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Gabon

A country colonized by France even after its independence

On paper, Gabon became independent from France in 1960; in practice, its independence happened at the end of last month

– Pedro Burlamaqui

The military coup in Gabon may have been the first step towards true independence from France. A group of high-ranking military officers seized power shortly after the results of the Gabonese elections were announced, ousting the puppet president of imperialism, Ali Bongo, who had ruled the country for over 14 years.

But didn’t Gabon gain independence from France in 1960? Only formally. In practice, and mainly through the Bongo family’s governments – Ali’s father was president from 1967 until his death in 2009 – the Central African country remained in the hands of France, which, through “commercial agreements,” has been plundering most of Gabon’s natural resources.

Starting with Gabon’s independence process, it becomes clear that it was a move by France to maintain control over the country in a more hidden manner. The first president of the country was Léon M’ba, who was appointed by France due to his involvement in the timber industry and refused to accept the independence of his own country.

The French, following their plan for the continent, forced M’ba to accept independence by explaining that it wouldn’t be actual independence but something for appearances. This was because, a month before independence, the country was forced to sign 15 “cooperation agreements” that made the Gabonese economy entirely dependent on France.

Through these agreements, it was guaranteed that France would continue to “assist” both economically and technically in the management of the new Gabonese government’s institutions. The agreements covered key aspects of the country’s national and international politics, defense, strategic materials, education and culture, monetary and financial policies, and economic, financial, and technical assistance. Additionally, they ensured French control over areas like fishing, civil aviation, and maritime trade.

It’s worth noting that the agreements made with Gabon, while similar to those with other former French colonies, were worse in several ways, allowing France and the French privileged positions in Gabon’s state and economic apparatus.

For nearly forty years, from 1960 to 1999, French imperialism exploited and mined Gabon’s uranium until the country’s natural resource was exhausted. The first deposits of the metal were discovered in 1958 in the city of Mounana by geologists from the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). In the same year, the Gabon Uranium Mines Company of Franceville (the third-largest city in Gabon, located less than 80 km from Mounana) was formed.

In 1968, the main Gabonese uranium mine was discovered in the Oklo region. At the height of imperialist plunder, the African country was producing 28,000 tons of uranium, with 14,000 of them coming from Oklo.

During the years of Gabonese uranium exploitation, COMUF was the main subsidiary responsible for mining the metal. While the country’s government only held 25.8% of the company, the rest belonged to the French Cogema (General Nuclear Materials Company). This company eventually became Areva NC and then Orano Cycle, all controlled by French imperialist capital, whether private or state-owned. For those who followed the articles published in this journal about the coup in Niger, Orano is also the main looter of uranium in that country.

Furthermore, French individuals living in Gabon were able to maintain their French citizenship and gain Gabonese citizenship. This allowed them to play important roles in the political life of the African country “legally.”

The French ambassador to Gabon was appointed the director of the French Diplomatic Corps in Africa, which consisted of all the European country’s ambassadors on the continent. This body would serve as a source of aid for the country, something it also monopolized: only when the French refused to help Gabon could the country seek assistance from other nations.

Not to mention M’ba’s administration, which, while in power, maintained extremely close relations with Paris, especially when it came to Gabon’s economic policies.

French intervention was so extensive that in 1964, when a military coup ousted M’ba from power, 600 French troops from the capitals of the Republic of Congo and Senegal, led by General Kergaravat, invaded Gabonese territory and restored M’ba’s government. According to reports, about 25 Gabonese died in the airstrikes, with the likelihood of many other civilian casualties.

Immediately after that, France began preparing for the rise to power of Léon M’ba’s vice president, Alberto Bongo, later known as Omar Bongo. With General de Gaulle still in charge, France changed Gabon’s constitution from the parliamentary system it had at the time to a presidential system based on the American model.

With this change, if you had a president and vice president running, and they won, they would govern the country together. However, if the president died, he would be automatically replaced by the vice president. In this case, no election was necessary; they could continue with the same regime.

The author of this legal trap was Jacques Foccart, who is defined as the father of the so-called Françafrique, which is essentially France’s imperialist policy to maintain control over its former colonies.

