Paradise on Earth Gabon
African republic, on the equator, bordered to the W by the Atlantic Ocean, and clockwise by Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to the N and the Congo Republic to the E and S. The coastline of Gabon was first explored by Portugal in the 15th century, but the equatorial jungle made the interior an unreachable and unattractive prospect for colonization. In the middle of the 19th century France began to expand its colonial dominion in the region and founded Libreville, the capital, in 1849. In 1890 Gabon was officially incorporated into the French Congo. Twenty years later it became a distinct colony of French Equatorial Africa.
The French exploited the tropical hardwoods of Gabon, but the country became more famous for the medical mission at Lambarene founded by the Swiss doctor Albert Schweitzer in 1913. In 1958 Gabon became a republic and a member of the French Community and in 1960 achieved full independence. Gabon was spared the poverty and disruption that have plagued many of the newly emerging African nations; the discovery of immense deposits of manganese, iron ore, uranium, and oil has enriched it. Gabon’s explorations for these and the continued profitable export of tropical hardwoods has made the country economically robust. It has the highest per capita income in Africa due to its rich oil reserves and low population. Omar Bongo has held power since 1968, although opposition parties have been legal in the country since 1990.
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