
worms, and tuberculosis. Rates for immunization of children under the
age of one were 97% for tuberculosis and 65% for polio. Immunization rates for DPT and measles were
37% and 56% respectively. Gabon has a domestic supply of pharmaceuticals
from a factory in Libreville. The total fertility rate has decreased from
5.8 in 1960 to 4.2 children per mother during childbearing years in 2000. Ten percent of all births were low birth weight. The maternal mortality rate was 520 per 100,000
live births as of 1998. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 55.35
per 1,000 live births and life expectancy was 55.02 years. As of 2002, the overall mortality rate was
estimated at 17.6 per 1,000 inhabitants. The HIV/AIDS prevalence is estimated to be
5.2% of the adult population (ages 15–49). As of 2009, approximately 46,000 people were
living with HIV/AIDS. There were an estimated 2,400 deaths from
AIDS in 2009 – down from 3,000 deaths in 2003.===Education===Gabon’s education system is regulated by two
ministries: the Ministry of Education, in charge of pre-kindergarten through the last
high school grade, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Innovative Technologies, in
charge of universities, higher education, and professional schools. Education is compulsory for children ages
6 to 16 under the Education Act. Most children in Gabon start their school
lives by attending nurseries or “Crèche”, then kindergarten known as “Jardins d’Enfants”. At age 6, they are enrolled in primary school,
“École Primaire” which is made up of six grades. The next level is “École Secondaire”, which
is made up of seven grades. The planned graduation age is 19 years old. Those who graduate can apply for admission
at institutions of higher learning, including engineering schools or business schools. Gabon’s literacy rate is 83.2%.The government
has used oil revenue for school construction, paying teachers’ salaries, and promoting education,
including in rural areas. However, maintenance of school structures,
as well as teachers’ salaries, has been declining. In 2002 the gross primary enrollment rate
was 132 percent, and in 2000 the net primary enrollment rate was 78 percent. Gross and net enrollment ratios are based
on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily
reflect actual school attendance. As of 2001, 69 percent of children who started
primary school were likely to reach grade 5. Problems in the education system include poor
management and planning, lack of oversight, poorly qualified teachers, and overcrowded
classrooms.==Culture==A country with a primarily oral tradition
up until the spread of literacy in the 21st century, Gabon is rich in folklore and mythology. “Raconteurs” are currently working to keep
traditions alive such as the mvett among the Fangs and the ingwala among the Nzebis. Gabon also features internationally celebrated
masks, such as the n’goltang (Fang) and the reliquary figures of the Kota. Each group has its own set of masks used for
various reasons. They are mostly used in traditional ceremonies
such as marriage, birth and funerals. Traditionalists mainly work with rare local
woods and other precious materials.===Music===Gabonese music is lesser-known in comparison
with regional giants like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. The country boasts an array of folk styles,
as well as pop stars like Patience Dabany and Annie-Flore Batchiellilys, a Gabonese
singer and renowned live performer. Also known are guitarists like Georges Oyendze,
La Rose Mbadou and Sylvain Avara, and the singer Oliver N’Goma. Imported rock and hip hop from the US and
UK are popular in Gabon, as are rumba, makossa and soukous. Gabonese folk instruments include the obala,
the ngombi, the balafon and traditional drums.===Media===Radio-Diffusion Télévision Gabonaise (RTG),
which is owned and operated by the government, broadcasts in French and indigenous languages. Color television broadcasts have been introduced
in major cities. In 1981, a commercial radio station, Africa
No. 1, began operations. The most powerful radio station on the continent,
it has participation from the French and Gabonese governments and private European media. In 2004, the government operated two radio
stations and another seven were privately owned. There were also two government television
stations and four privately owned. In 2003, there were an estimated 488 radios
and 308 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 11.5 of every 1,000 people were cable
subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 22.4 personal computers
for every 1,000 people and 26 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. The national press service is the Gabonese
Press Agency, which publishes a daily paper, Gabon-Matin (circulation 18,000 as of 2002). L’Union in Libreville, the government-controlled
daily newspaper, had an average daily circulation of 40,000 in 2002. The weekly Gabon d’Aujourdhui is published
by the Ministry of Communications. There are about nine privately owned periodicals
which are either independent or affiliated with political parties. These publish in small numbers and are often
delayed by financial constraints. The constitution of Gabon provides for free
speech and a free press, and the government supports these rights. Several periodicals actively criticize the
government and foreign publications are widely available.===Cuisine===Gabonese cuisine is influenced by French cuisine,
but staple foods are also available.==Sports==
The Gabon national football team has represented the nation since 1962. The Under-23 football team won the 2011 CAF
U-23 Championship and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. Gabon were joint hosts, along with Equatorial
Guinea, of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, and the sole hosts of the competition’s 2017
tournament. Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
plays for Gabon national team. The Gabon national basketball team, nicknamed
Les Panthères, finished 8th at the AfroBasket 2015, its best performance ever. Gabon has competed at most Summer Olympics
since 1972. The country’s sole Olympic medalist is Anthony
Obame, who won a silver medal in taekwondo at the 2012 Olympics, held in London.==See also==Outline of Gabon
Chronology of Gabon Index of Gabon-related articles==Footnotes

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