The Gabonese government on Thursday dismissed festering rumours and media reports that the country’s ailing president, Ali Bongo Ondimba has been replaced by a clone.

Reports had wildly spread that the 60-year-old Bongo had secretly recruited a look-alike to replace him for months while he received medical attention for a stroke he suffered in 2018.

Bongo, who is currently recovering in Morocco has only returned to Gabon twice since he became ill in 2018 while on an official trip. On both visits, he stayed briefly and flew back to Rabat.

Reacting to the development, the Presidential spokesman, Ike Ngouoni said Bongo recently visited the country in ‘flesh’ and a lot of Gabonese citizens saw him while he toured round the country’s capital city, Libreville.

“The President of the Republic was here in flesh and a number of people saw him. He went around the city. Some of them were able to approach him, observe him, see him.

“It is totally a hoax. I admire the level of creativity, especially on the internet and their persistence in these rumours,” Ngouoni told reporters.

The presidency had initially claimed that Bongo had been hospitalized in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for fatigue but weeks later, the country’s Vice-President, Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou admitted at a rally that the president had suffered a stroke.

Since October last year, a section of Gabonese citizens have expressed mixed concerns as to the health status of their president as according to them, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between rumours and reality.

In January, a failed coup was attempted in Libreville to denounce the president’s absence and establish a democratic transition.

Bongo is the second African leader who has to fight cloning rumours, the first being  Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari.