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Gabon is a country in west central Africa. It borders on Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo and the Gulf of Guinea. Since its independence from France on August 17, 1960, the Republic has been ruled by only two autocratic Presidents; the incumbent El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba has been in power since 1967 and is currently (2007) Africa's longest-serving head of state. Gabon introduced a multiparty system and a new democratic constitution in the early 1990s that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and for reforms of governmental institutions. A small population, abundant natural resources, and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in the region. Its coat of arms shows two jungle cats, representing the country's pride in its animals.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations.
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 occupied the area that is now Gabon when France occupied it in 1885. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. These territories became independent on August 17, 1960.
Sources: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook
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