This report by land tenure specialist Liz Alden Wily documents the tenure situation in Gabon to inform, among others, ongoing discussions concerning FLEGT and REDD in the country. It starts by taking a historic look at Gabon. In 1899 virtually the entire country of Gabon was allocated to French logging companies. Before this, they had nearly two centuries of one of the most highly developed African trading regimes of the time, in which local clans serviced international slave and commodity trading. Since then, the people of Gabon have endured dispossession of their lands and resources, both in law and in practice.
While some customary use of land is upheld, no family or community can secure ownership of its traditional forests, arguably its most precious livelihood and capital asset. Colonial and post-colonial administrations have continued to hand over rights and resources to big business rather than invest in local initiatives. Rights-based reforms in land tenure and governance in Africa since the 1990s have simply passed Gabon by. The report details possible steps to remedy past injustices and move forward to respect communities’ rights to land in line with other countries in the region.
The summary briefing below outlines the ten key findings of the full report. It concludes that secure and equitable tenure does matter in modern agrarian economies and that a more nuanced approach to the exceptionalities of Gabon is required.