The United States and Gabon have a mutually beneficial relationship. It can be argued that Gabon benefits more from the U.S. than vice versa. Their relationship began in the early 1960s after Gabon got its independence and the United States built its embassy in the former French colony. At first, France attempted to limit U.S. involvement in Gabon to maintain its hegemony in the country, but also because the CIA was suspected of having orchestrated the coup attempt against the Gabonese first president in 1964. In spite of France’s interference, the Gabonese second president, Omar Bongo Odimba, approached the United States in the 1970s to gain funding to build a Trans-Gabonese railroad. This project failed, but Gabonese relations with the United States continued. Their relationship is mostly determined by bilateral economic relations, U.S aid to Gabon, and being members of the same international organizations.
About eight percent of Gabonese resources, mainly crude oil and manganese, are exported to the United States. Gabon mostly imports agricultural products, medical instruments, heavy construction instruments, aircraft, vehicles, and other types of machinery from the United States. The United States is not extensively involved in Gabonese political affairs, but under President Obama, it has urged Gabon to combat corruption and to reform the judiciary system to allow for the protection of human rights.
While the United States is one of Gabon’s top four trading partners, Gabon is not one of the U.S. top trading partners. The collaboration with the United States has helped Gabon both in trade, but also to develop its army and its stronghold in the Central African region. Because Gabon is one of the fifty-three African nations part of AFRICOM (Africa Command), one of the Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces, the United States forces have engaged in joined training with Gabonese forces to provide them with the skills needed to defend their country, but also to be better prepared in peacekeeping and security effort in the Central African region.
The United States has an interest in preserving the Congo Basin, the largest tropical rainforest in the world, and other wildlife and maritime areas. Gabon’s relationship with the United States has been strengthened along these line as Gabon is one of the leaders in maritime security efforts and all three Gabonese presidents have devoted part of the country’s budget to participate in organization such as the Africa Partnership Station program and the Africa Maritime Security Initiative. Gabon, along with five other Central African nations, is a member of the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). CARPE is the largest land management program owned by the United States in the African continent. Much of its programs seek to preserve the biodiversity of the Congo Basin and use it as a carbon sink for greenhouse gases. While this is a program sponsored by the United States, it is also in Gabon’s best interest to be actively participating in the latter initiative because the Congo basin is one of the main sources of food in the region and its depletion could severely impact Gabon.
Gabon has maintained friendly relationships with the United States and their agreements serves the interest of both countries. The United States is notorious for being involved in political affairs of other countries, but it has very limited involvement to none in Gabon a part from the rumor of the CIA sponsoring a failed coup in 1964. Gabon is one of the most stable countries in the region and given the history of U.S. relations with other African states, one can attempt to foreshadow that Gabon’s relationship with the United States will remain good and mutually beneficial as long as the country continues to be stable.