He was a French businessman and politician best known as the chief advisor to French presidents on African affairs. He also co-founded the Gaullist Civic Action Service (SAC) in 1959 with Charles Pasqua, specializing in secret operations in Africa. He organized this entire system in Gabon with General de Gaulle precisely to ensure that Omar Bongo succeeded President Leon M’ba.

In 1968, already in power, Omar Bongo suppressed all political parties and initiated a one-party rule that lasted until 1990 when Gabonese people revolted and took to the streets demanding a return to a more democratic system.

An article titled “France in Gabon since 1960,” part of the Proceedings of the Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society published in the 1980s, states the following:

“Analyzing the last two decades since Gabon’s political independence, it is evident that the French military intervention of February 1964 was decisive in destroying the possibility of a democratic or liberal political system […] It strengthened and helped consolidate an authoritarian regime led by an elite that would not damage French interests. Despite changes in Gabon’s relationship with France, which weakened Gabon’s dependence in various areas of political decision-making, giving it more control over its natural resources and a larger share of the profits from their exploitation, Gabon was not free to alter its constitution or develop its economy and society in ways other than those tolerable to France.”

To this day, however, the Gabonese economy is controlled by France through the Central Bank of African States (BEAC, in French), which issues the CFA franc (XAF) – and, naturally, the BEAC is controlled by the French, just as the Brazilian Central Bank is controlled by the Americans through Roberto Campos Neto. This franc, by the way, has a fixed conversion rate of 1 euro to 655.957 CFA francs, allowing Paris to manipulate or not manipulate the economies of the countries in the BEAC, as it is their main economic “partner,” much like the United States does with the dollar.

The information presented shows that Gabonese independence was a sham, as it was with practically all African countries. It was a system in which the great powers prepared their colonies to establish a regime through which they could maintain control over the country through a puppet.

De Gaulle’s stance on these independences shows how false they were. He campaigned strongly for what he called the “French Community” in 1958. At that time, the majority of France did not agree to grant independence to its colonies.

Thus, de Gaulle, along with Foccart, orchestrated a way to make African countries independent on paper only. The result can be seen in countries like Gabon, which, in practice, had to surrender all its wealth to France and, to this day, is beholden to the French government in various sectors, primarily economically.

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Apoie um jornal vermelho, revolucionário e independente

Em tempos em que a burguesia tenta apagar as linhas que separam a direita da esquerda, os golpistas dos lutadores contra o golpe; em tempos em que a burguesia tenta substituir o vermelho pelo verde e amarelo nas ruas e infiltrar verdadeiros inimigos do povo dentro do movimento popular, o Diário Causa Operária se coloca na linha de frente do enfrentamento contra tudo isso. 

Diferentemente de outros portais , mesmo os progressistas, você não verá anúncios de empresas aqui. Não temos financiamento ou qualquer patrocínio dos grandes capitalistas. Isso porque entre nós e eles existe uma incompatibilidade absoluta — são os nossos inimigos. 

Estamos comprometidos incondicionalmente com a defesa dos interesses dos trabalhadores, do povo pobre e oprimido. Somos um jornal classista, aberto e gratuito, e queremos continuar assim. Se já houve um momento para contribuir com o DCO, este momento é agora. ; Qualquer contribuição, grande ou pequena, faz tremenda diferença. Apoie o DCO com doações a partir de R$ 20,00 . Obrigado.

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Apoie um jornal vermelho, revolucionário e independente

Em tempos em que a burguesia tenta apagar as linhas que separam a direita da esquerda, os golpistas dos lutadores contra o golpe; em tempos em que a burguesia tenta substituir o vermelho pelo verde e amarelo nas ruas e infiltrar verdadeiros inimigos do povo dentro do movimento popular, o Diário Causa Operária se coloca na linha de frente do enfrentamento contra tudo isso. 

Se já houve um momento para contribuir com o DCO, este momento é agora. ; Qualquer contribuição, grande ou pequena, faz tremenda diferença. Apoie o DCO com doações a partir de R$ 20,00 . Obrigado.