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Country, central Africa. Area: 103,347 sq mi (267,667 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 1,475,000. Capital: Libreville. Gabon has more than 40 ethnic groups: the Fang, more than one-fourth of the total population, live north of the Ogooué River; the largest grou§ps south of the river are the Sira (including the Punu) and Nzebi. Languages: French (official), several Bantu languages (notably Fang). Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic; also Protestant, other Christians); also Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. Gabon straddles the Equator on the western coast of Africa. It has a narrow coastal plain and becomes hilly in the south and north. The basin of its chief river, the Ogooué, covers most of the country; about three-fourths is equatorial rainforest, which supports numerous plant and animal species. Gabon has reserves of manganese that are among the largest in the world; it also has huge deposits of petroleum and natural gas. Gabon has a developing mixed economy based largely on the exploitation of these mineral and timber resources. It is a unitary multiparty republic with the president as head of state and the prime minister as head of government; the parliament consists of two houses. Artifacts dating from late Paleolithic and early Neolithic times have been found in Gabon, but it is not known when the Bantu speakers who established Gabon's ethnic composition arrived. Pygmies were probably the original inhabitants. The Portuguese began arriving in the late 15th century and were followed by French, Dutch, and English traders. The Fang started migrating there in the late 18th century. The slave trade dominated commerce in the 18th and much of the 19th century. The French then took control, and Gabon was administered (1843–86) with French West Africa. In 1886 the colony of French Congo was established to include both Gabon and the Congo; in 1910 Gabon became a separate colony within French Equatorial Africa. An overseas territory of France from 1946, it became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958 and declared its independence in 1960. Rule by a sole political party was established in the 1960s, but discontent with it led to riots in Libreville in 1989. Legalization of opposition parties enabled new elections in 1990. The country continued to face economic difficulties despite large revenues from petroleum exports.
Variants of GABON
Gabon officially Gabonese Republic
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