Like other coastal Central African countries, it was the original home of the pygmies, who were mostly driven out when the Bantus started their expansion from somewhere in northwestern Cameroon/southeastern Nigeria, though remnants of them still settle here and there. The Bantus built up various kingdoms and polities until the Europeans came in the 15th century. The Portuguese, the first Europeans who came to this region, named the region "Gabão", meaning "cloak", which is what the estuary of a river near Libreville looks like; it was later frenchified into "Gabon".
The French took control of the colony until 1960, when it granted the country independence under president Léon M'ba. M'ba was autocratic and authoritarian, banning press, opposition, and the like, with the utmost support of the French. When he died seven years after independence, his vice-president, Omar Bongo Ondimba, continued his legacy in an even more unbelievable and longer way. Consider this: Bongo took up the spot in 1967, and he died while still reigning as president in 2009. If you calculate it correctly, he was president for 42 years (six terms of seven years, in case you're wondering), surpassing the previous record-holder of Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo, who ruled for a "mere" 38 years before dying in 2005, and thus the longest any non-monarch leader has ruled in any nation, republic, dictatorship, federation, etc, etc, etc, in world history.
What even more surprising is that Bongo's reign was stopped by none other than Mother Nature herself: Bongo died due to cardiac arrest while during a medication in Spain, and, in some way, his rule didn't falter at all, because his son, Ali, immediately succeeded him. Since Bongo Jr.'s presidential term of seven years will expire in 2016, time will tell if things will changenote .
Nevertheless, Gabon is regarded as one of the best performing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, what with having the fourth-highest HDI and the third-highest GDP per capita, thanks to its abundant oil wealth, which is its primary exporting content. However, the wealth hasn't been distributed equally, and a great portion of the population still live below the poverty line. Due to the recent drop on oil price and the expended oil that threatens its complete exhaustion sometime in the 2050s, Gabon has been herded to search for alternatives in exports, though it hasn't produced much for change.
The Gabonese Flag