Land on either side of the Gabon Estuary was annexed peacefully by the French during the mid-19th century as a province of French Equatorial Africa.
The Republic of Gabon moved peacefully into independence in 1960 after a three-year period of internal self-government.
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The people of Gabon will head to the polls this weekend.
Europeans first discovered Gabon in 1474, when the Portuguese sailor Lopez Gonzalvez entered the Gabon estuary.
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In his campaign speeches, Ping says he wants more democracy.
He is also promising improvements to infrastructure and health.