Gabonese Republic

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 1.3 million (0.6 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 4,700 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 20
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 8 September 2000
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 182

There were no indications of under-18s in government armed forces


In July 2003 the National Assembly adopted constitutional amendments that would allow President Omar Bongo, in power since 1967, to seek re-election indefinitely.1 The Gabonese economy weakened as oil production fell, leading to cutbacks in education, healthcare and other social services.2 In January 2004, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea agreed to UN mediation of a territorial dispute dating from 1972 over islands in potentially oil-rich waters.3

Gabon contributed troops and military observers to a peacekeeping force of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) in the Central African Republic, as well as to an African Union ceasefire monitoring force in Burundi.4


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Gabonese constitution states that it is the duty of every citizen to defend the country, (Article 21). The state security forces defend the nation and safeguard public order, and the creation of private militias is forbidden (Article 22).

There is no conscription into the armed forces. Under Act No. 004/98 of February 1998 on the general organization of national defence and public security, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 20.5

Other developments

In April 2002 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations on the initial report of Gabon, welcomed legislation to protect and promote children's rights but expressed concern at failures to implement it. It expressed concern at discrimination against vulnerable children, at the low level of birth registrations, at widespread child labour and child trafficking, and at the increasing sexual exploitation of children.6 The trafficking of children to Gabon was widely condemned.7

1 IRIN, "Chronology of key developments in West Africa in 2003", 19 January 2004,

2 IRIN, "Gabon: Student riots crystallize frustration with education cutbacks", 27 January 2004.

3 IRIN, "Equatorial Guinea-Gabon: UN mediates dispute over Corisco Islands", 23 January 2004.

4 IRIN, "Central African Republic: First contingent of intervention force arrives", 5 December 2002; "Burundi: AU Observer team now complete", 12 March 2003.

5 Initial report of Gabon to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/41/Add.10, 13 July 2001,

6 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Gabon, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.171, 3 April 2002.

7 Human Rights Watch, Borderline slavery: Child trafficking in Togo, April 2003.


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