President Albert-Bernard Bongo of Gabon reviewed a parade of his armed forces in Tchibanga on Tuesday (17 August) on the 16th anniversary of his country's independence.
GV Helicopters fly over parade and lorries pulling field guns (2 shots)
SV Officials watch parade
Background: President Albert-Bernard Bongo of Gabon reviewed a parade of his armed forces in Tchibanga on Tuesday (17 August) on the 16th anniversary of his country's independence. While the celebrations went on there were reports of a possible reconciliation between Chad and France after the trouble caused by the expulsion of French troops from the African state last year.
SYNOPSIS: President Bongo arrived amid speculation over a meeting in Gabon between the President of Chad General Felix Malloum, and French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
The Gabonese President welcomed General Malloum and the President of Zaire, General Mobutu Sese Seko, was another guest.
The French President was not at the parade. However, President Giscard arrive din Gabon two weeks ago for a holiday in central Africa and during his stay he's had talks with President Bongo. Meanwhile Reuters News Agency reporting from Chad, quoted government officials as saying a meeting in Gabon between President Giscard and General Malloum was possible.
No statement has been issued by General Malloum. However, President Bongo has been mediating to improve links between the two countries. Relations were strained following French efforts to negotiate with guerrillas for the release of kidnapped French archaeologist, Madame Francoise Claustre. After the French government launched its campaign to free her, Chad expelled all French forces. Madame Claustre was last heard of on the 29th June after well over two years in captivity.
Madame Claustre was kidnapped in April 1974 by Tubu guerrillas in northern Chad. During direct negations with them last year, France reached agreement on providing non military stores worth 6,000,000 Francs (about GBP640,000 sterling) and 4,000,000 Francs (about GBP 426,000 sterling) in cash but the Chad government disagreed with the deal with the guerrillas and they later expelled French troops. The loss of the Chad defence base was a serious blow to France because it was one of tits largest military centres in Africa.
Gabon has close links with France -- President Giscard was given a tumultuous welcome when he arrived for his holiday on the 5th of August. Although there's been no official comment on differences between Chad and France, officials suggested a breakthrough might eventually come. However they were cautious about the timing. Reuters said that although moves were underway, a successful outcome might be some way off.
Gabon has also had differences with Chad. Last year President Bongo visited Chad in a move to harmonies normal regional activities. Chad had just withdrawn from the Central African Customs and Economics Union. That move upset President Bongo and led to a pledge from Chad to improve links with Gabon.