News ID: 237002
Published: 0146 GMT January 07, 2019

Gabon says coup bid thwarted, as president abroad

Gabon says coup bid thwarted, as president abroad
AFP

A group of soldiers sought to take power in Gabon on Monday while the country's ailing president was abroad, but the government declared the bid had failed and the rebels had been arrested.

Soldiers burst into state radio offices at dawn and called on the public to "rise up", an appeal made as President Ali Bongo remained in Morocco after suffering a stroke last year, AFP reported.

Shots were heard around state broadcasting headquarters in Libreville, capital of the oil-rich West African nation, at about the same time as the message was read at 6:30 a.m. (0530 GMT).

But within a few hours, government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou said: "Calm has returned, the situation is under control."

Of the five who entered the radio station, "four have been arrested and one is on the run," according to Mapangou.

Security forces have been deployed in the capital and will remain there over the coming days in order to maintain order, he said.

The gunfire, he said, was used to control a crowd.

The elite Republican Guard was deployed around the building and armored vehicles blocked access to the area.

In a rundown district nearby, dozens of young people torched a car and set fire to tires, while the security forces fired teargas to try to disperse them.

The dramatic developments came as Bongo is living at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke. He made a televised speech on New Year's Eve but has not been in the country since October.

A message was read on state radio by a person who identified himself as Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, the deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a previously unknown group, the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defense and Security Forces (MPJFDS).

He announced a "national restoration council" would be formed "to guarantee a democratic transition for the Gabonese people".

The movement "calls on all young people from forces for the defense and security and Gabonese young people to join us," the officer said.

Three soldiers wearing the green beret of the Republican Guard, two of them carrying assault rifles, were visible on a video of the speech released on social media.

"We cannot abandon our homeland," the officer said.

The 59-year-old Bongo has not been back to Gabon since he fell ill in Saudi Arabia on October 24.

In his absence, the Constitutional Court transferred part of the powers of the president to the prime minister and the vice president.

The statement read out on Monday attacked the arrangement as "illegitimate and illegal."

On December 31, Bongo addressed the country for the first time since falling ill, saying in a recorded speech from Morocco that he had "been through a difficult period."

His critics seized on signs of apparent ill-health, pointing to an address that was unusually short, his slurred speech and a right hand that seemed stiff and immobile.

 

 

 

   
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