Gabon coup bid foiled as president convalesces from stroke

Gabon on Monday foiled a coup attempt by a group of soldiers who seized a radio station, called for an uprising and announced the formation of a national restoration council when President Ali Bongo, above, was away in Morocco.

The government said the situation is under control after security forces captured the failed coup leader, killed two others and freed radio station technicians help hostage by the mutineers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, African Union, and France condemned the coup attempt and asked the people of Gabon to respect the constitution and rule of law.

The coup drama began at dawn when a group of renegade soldiers led by Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly seized RTG state radio broadcasting offices in Libreville.

Describing himself as deputy commander of the Republican Guard, Obiang Kelly read out a statement calling the country’s youth to revolt.

He said the army is with the people to save Gabon from chaos. A national restoration council would be formed to facilitate a democratic transition.

All youth from defence and security forces must join the uprising andtake control of the streets, seize public buildings and airports, he said.

The coup ended when security forces entered the radio station, captured Obiang Kelly and killed two officers who were with him.

The dramatic developments happened as President Bongo was recovering in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke late in October last year.

He made a brief speech on New Year’s Eve raising suspicion about his health. The mutineers tried to capitalise on this by going on the state radio to make a dramatic announcement.

 The Bongo family has been ruling Gabon for the past five decades.

Bongo, 59, was elected president after the death of his father Omar in 2009. He got re-elected in 2016.

Despite abundant natural resources, Gabon is economically backward. Unemployment is rampant and labour unrest has hit production. Austerity measures have been imposed to arrest the economic slowdown.