1. Gabon tightens travel rules for visitors

    Guy Bandolo

    BBC News

    A hornbill
    Image caption: The country's spectacular wildlife is a draw for tourists

    Visitors arriving in Gabon will soon be ordered to take a coronavirus test, and stay in a hotel selected by the Gabonese authorities for a period of 24 hours.

    The new rules kick in on 15 June and travellers will pay for the $37 (£26) PCR test, and the hotel stay themselves.

    “Anyone with a Covid-19 vaccination card will be exempt," says Gabon's tourism ministry.

    After the scheduled 24 hours, travelers will be tested again and will not be released from quarantine unless the test is negative.

    If they test positive, they will be treated by health personnel.

    These precautions, according to the Gabonese government, are taken to limit the spread of the virus in the country and particularly of the new variants of Covid-19.

    The Alpha variant of the virus, first discovered in the UK, was detected in the country last February and authorities say they want to remain cautious.

  2. Gabon seeks to join Commonwealth

    Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba has said the country could join the Commonwealth during the upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

    President Bongo held talks with the Commonwealth's Secretary General, Patricia Scotland.

    He said the integration of Gabon into the Commonwealth "would be a historical milestone".

    The president then went on to meet Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, to discuss environmental issues.

    View more on twitter

    The Commonwealth describes itself as an association of 54 countries with shared goals such as development, democracy and peace.

    It was initially for countries that had once been part of the British Empire but today any country can join.

    The last country that joined was Rwanda in 2009.

  3. Africa

    Video content

    Video caption: Simon Reeve takes a 25,000 mile journey as he treks around the equator.

    Documentary series in which Simon Reeve travels around the equator. In Africa, he catches malaria in Gabon, goes rafting on the Nile and witnesses a bullfight in Kenya.

  4. Gabon president appoints country's first female PM

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    Christiane Ossouka Raponda
    Image caption: Christiane Ossouka Raponda has served as mayor of the capital and defence minister

    Gabon's President Ali Bongo has appointed Christiane Ossouka Raponda as prime minister, the first woman to become the head of government in the West African country.

    The 56-year-old replaces Julien Nkoghe Bekale, who held the post for 18 months.

    "The priority mission of the new prime minister will be, above all, the economic revival and the continuation of the social support of the Gabonese people in a world context marked by the consequences of the crisis linked to Covid-19," La Libreville website said.

    Ms Raponda, who previously served as the mayor of the capital, Libreville, was appointed defence minister in February 2019 after a failed coup against President Bongo. He had been convalescing in Morocco at the time after suffering a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October 2018.

    Mr Bongo has not been seen in public for weeks. However, he is reportedly expected to travel abroad for a holiday amid rumours about his health.

  5. Gabon bars EU travellers in reciprocal move

    View of the Loango lodge from the Iguela lagoon in Gabon
    Image caption: Gabon has various tourist attraction sites

    Gabon has suspended issuing visas to European Union travellers after its citizens were included in the EU ban list.

    Gabonese foreign affairs ministry said it had applied the "the principle of reciprocity".

    The nationals of the 27 EU member states will not be allowed into Gabon.

    Minister Alain Claude Bilie By Nzé sent a circular to diplomatic missions communicating the change in issuance of visas:

    View more on twitter

    Gabon has recorded 5,394 cases of coronavirus and 42 deaths.

    The EU listed only 14 safe countries whose nationals were allowed into member states as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Included on the list are four African countries: Algeria, Morocco, Rwanda and Tunisia.

    Read more:

  6. Gabon's senate votes to decriminalise homosexuality

    A gay couple
    Image caption: Homosexuality is still broadly seen as a social taboo in Gabon

    Gabon's senate has strongly voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, a week after the lower house in the national assembly voted for a similar change.

    If the move is ratified by the president, Gabon will become one of only a few African countries to legally allow homosexuality.

    A number of prominent politicians, as well as Christian and Muslim leaders, have reacted angrily, describing it as a change designed to appease foreign donors.

    Last year, the central African nation criminalised homosexuality and made gay sex punishable with six months in prison and a large fine. Activists said that the move had sent the LGBT community further underground and had led to harassment.

    Many African countries impose jail sentences on homosexuals, who are in some cases threatened with the death penalty.

  7. Gabon MPs vote to decriminalise homosexuality

    BBC World Service

    Two men holding hands
    Image caption: Homosexuality is still broadly seen as a social taboo in Gabon

    Members of Gabon's lower house of parliament have voted to decriminalise homosexuality.

    If the proposal is approved by the upper house and president, it could be one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to reverse a law that punishes sexual relations between people of the same sex.

    Last year, the central African nation criminalised homosexuality and made gay sex punishable with six months in prison and a large fine.

    Activists said that had sent the LGBT community further underground and had led to harassment.

    Forty-eight members of parliament have now backed the proposal to change the 2019 law and lift the ban; half that number opposed the amendment.

    Same-sex marriage is still not allowed in Gabon, where homosexuality is still broadly seen as a social taboo.

    One MP in favour of keeping the ban said the lawmakers who had voted to legalise homosexuality had shaken the nation's customs and traditions.

  8. Gabon eases coronavirus lockdown in capital Libreville

    Members of the Gabonese Presidential Guard are seen stopping a car at a checkpoint in Libreville
    Image caption: The government had imposed a two-week lockdown in the capital

    Gabon's Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekalé has eased lockdown restrictions in the capital, Libreville, and three neighbouring municipalities.

    The government has instead imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and allowed shops to reopen. Schools and places of worship will remain closed.

    Movement out of the capital has also been restricted to avoid the possible spread of coronavirus to other provinces.

    The prime minister said the decision was intended to avoid "social destabilisation" if people were unable to earn a living, according to AFP news agency.

