Gabon concealed the details of an attempted military coup d’état, killing two suspected plotters and capturing seven others just hours after they took over state radio in a bid to end 50 years of rule by President Ali Bongo’s family.
Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou announced the deaths and arrests after the military briefly seized the radio station to broadcast an address to the nation, saying Bongo was no longer able to lead after suffering a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October during a conference.
The failure an attempted military coup, caused by lack of widespread support suggest further efforts to overthrow Bongo are unlikely, experts said. However the attempt shows a growing frustration with a government weakened by the President’s secretive protracted absence, and lack of information on his rehabilitation prospects.
On December 31, in one of his first television appearances since the stroke, Bongo (59) slurred his speech and has paralysis of his right arm. It is unclear if he has recovered his capacity to walk. He has been in treatment in one of Morocco clinics since November 2018.
In a radio message at 4:30 a.m. (0330 GMT) Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, who described himself as an officer in the Republican Guard, said Bongo’s New Year’s Eve address “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office”.
Outside the radio station, loyalist soldiers fired teargas to disperse hundreds of people who had come out into the streets to support the coup attempt. Strong military and police presence on the streets, including helicopters, who paroled the area swiftly managed to restore order.
After the episode of unrest, Libreville was quiet, and a government spokesman said the situation was under control after the arrests. Residents complained Internet access was cut, shortly after the coup.
“The government is in place. The institutions are in place,” Mapangou told France 24 TV Channel.
The Bongo family has ruled rich oil-producing country since 1967, and Ali (Alain) Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar (Albert-Bernard), who died in 2009. Ali Bongo re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.
Since its independence from France in 1960, the sovereign state of Gabon has had only three presidents in almost 60 years.