Excerpted from the Book, Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria
Led by the 32-year-old President Albert Bernard Bongo who had been in effective control since November 1966 during President Leon M'ba's long illness and took over when the President died on November 27, 1967, Gabon became the second country after Tanzania to recognize Biafra. Throughout her history since independence, Gabon has been subservient to France like most of the Francophone countries on the continent. And her recognition of Biafra was attributed in some quarters to the French government's influence on her. However, the official position of the Gabonese Government was that it could not maintain "unpardonable indifference towards the pogrom organized against 14 million Africans."116
"Defending its action, the Government also pointed out that none of the Federations in Africa, inherited from colonialism or imposed by force, had been viable; and recalled that the Gabonese people had chosen national independence in 1959 when faced with the attempt to impose on them the Union of Central African Republics. President Bongo said that he held the same views as President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast."117
That is almost identical language President De Gaulle used when he recognized Biafra; which lends credibility to the argument that President Bongo was influenced by the French Government in making his decision to take the same position the French did on the Nigerian Federation. De Gaulle was vehemently opposed to the Nigerian federation and wanted it destroyed for imperial purposes in the interest of France, although he was not that blunt in his official statement. But there are unmistakeable parallels between what he said and what Bongo said with regard to Nigeria and other federations in general. And De Caulle took concrete steps to achieve his goal, of breaking up Nigeria, by arming Biafra:
"The physical extent of this support is enigmatic, but it is widely believed that France had a hand in the sudden influx of arms into Biafra in September and October (1968) which changed the military balance in the Nigerian war. This 'intervention' it is claimed, was either directly, or through Gabon and the Ivory Coast. All have officially denied Arms traffic. What is certain is that French public opinion and newspapers are strongly pro-Biafran on humanitarian grounds, and De Gaulle at his September press conference, said French recognition of Biafra 'cannot be excluded in the future.'
He based his argument on self-determination, and on hostility to federations in general. All those he mentioned were British creations...the French have been emphasizing that their decolonization did at least avoid a Nigerian war. It is significant that wealth Ivory Coast and Gabon were the 'Biafras' of the failed (French) federations...the two federations the French had created in West and Central AFrica, which were systematically dismantled in the late 1950s as independence approached."118