Independence Daze

The newly independent nation got off to an extravagant start. As money rolled in from the sale of timber, manganese ore, iron ore, chrome, gold, diamonds and finally oil, Gabon's per capita income soared higher than South Africa's.

In 1976, Bongo's government announced a four-year, US$32 billion plan to create a modern transport system, encourage local industry and develop mineral deposits. Few of these projects ever took shape. The government did, however, spend vast sums hosting a summit of the Organization of African Unity in 1977 and is still doing construction on the (conservatively estimated) US$250 million presidential palace.

After four decades of dominance by President Bongo, his rule is evident everywhere, from the women's clothing that bears his image to the ubiquitous portraits and huge billboards glorifying the leader. A bevy of French political and military advisers serve him, as does a personal bodyguard composed of European mercenaries, Moroccan soldiers and 400 top-notch French airborne troops.

In 1990, after the country's first real political unrest, Bongo ended more than two decades of one-party rule by legalising the opposition (though subsequent elections were marred by fraud).

0 0

Post a comment