Gabon. Despite protests from the opposition, the PDG government in December passed a constitutional amendment that gives the president the right to extend his term of office in a “crisis situation” as long as he sees fit. The opposition argued that the constitutional change could pave the way for dictatorship.
Under the new President Ali Bongo, Gabon has begun to move away from its long-standing dependence on the former colonial power of France. Admittedly, the close cooperation of the countries was confirmed when France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Gabon in February, but in the major business dealings concluded during the year it was mainly Asian companies that benefited. Companies from India and Singapore signed contracts worth approximately SEK 40 billion for the expansion of Gabon’s infrastructure and construction of an artificial fertilizer plant, projects estimated to create 60,000 jobs. In August, Chinese Shenyang Group bought Gabon’s third-largest forest company, French-owned GEB, for over half a billion. Another Chinese company, Huazhou Mining, was awarded a contract of about the same size in October to operate a manganese mine in central Gabon.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Gabon has a population of 2.119 million (2018). The government’s need to reduce the unilateral dependence on the oil industry was highlighted when the oil workers went on strike in April for demands for better working conditions and a regulation of the foreign workforce. The strike was interrupted after a few days after promises of negotiations and was completely canceled in October, after employers joined a maximum of 10 percent foreign employees in the industry and that Gabonese should have all managerial positions within two years. The state also averted another strike threat in August by meeting 14 trade unions’ demands for lower prices for electricity, gas and water.
A French court in November decided to approve a lawsuit filed by Transparency International (TI) against former President Omar Bongo. Prosecutors are investigating whether he – as TI claims – has purchased a large number of properties and cars for himself and his family for state funds.