President Ali Bongo

The Army in Gabon on Monday staged an apparent coup in the country, declaring that they were not satisfied with the leadership of President Ali Bongo who is currently in Morocco, recovering from a stroke.

According to a radio message which was broadcast at around 5.30 am by Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, the New Year eve address by Bongo reinforced doubts about his ability to continue to carry out the responsibilities of his office.

In a video which is circulating on social media, Ondo Obiang is seen in a radio studio wearing military fatigue and a green beret as he reads the statement, with two other soldiers carrying assault rifles standing behind him.

“Once again, one time too many, the wielders of power deceptively continue to instrumentalize the person of Ali Bongo Ondimba, a patient devoid of many of his physical and mental faculties,” Ondo Obiang said.

 Obiang said the coup was being carried out against ‘those who, in a cowardly way, assassinated our young compatriots on the night of August 31, 2016’, referring to a deadly violence which erupted after Bongo was declared the winner of a disputed election.

Reports also say gunshots were heard around the national television station which is located in Libreville, the country’s capital as military vehicles blocked all access to the site.

President Bongo had posted a video message recorded in Rabat and distributed via social and traditional media last Monday in which he admitted having been through a difficult period.

In his New Year speech, Bongo, who slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm throughout acknowledged health problems but assured that he was recovering. 

In October, the 59-year-old Bongo was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke. He has been in Morocco since November to continue treatment.

The Bongo family has ruled the oil-rich country for nearly half a century. Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009.

He won re-election in 2016 by fewer than 6,000 votes, sparking deadly clashes between protesters and police during which the country’s parliament building was torched.