Gabon govt says it quashed coup by army mu­ti­neers

Pres­i­dent Bongo has ap­peared in pub­lic only twice fol­low­ing a stroke in Oc­to­ber

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

A JOINT RE­PORT

Gabonese au­thor­i­ties said they put down an attempted coup last week by a group of mu­ti­neer­ing sol­diers who had seized con­trol of the na­tional broad­caster and vowed to "save a democ­racy in dan­ger."

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Guy-bertrand Ma­pan­gou told Ra­dio France In­ter­na­tionale on Mon­day that or­der had been re­stored, and the cap­i­tal, Li­bre­ville, was largely quiet.

His state­ment came hours after Ondo Obiang Kelly, an army lieutenant, read a state­ment on state TV say­ing young army of­fi­cers were dis­ap­pointed with a speech by Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo on De­cem­ber 31 that he broad­cast from Morocco, where he has been con­va­lesc­ing for two months fol­low­ing a stroke.

"While he attempted to quickly end the de­bate on his health, the speech only re­in­forced doubts about his ca­pac­ity to han­dle the heavy re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with the po­si­tion of pres­i­dent of the repub­lic,'' said Mr Kelly.

That is why the Pa­tri­otic Move­ment of Young De­fence and Se­cu­rity Forces de­cided "to take its re­spon­si­bil­ity to fi­nally de­feat all these ma­noeu­vres that are un­der­way to con­fis­cate power," in an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to se­nior Gabonese of­fi­cials who are run­ning state in­sti­tu­tions in Pres­i­dent Bongo's ab­sence.

Yields on the na­tion's $1.5 bil­lion of sink­able bonds due 2024 jumped as much as 56 ba­sis points be­fore par­ing the rise to trade seven points higher at 8.43 per cent by 12:54pm.

Oil-de­pen­dent Gabon is the se­cond-small­est mem­ber of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Pe­tro­leum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries. While the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion of less than two mil­lion peo­ple lives in poverty, the Bongo fam­ily is among the wealth­i­est in Cen­tral Africa, ac­cord­ing to a French govern­ment probe that re­sulted in the seizure of real es­tate as­sets in Paris in 2016.

The move­ment urged army of­fi­cers to seize weapons and am­mu­ni­tion and join the group, and called on all Gabonese to "take con­trol of the streets" and "save Gabon from chaos."

At least five sol­diers, in­clud­ing Kelly, were ar­rested be­cause of their sus­pected in­volve­ment in the coup at­tempt, RFI re­ported.

He­li­copters were cir­cling over­heard in the cap­i­tal and gun­fire rang out across the cap­i­tal, Li­bre­ville, early in the morn­ing, prompt­ing most res­i­dents to stay in­doors. The In­ter­net and mo­bile-phone lines were cut a few hours after the coup an­nounce­ment. Ali Bongo was born Alain Bernard Bongo in Congo-braz­zav­ille in Fe­bru­ary 1959. His mother, Pa­tience Da­bany, was 15 at the time of Ali’s birth. Eight years later, his fa­ther Omar Bongo took con­trol of Gabon. The se­nior Bongo would rule for 42 years. At age nine, Ali — a name he took up after he con­verted to Is­lam in 1973, along­side his fa­ther who be­came Omar — was sent to a pri­vate school in Paris. He later stud­ied law in the French city. From an early age, Ali had a pas­sion for foot­ball and mu­sic — a tal­ent he in­her­ited from his mother, who was a singer. He even re­leased an al­bum in 1977. Ali would turn to pol­i­tics within four years of the al­bum re­lease. He trav­elled ex­ten­sively with his fa­ther, build­ing net­works in the US and the Arab world. In 1989, he was ap­pointed for­eign min­is­ter at the age of 30. He stepped down two years later when a new con­sti­tu­tion put the min­i­mum age limit for Cabi­net mem­bers at 35. In 1999, he be­came the head of the De­fence Min­istry. The younger Bongo would take power in 2009 fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther. He is mar­ried to the French-born Sylvia. The cou­ple has four chil­dren.

Pic­ture: AFP

The head­quar­ters of the na­tional broad­caster Ra­diod­if­fu­sion Tele­vi­sion Gabonaise in Li­bre­ville on Jan­uary 7, after a group of sol­diers sought to seize power.

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