Gabon authorities thwart military coup during President’s absence
Five soldiers who attempted to seize power in Gabon have been arrested and the situation is now under control, according to Gabon government officials.
- A curfew has been imposed over the capital Libreville
- President Bongo has been out of the country for medical treatment since October
- France condemned the coup attempt in its former colony
The Government thwarted the attempted coup after junior officers took control of the state radio station to declare President Ali Bongo was too ill to continue in power.
Authorities have regained control of the broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital, Libreville, which were the only areas taken by the plotters, spokesman Guy-Betrand Mapangou told French media.
Earlier on Monday, a soldier who identified himself as Lieutenant Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, read out a statement saying the military had seized control of the Government of the West African country.
He was flanked by two other soldiers holding weapons and all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and green berets.
Those soldiers have been taken into custody and President Ali Bongo’s Government remains in control, the spokesman said.
A curfew has been imposed in Libreville, and the internet has been cut.
The city on the Atlantic Ocean coast is being patrolled by military tanks and armed vehicles.
Mr Bongo, in power since 2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports he had a stroke. He is currently in Morocco for medical treatment.
France condemns coup attempt
France condemned the coup attempt in its former colony and called on citizens in Libreville to avoid moving around the city.
“We condemn any attempt to change government outside constitutional rules,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.
“Gabon’s stability can only be ensured in strict compliance with the provisions of its constitution.”
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba is currently in Morocco for medical treatment. (Reuters: Tiksa Negeri)
Oil-rich Gabon has been ruled for more than half a century by Mr Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009.
Critics have accused the family of profiting from the country’s natural resources while not investing enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million.
In a brief new year’s speech, the 59-year-old declared the country was “indivisible” and acknowledged his health problems without giving details.
“A difficult period,” he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted “thanks to God”.
He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the quality of life of Gabon’s people.
The French-educated Mr Bongo, who was the country’s defence minister before becoming President, narrowly won re-election in 2016 while opposition rival Jean Ping claimed irregularities and continues to call himself the country’s real president.