Gabon is one of West Africa's more stable countries. Since independence from France in 1960 Gabon has had just two presidents.
The current leader, Omar Bongo, has been in power since 1967. Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states.
This is partly down to its relative prosperity due to oil and to the presence of French troops, which in 1964 reinstated President Leon Mba after he had been overthrown in a coup.
Gabon Tourist Attractions
Gabon's dependence on oil has made its economy and political stability - hostage to fluctuations in oil prices.
When oil prices fell in the late 1980s, opposition to President Bongo increased, culminating in demonstrations in 1990. These ushered in political liberalisation. A multi-party system was introduced in 1991. Taishan
Government critics have pointed to the wealth gap between the urban elite and the rural poor. Thanks to it oil exports and a small population it enjoys more wealth per head of population than many of its neighbours.
However, most of its people live in poverty. As oil reserves diminish, eco-tourism could Gabon travel grow in economic importance. Gabon's rainforests teem with wildlife, including lowland gorillas and forest elephants. National parks make up around one tenth of the Gabon tourism land area.
Full name: The Gabonese Republic
Population: 1.3 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Bantu-group languages
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 56 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Crude oil, timber, manganese, uranium
GNI per capita: US $5,010 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ga