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Gabon military seize national radio station in apparent coup attempt

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LIBREVILLE | Military officers in Gabon staged an apparent coup early Monday morning, seizing the state radio station and declaring their dissatisfaction with President Ali Bongo, who is recovering from a stroke in Morocco.

A New Year’s eve address by Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office,” said Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon.

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The radio message was broadcast at around 4:30am local time (0530 GMT). A source close to the government said there were gunshots around the national television station, but that the plotters appeared to be a small group of soldiers.

A spokesman for the presidency told Reuters he would make a statement shortly.

Bongo, 59, was hospitalized in October in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke. He has been in Morocco since November to continue treatment.

Gabon’s top court in November ruled that the vice president would chair the cabinet in the absence of President Bongo.

In his speech on New Year’s, Bongo acknowledged health problems but said he was recovering. He slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm, but otherwise appeared in decent health.

The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for nearly half a century. Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009. His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.

The apparent coup comes on the back of the US deploying its military in Gabon at the weekend. President Donald Trump said about 80 US military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” had deployed to Gabon amid fears of unrest in neighbouring DR Congo.

The troops were to provide security for US citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities. More would deploy as needed to Gabon, DR Congo or neighbourin, Trump said.

Gabon, however, does not border DR Congo and such a deployment was expected to have been in Republic of Congo in the west of DR Congo.

DR Congo went to polls last ten days ago to elect Joseph Kabila’s successor but the results are yet to be released.

It remains unclear if the US has played a role in the apparent coup but their presence must have surely emboldened the Gabonese military.

Agencies

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