The French gained control of modern-day Gabon in 1839, when a local chief surrendered the sovereignty of his land to them. The Berlin Conference of 1885 solidified France’s claim to the territory through diplomatic recognition, and it later became part of French Equatorial Africa in 1910. Under French colonial rule over Gabon, the authorities forbade the colony from utilizing its own distinctive colonial flag. This was because they were worried that this could increase nationalistic sentiment and lead to calls for independence. However, with the rise of the decolonization movement in Africa, the French were obliged to grant limited autonomy to Gabon as a self-governing republic within the French Community. This was granted in 1958 after a referendum was held supporting the proposal.
Gabon – considered “one of the more progressive” of French colonies – swiftly formulated a design for a new flag, which was officially adopted a year later in 1959. It featured a horizontal tricolour identical to the current flag, but with the yellow stripe at the centre narrower than the green and blue bands surrounding it. The French Tricolour was situated at the canton of the flag, making Gabon the only French autonomous republic to feature this “symbolic link” with France.
On 9 August 1960 – just over a week before Gabon became an independent country on 17 August – the flag was slightly modified. The change entailed removing the Tricolour at the canton and enlarging the yellow stripe at the centre, thus giving it equal width with the two other bands