Gabon on Tuesday marked its 61st independence anniversary of securing its independence from France on August 17, 1960.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, the Central African country shares borders with Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo with a small population of about 2 million people. Gabon has one of the highest urbanisation rates in Africa, as more than four in five Gabonese citizens live in cities.
Since independence, Gabon has had three presidents. The former President, late Omar Bongo ruled for more than four decades until his death in 2009.
Ali Bongo took over from his late father. He narrowly won re-election in 2016 in a poll marred by violence and accusations of fraud, and reportedly suffered a stroke in October 2018 that led to concerns about his ability to carry out his duties.
Independence Day celebration in Gabon offers the opportunity for the president to award honorary distinctions to dignitaries, soldiers, politicians, civil servants and to all people in recognition of loyalty in serving the nation or for particular achievements.
Last year, the independence anniversary was low-keyed with the annual military parade usually held with much fanfare, replaced by a restricted ceremony at the presidency. Most people stayed at homes, while officials and military officers were seen with masks.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of social distancing measures, most of the events lined up for this year’s celebrations have been restrained.
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