Since independence in 1960, Gabon has had only three presidents including a father and son from the Bongo family who between them have held power for more than five decades.

Here are highlights in the history of the small central African country.

– Leon M’Ba to Omar Bongo –

Gabon becomes independent from France in August 1960, with nationalist Leon M’Ba elected president the following year.

He dies in 1967 and is succeeded by his deputy, Albert-Bernard Bongo, installed with the help of France.

Bongo sets up a one-party state, ruling with an iron fist and benefiting from oil exploitation.

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He converts to Islam in 1973, changing his name to Omar Bongo.

As the sole candidate, he is elected president in 1973, 1979 and 1986.

A multi-party system is introduced after social unrest and riots in 1990 but Bongo nonetheless wins the elections in 1993, 1998 and 2005. Poll results are disputed or followed by unrest.

– From father to son –

Bongo dies from illness in June 2009 and, after a controversial election that August, one of his sons, Ali Bongo, is sworn in as president in a ceremony boycotted by the opposition.

Despite an opposition challenge, the constitutional court approves the election results but there is deadly post-poll violence and looting in the western oil hub, Port-Gentil.

The opposition slams Bongo’s “authoritarianism” and “autocratic leadership”.

Violent clashes in December 2014 pit opposition supporters against security forces during a banned demonstration to demand Ali Bongo’s departure. Officials say one person was killed, while the opposition puts the death toll higher.