On today's edition of #56DaysofAfrica, we will be highlighting Gabon.
The Kingdom of Orungu was a small, pre-colonial state of what is now Gabon in Central Africa. The Orungu Kingdom was made up of some 20 clans with one of the clans holding the line to succession as king, while the others exercised control over maritime commerce coming from the interior mostly because the Orungu had a metal-working and boatbuilding culture, which allowed them to dominate the riverine trade.
Gabon was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Portuguese slavers who sighted the coast gave Gabon its name because the shape of the Rio de Como estuary reminded them of a "gabao," a Portuguese hooded cloak. By 1800 the British were becoming the leading traders in manufactures throughout the Gulf of Guinea. After 1815 the French sought to compete more actively in the commercial sphere and to join Britain. French gained authority over Gabon in the late 1800s. In 1910 Gabon became one of the four colonies within the federation of French Equatorial Africa.
Léon Mba and Jean-Hilaire Aubame were the early leaders of the independence movement in Gabon, but their political inclinations were different. Mba led the Gabon Democratic Bloc. Aubame led the Gabonese branch of the Party of African Reunion who sought the formation of federal, supranational groupings in Africa. The Gabon Democratic Bloc was strongly opposed to such associations. Underlying the attitude of Mba was the belief that Gabon, having the richest economic potential in the region, would end up supporting its poorer neighbours in any federal system. In a referendum on 28 September 1958, the territory of Gabon voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community.
On 19 February 1959, a constitution was adopted, and a provisional government headed by Mba became the first official government of Gabon. Independence was formally proclaimed on 17 August 1960.
For the Culture
In 1849 Bouët-Willaumez organized a small settlement of mainly Vili freed slaves called Libreville,"free town,” naming it as the symbol of their own liberation which, combined with the fort, formed the nucleus of the capital of Gabon. It is home to many interesting sites, ranging from historic monuments to beautiful old buildings, and nature trails that lead to splendid beach areas.
The major ethnic groups are the Fang, Eshira, Bapounou, Mbere and Bateke. Up to 40 indigenous languages are spoken in Gabon, but French, being the official language, is used by all and taught in schools, in addition to the mother tongue, Fang.
Gabonese food is a distinctive blend of traditional African ingredients and French flavours. Fufu is a popular staple in Central Africa which is basically a thick porridge made of boiled and pounded starchy cassava root usually eaten with a side dish such as meat or stew. Poulet nyembwe is Gabon’s national dish with nyembwe meaning “palm oil”. It's a stew of chicken meat, tomatoes, garlic, onions, chili pepper, okra, and nyembwe, or palm butter.
Another traditional dish is Dongo-dongo, it is classified as both a soup and a sauce, this dish uses okra as the key ingredient. It is prepared by sautéeing onions, garlic, Maggi bouillon cubes, okra, and hot peppers, along with dried, salted, or smoked fish It is accompanied by starchy foods such as rice, fufu, or chikwangue. Baked banana is a favourite Gabonese dessert made of a lightly beaten egg, and about two tablespoons of orange juice, a cup of bread crumbs, and of course, bananas.
Along the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, Gabon features amazing natural wonders and historical sites. One of Gabon's most historical sites is L’Eglise St Michael (Cathedral of Saint Michael) is one of the most prominent landmarks and tourist attractions in Libreville. It was built by the French Spiritan missionary Gerard Morel and Gabonese sculptor Zephyrin Lendongo. The best features of this stunning building are its ornately carved columns, which were remarkably carved by a blind local craftsman. Each of the 31 wooden columns depicts a different Biblical scene designed by Ledongo and Morel. Gabon’s famed geological landmark Cirque de Léconi is a deep red rock canyon situated in the southeastern corner, close to the Congolese border. This fascinating canyon is filled with loose sand and surrounded by other great geological formations that attract the most adventurous travellers.
Gabon has a total of 13 national parks, although some are inaccessible. The sprawling Akanda National Park is best known for its lush mangroves and expansive tidal flats, which host different species of turtles and migratory birds. The Banteke Plateau is a river-crossed savannah, populated by large mammals like buffalos, elephants and antelopes. Cross the river using rope bridges and admire the breathtaking landscapes. The Cristal Mountains National Park is home to orchid and begonia-rich forests, while the famous Ivindo National Park is known to have the region’s best waterfalls. The Loango National Park boasts great stretches of virgin beaches, each flanked by expansive rainforest. If you want to mix nature and culture excursions, head to Lope National Park, which not only features great wildlife and verdant landscapes but ancient rock engravings. Mayumba National Park is set on a sandy peninsula, a perfect nesting ground for the leatherback turtles, while Minkebe National Park is known for its sandstone domes, giant hogs and forest elephants.
With its historical richness, République gabonaise is a sight to see and to learn from. We cannot wait to continue to share more information about Gabon with you all.
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