Gabon's military declares coup in order to 'restore democracy'

Sergio Cunningham
January 8, 2019

African Union chief Moussa Faki later condemned the attempted coup. "I reaffirm the AU's total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power", he wrote on Twitter.

Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told Radio France International that the five officers involved were arrested in the capital Libreville on Monday.

In his speech on state radio, Obiang had said the army high command failed in its mission to defend the country and called on the rank and file soldiers to "take control of all means of transport, army bases and security posts, armories, and airports".

"The chaos that the mutineers managed to create in Libreville today suggests that there are more people behind this than the five soldiers the government says it has arrested".

Mr Bongo, who has been out of the country for two months, reportedly suffered a stroke in October and received treatment in Morocco.

In the message he gave to the nation on December 31, he expressed gladness that the condition of his health was improving.

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Despite people reporting "calm" in most of the capital, sporadic gunshots were heard at a radio station seized by rebels, according to a witness.

During Bongo's extended absence, new powers were granted to Gabon's vice president, Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou.

A curfew has been imposed over Libreville, and the internet has been cut. The military is also said to have fired tear gas at the premises to disperse people who apparently were in support of the attempted coup.

The incident set off confusion in and outside of Gabon, coming as the ailing President Ali Bongo Ondimba - whose family has run the oil-rich country since the 1960s - continues a lengthy recovery in Morocco. His family has ruled the oil-rich Central African nation for almost half a century. His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.

The upheaval comes as President Ali Bongo is in Morocco after suffering a stroke while overseas.

US troops deployed to the central African nation of Gabon last week in response to potential violence in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain committed to their mission despite prospective unrest linked to a failed coup attempt on Monday. Their wealth comes from oil, but aside from Bongo's family and their associates in the capital, few citizens have seen any benefit from all that money and much of the nation is steeped in poverty.

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