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Gabon - Military Personnel

Gabon has a small, professional military of about 5,000 personnel, divided into army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, and national police. The total armed forces personnel in Gabon was last measured at 6,700 in 2014, according to the World Bank. These armed forces personnel are active duty military personnel, including paramilitary forces, if the training, organization, equipment, and control suggest they may be used to support or replace regular military forces.

In 2005, Gabon maintained active armed forces numbering 4,700 personnel. The Army numbered 3,200 including the Presidential Guard. The Navy consisted of an estimated 500 sailors with two patrol/coastal vessels and two amphibious landing craft. The Air Force had 1,000 personnel and 10 combat capable aircraft, including 6 fighter ground attack aircraft and 5 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces consisted of a 2,000-member gendarmerie. France maintained 1,560 personnel in Gabon.

President Omar Bongo ran the military. Bongo manipulated the ethnic composition of the military and exacerbated ethnic tensions to maintain his authority over the security forces. The army is composed mainly of the Fang ethnic group. Bongo, as a member of the minority Téké ethnic group, distrusted the Fang-dominated military. He recruited members of his own ethnic group to the Presidential Guard (at various times known as the Republican Guard) and supplied them with better equipment.

In addition to presidential leadership of the military, traditional forms of organization and social ties are important within the Gabonese military. The military is considered a legitimate career path for Gabonese and often functions as a patronage system, providing access to advancement and wealth. Likewise, civilians often interact with the military through informal, family-based networks. For example, when making a complaint about a particular military unit, civilians report the complaint directly to a family member in the military.

A contingent of U.S. military personnel comprised of National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Utah, along with members of the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute (DMRTI) from Joint Base San Antonio, spent several weeks in March 2012 working side-by-side with their Gabonese counterparts in an effort to promote regional relationships and further interoperability between the participating militaries during Medical Accord 12 in Libreville, Gabon. This annual, joint medical exercise, hosted by U.S. Army Africa, allows both U.S. and African militaries a unique opportunity to work and train together to foster security cooperation while conducting an exercise to enhance medical capacity. Gabon supported the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or MINUSCA, with a partially-equipped Gabonese Rapid Reaction Battalion. Both the U.S. and France provided military manpower in Libreville, Gabon, and the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, to help with the loading/unloading and transport of equipment.

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Page last modified: 07-09-2016 19:37:16 ZULU