By Paul Ndiho, Libreville, Gabon

August 17th is Gabon’s Independence Day. The Gabonese people gained their independence from France in 1960. Since then, the country has had only three presidents.
Security is very tight here in Gabon’s Capital Libreville, as the former French colony celebrates a half century of Independence. The celebrations kicked off with the official opening of a multi- million dollar exhibition complex by Gabon’s President Ali Ben Bongo and his wife. The exhibition in the new complex is called “Gabon, My Land, My Future,” and it demonstrates the cultural diversity of the Gabonese people.

There are other events, like a festival showcasing Gabon’s arts and culture. Senior officials and ordinary citizens step out in the heat for a display of traditional Gabonese culture — fashion, arts & crafts, and a parade/carnival, with waving and dancing to Gabon’s Music.

In an effort to promote this unique culture in Gabon, the exhibition complex was turned into a replica of the state of the art complex. Vendors showcased everything from original African clothing, to artifacts and colorful handcrafted jewelry. Analysts say a small population and a wealth of oil and mineral reserves have helped Gabon become one of Africa’s wealthier countries, circumstances that have allowed the country to maintain its pristine rain forest and rich biodiversity.

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