Gabon govt says it quashed coup by army mutineers
President Bongo has appeared in public only twice following a stroke in October
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.
The headquarters of the national broadcaster Radiodiffusion Television Gabonaise in Libreville on January 7, after a group of soldiers sought to seize power.