Democracy and rights
Gabon is formally a democracy, but in
practice almost all power lies with the president and
his immediate circle. In recent years, media freedom has
been eroded. Political influence exists in the judiciary
and corruption characterizes the entire society.
Gabon has been ruled by the Bongo family since the
1960s, first by Omar Bongo between 1967 and 2009, then
by son Ali Bongo who took over after his father's death.
Since Ali Bongo suffered a stroke in November 2018, it
is unclear how much power lies with the president
himself or whether it is people in his immediate circle
who govern the country.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Gabon, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
The Bongo family mainly exercises its power through
the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which not only
holds government power but controls the entire state
apparatus. All key posts are filled with family and
friends. The opposition is weak and divided, among other
things because PDG often incorporates its enemies into
unity governments in order to take the lead off the
Since 1991, multi-party systems exist and there are a
variety of political parties to choose from. General
elections are held on a regular basis both to
Parliament's second chamber and to the presidential
post. However, the most recent parliamentary elections
were postponed three times, from 2016 to autumn 2018.
Accusations of voting have been made.
Gabon's politics and society are riddled with
widespread corruption and brother-in-law politics. The
bongo family is reported to be living in luxury and has
used the country's large oil revenues to appease
opposition and critics as well as acquire loyal allies.
There is a small rich elite consisting of both regime
friends and oppositionists. In 2019, Transparency
International ranked Gabon as 123rd of 180 countries in
its index of corruption in the world (see full list
here). The country was at about the same level for most
of the 2010s.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and expression should prevail in
Gabon, but according to Reporters Without Borders, this
has been eroded in recent years. In 2020, the
organization ranked Gabon 121 out of 180 countries in
its index of freedom of the press in the world (see the
full list here). It was six investments worse than the
year before and one fall from 89th place in 2013.
There is a ban on slander. This means that anyone who
writes critically about high-ranking people can be
imprisoned, which contributes to self-censorship among
journalists. Death threats and other serious threats
have been directed at critically reviewing reporters.
Photographing or filming police violence has sometimes
resulted in journalists being abused by the police
In Gabon, several weekly and monthly newspapers are
published that are critical of the regime, but they are
occasionally subjected to harassment by the authorities.
Occasionally, opposition newspapers get their publishing
licenses revoked, at least for a while.
On the internet and in social media a free debate is
ongoing, mostly without any attempts by the regime to
silence opposition websites or bloggers.
Judicial system and legal security
According to the constitution, the judicial system
should be independent of the state power, but the
president and the government occasionally interferes in
the judicial order. The defendant has the right to
defendants and trials are usually public, but many
judgments are served after very summary court
Oppositionists risk being arbitrarily arrested by the
police and the security services. They can be taken in
for questioning and risk being kept isolated in police
custody. Torture is used to force confessions.
In the country's prisons, there is a shortage of food
and medicines and the sanitary conditions are poor. It
is common for incarcerated people to wait for years for
trial. It appears that they are being abused by their
detainees. The death penalty was abolished in 2007.
Gabon will be modernized
President Bongo is presenting a program for the "growing country of Gabon",
in which major investments will be made in the environment, services and
industry in order to modernize Gabon, attract foreign investment into the
country and make it less dependent on oil.
Bongo forms new smaller government
The Constitutional Court confirms that Ali Ben Bongo won the presidential
election, with 41.8 percent of the vote. He then leaves the presidential office.
In his new government he reduces the number of ministers and replaces several
old ones, in an attempt to counter the widespread corruption and to some extent
to free himself from his father's rule.
The votes are recalculated
The unrest and the opposition's questioning of the election result forces a
recalculation of the votes.
Demonstrations against election results
Rumors that Bongo won with French help lead to a week of unrest and hostile
demonstrations. The worst hit is the economic capital of Port Gentil, where
Manboundou won the most votes. In eastern and southeast Gabon, a majority
support Bongo, while Mba Obame, from the largest people group fang, is the most
successful in central Gabon, including the capital Libreville.
The opposition questions son Bongo's election victory
The Election Authority announces that Ali Ben Bongo received almost 42
percent of the vote in the presidential election, against 26 percent and 25
percent respectively for the opposition's André Mba Obame (former Interior
Minister) and Bruno Ben Manboundou. The turnout is just over 44 percent. All
three proclaim themselves victors, and the opposition claims that electoral
fraud has occurred on the regime's side.
The deceased president's son becomes the presidential candidate
The ruling party PDG appoints Omar Bongo's eldest son Ali Ben Bongo as its
candidate in the presidential election to appoint a successor to the deceased
president. The election of Ali Ben leads to sharp contradictions within the PDG
and several senior senior members leave the party to stand as independent
President Bongo dies
President Omar Bongo dies, and 30 days of mourning are announced.
Bongo is treated for cancer
President Bongo is "temporarily" handing over power to the Vice President,
officially to mourn his wife who passed away in March, but in fact to receive
cancer treatment at a Barcelona hospital. Gabonese media speculating on who will
succeed Bongo are temporarily suspended by the authorities.
The regime wins the Senate election
The Bongo regime further consolidates its power as the ruling party PDG wins
75 of the 102 seats in the Senate.