Those who believe that the nation-building process goes on only on the new African nations are mistaken. The process may take on different forms in “old” and “new” nations, but it constitutes, on the part of all nations, an attempt to provide answers to the following basic questions:Why do people want to build and maintain nations?What forces give the people of a nation a subjective sense of common identity?What role does human willpower play?
This book represents an analytical and sympathetic study of the nation-building process as it occurs in the Republic of Gabon, but it goes beyond Gabon in an attempt to prove that these three questions are relevant for nation-building processes everywhere.
Gabon, having gained independence in 1960 with the end of France's widespread African empire, has an enormous potential for development because of its vast resources of manganese, iron, uranium, petroleum, and forestry products. The Gabonese are attempting to promote the useful exploitation of these resources and to build a viable nation in Africa. Inspiration for this nation-building process has come from France and from other African nations, but the Gabonese are faced with many problems peculiar to their own environment, chief of which are underpopulation (barely more than 500,000), poor communication systems, and ethnic cultures whose egalitarianism has presented a barrier to the establishment of administrative and political hierarchies. The dominant ethnic group – the Fang – has sensed the need for building a new organization. Its dynamism has been a key force in the building of a national community that transcends ethnic groups.
To make the efforts of national construction clearer to the general reader as well as to the sociologist and political scientist, a literature concerning the evolution of African nations is needed. As social science, Gabon: Nation-Building on the Ogooué attempts to serve that need.