    "We are approaching the peak of the epidemic, which could come between the end of May and mid-June," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

    Gabon has so far confirmed 211 cases of coronavirus including three deaths.

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  9. Coronavirus cases climb to 400 across Africa

    Chi Chi Izundu

    BBC News, Lagos

    There are now more than 400 known cases of coronavirus across the continent, with nations imposing a range of measures to try to prevent the spread.

    According to the latest data, the breakdown is as follows: Algeria - 60; Benin - 1; Burkina Faso - 15; Cameroon - 5; Central African Republic - 1; Congo-Brazzaville - 1; DR Congo - 2; Egypt - 126; Eswatini - 1; Ethiopia - 5; Equatorial Guinea - 1; Gabon - 1; Ghana - 6; Guinea - 1; Ivory Coast - 3; Kenya - 3; Liberia - 2; Mauritania - 1; Morocco - 37; Namibia - 2; Nigeria - 3; Rwanda - 7; Senegal - 26; Seychelles - 4; Somalia - 1; South Africa - 62; Sudan - 1; Tanzania - 1; Togo - 1; Tunisia - 24.

    While many countries are closing schools, banning large gatherings and shutting borders, in Kenya telecom companies have slashed the cost of mobile money transfers in a bid to encourage people to go cashless.

    An anti-corruption court in Nairobi has relocated and set up outside the capital.

    There is increasing concern about the potential economic impact in Africa.

    People working in other parts of the world are likely to have less money available to send to their families back home so there is likely to be a drop in these remittances.

  10. Ghana and Gabon confirm their first coronavirus cases

    The coronaviruses owe their name to their crown like projections
    Image caption: They are the ninth and 10th countries in sub-Saharan Africa to register positive cases

    Ghana has confirmed its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus as Gabon confirmed its first case.

    Ghana's Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang Manu said two people who'd arrived from Norway and Turkey tested positive for the virus.

    In Gabon, government spokesman Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou said the patient was a Gabonese man who'd arrived from France.

    The Ghanaian authorities have said their two patients are being kept in isolation and are in a stable condition.

    They have also started the process of tracing everyone who was in contact with the two patients.

    Gabon's spokesman said the patient who had tested positive was feeling better - having displayed symptoms of cough, sore throat and breathing problems earlier.

    He said the patient was in an isolation facility and the government was tracing those who had come into close contact with him.

    On Wednesday, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the release of $100m (£80m) to enhance coronavirus preparedness and response nationwide.

    More about coronavirus:

  11. Ghana and Gabon suspend foreign trips for officials

    A traveller stands next to a pile of suitcases at the airport
    Image caption: Both countries say it's a precautionary measure against coronavirus

    Ghanaian public officials and Gabonese MPs have been temporarily banned from travelling out of their countries in measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

    Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo temporarily suspended foreign travel through a letter issued by his chief of staff, reports the BBC's Thomas Naadi in the capital, Accra.

    Akusua Frema Osei-Opare's letter stated that only essential and critical trips by public officials would be considered and approved.

    In Gabon, the parliamentary speaker Faustin Boukoubi has suspended all foreign trips by MPs.

    In a memo sent to legislators the speaker said all travel on behalf of the assembly had been suspended until further notice.

    Both advisories stated that the suspension of foreign trips was a precautionary measure.

    There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ghana or Gabon.

    Both countries have been running public announcements urging citizens to wash their hands frequently and avoid handshakes and hugs in the wake of coronavirus.

    Ghana neighbours Burkina Faso and Togo, both of which have recorded positive cases of the virus.

    Gabon shares a border with Cameroon where two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

  12. Congo basin trees 'absorbing less carbon dioxide'

    Scientists say that trees in the Congo basin are absorbing less carbon dioxide (C02) than they were in the past.

    The Congo basin, which reaches across parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Gabon, is the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon.

    A study published in the journal Nature said that we rely on the trees in the Congo Basin to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), something which fights against climate change, but that the trees had now reached their maximum growth rate.

    One of research team, Aida Cuni-Sanchez, told BBC Newsday:

    Quote Message: Because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere - which is the food of the plants - the faster they grow. But we discovered the last time we went that they were not growing faster because... they had reached the maximum growth rate.
    Quote Message: This happened about 30 years earlier than was predicted.
    Quote Message: Rising temperatures and changes in rainfall has [also had] the effect of more trees dying.
    Quote Message: Therefore trees are growing a little more slowly and they're dying more, so the overall conclusion is that they're absorbing less CO2 than in the past."

    Listen to the interview in full:

    Video content

    Video caption: _
  13. US and Gabon unite against pirates

    Man holding gun, looking at an oil tanker
    Image caption: Pirates target oil tankers from Nigeria's oil fields

    The US and Gabon have agreed to head up an international group which fights against piracy in the sea off the west coast of Africa.

    The US released a statement saying the two countries have assumed the co-secretariat of the Friends of Gulf of Guinea, also known as the FoGG, for 2020.

    The group includes Germany, Canada, the US, Italy, Japan, the UK, France, Belgium, Brazil, South Korea, Denmark, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, the EU, UN's drugs and crimes agency and Interpol. It focuses on maritime crime.

    The Gulf of Guinea is the most dangerous sea in the world for shipping, according to One Earth Future's annual State of Maritime Piracy report.

    Most of the attacks have been against ships involved in oil and gas transportation, such as tankers, bulk carriers and tugs.

    Typically pirates have targeted tankers from Nigeria's rich oil and gas fields.

    Piracy in the form of hijacking and kidnapping for ransom payments was also common off the coasts of Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon.

    Rich pickings at sea, political instability, the lack of law enforcement and poverty on land are all factors which have contributed to the increase in piracy.

    Read more: Piracy in West Africa: The world's most dangerous seas?