In Gabon French and Gabonese troops on Sunday (4 December) wound up eight days of military manoeuvres, codenamed 'Estuary 77'.
SV: Gabonese President Albert-Bernard Bongo presents medal to Commandeer of French Forces, General Duval.
SV: President Bongo presenting medals to other officers. (SIX SHOTS)
GV PAN OVER: crowds watching military parade.
GV: Gabonese troops marching past. (TWO SHOTS)
SV: President Bongo seated with Madame Bongo and diplomats.
SV: Navy personnel marching past with President and Madame Bongo watching. (TWO SHOTS)
GV: French troops marching past. (TWO SHOTS)
As part of his policy of seeking greater economic freedom from France, President Bongo, in 1974, increased the price of Gabonese 'strategic materials' and restructured uranium sales to make France a less-privileged customer. In September 1976, he withdrew France from OCAM, the Francophone (French-speaking) organisation in Africa.
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Background: In Gabon French and Gabonese troops on Sunday (4 December) wound up eight days of military manoeuvres, codenamed 'Estuary 77'. Staged in the northwestern and central province of Esturay and Middle Ogooue, the manoeuvres were to test Gabonese responses to military emergency.
SYNOPSIS: On the final day, Gabonese President Albert-Bernard Bongo decorated the commander of the participating French forces, General Duval, and other officers. Troops from Gabon's land and sea forces, and members of the presidential guard took part in the exercises. The daily newspaper. L'Union, described the French participants as 'units recently landed and already based at Camp de Caulle, Libreville'.
The ceremonial parade was a formal conclusion to the manoeuvres, which were staged under defence agreements the two countries had signed to protect Gabon at any time of military crisis. A former province of French Equitorial Africa, Gabon gained internal autonomy in 1957 and three years later, became independent. France intervened and restored the original president, Leon Mba, after he had been deposed in 1964.
President Bongo has pursued a policy of close co-operation with France since he came to power ten years ago. Gabon continues to rely heavily on investment and aid from France, which dominates her foreign trade, especially as a customer for uranium. France supplied four Mirage fighters for Gabon's small airforce. Radial African states have criticised the strong French influences, but, during the past three years, President Bondo has taken steps to lessen this influence.