Four things to know about Gabon

Here are four significant details about Gabon, the nation where military officers have proclaimed their assumption of power after elections that, as per official outcomes, were secured by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The Bongo Dynasty –

For over 55 of its 63 years since gaining independence from France in 1960, the compact Central African nation has been under the governance of the same family.

At 64 years old, Bongo was vying for a third term in the recent Saturday election. He assumed leadership in 2009 following the passing of his father, Omar, who had held power for nearly 42 years.

Bongo senior, who commenced his tenure in 1967, was known as a kleptocrat, amassing immense wealth from Gabon’s oil resources and earning a reputation as one of the wealthiest individuals globally.

As the offspring of an affluent ruling family, his son’s upbringing was marked by privilege and ease. He was previously identified by his initials ABO, Ali B, or by the less flattering moniker “Monsieur Fils” (Mr. Son).

In October 2018, Bongo experienced a stroke that rendered him inactive for a span of 10 months. This incident amplified assertions regarding his fitness to govern and contributed to a minor coup attempt.

– Oil powerhouse –

With a population of 2.3 million, Gabon boasts one of the highest per-capita GDPs in Africa, primarily attributed to its substantial oil earnings.

During the 1970s, the nation unearthed considerable offshore oil reserves, leading to the formation of a robust middle class and earning it the nickname “Central Africa’s little emirate.”

Oil accounts for 60 percent of the country’s revenues.

However, a third of the populace still resides below the World Bank’s poverty line of $5.50 per day.

– Africa’s ‘Eden’ –

A vast expanse of forests, encompassing 88 percent of Gabon’s land area, serves as a sanctuary for a diverse range of species including gorillas, buffalo, panthers, elephants, chimpanzees, and more.

Positioning itself as the “last Eden,” the nation has emerged as a prominent proponent of conservation in a region where conflicts, habitat degradation, and the bushmeat trade are posing significant threats to wildlife.

Establishing a network of 13 national parks in 2002, Gabon allocated land equivalent to 11 percent of its territory for conservation purposes.

A notable triumph lies in the preservation of the critically endangered African forest elephants. Despite experiencing an 86 percent decline worldwide over the course of 30 years, their population in Gabon has multiplied twofold within a decade.

– Healer or hallucinogenic? –

Derived from potent psychoactive roots discovered within Gabonese forests, a drug with potential efficacy in treating heroin and cocaine addiction has garnered attention.

For generations, the hallucinogenic iboga root has been integral to an ancestral practice called “bwiti,” melding reverence for forest spirits with Christian elements.

Elevated doses can induce experiences akin to those brought about by LSD, mescaline, or amphetamines, leading to feelings of anxiety, heightened unease, and vivid hallucinations.

The pill variant of the substance, ibogaine, has also gained recognition for aiding certain drug addicts in overcoming their dependency.

Treatment facilities employing the drug have emerged in various countries, including Costa Rica, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

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