Gabon's government puts down coup attempt, arrests plotters
By YVES LAURENT GOMA, Associated Press
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Gabon’s government has retained control of the West African country after an attempted military coup early Monday, the government said.
Five army officers who took over state radio in the coup attempt have been arrested, government spokesman Guy-Betrand Mapangou, told Radio France International.
Authorities have regained control of the state broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital, Libreville, which were the only areas taken over by the officers, according to the spokesman.
Earlier Monday a soldier who identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, read out a statement saying the military had seized control of the government of this West African country. He was flanked by two other soldiers holding weapons and all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and green berets.
He had said they were taking over to “restore democracy.”
Those soldiers have been taken into custody and President Ali Bongo’s government remains in control, said the spokesman.
A curfew has been imposed over the capital, Libreville, and the internet has been cut. The city on the Atlantic Ocean coast is being patrolled by military tanks and armed vehicles.
The African Union affirmed its support for the Bongo government.
“The African Union strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in Gabon,” the head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on Twitter. “I reaffirm the AU’s rejection of all anti-constitutional change.”
Bongo, in power since 2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports that he had a stroke. He recently addressed the country in a New Year’s message that was filmed in Morocco, where he has been receiving medical treatment.
Oil-rich Gabon has been ruled for more than half a century by Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009. Critics have accused the family of profiting from the country’s natural resources while not investing enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million.
In his brief New Year’s speech, the 59-year-old Bongo declared that the country was “indivisible” and acknowledged his health problems without giving details. “A difficult period,” he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted “thanks to God.” He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the daily quality of life for Gabon’s people.
The French-educated Bongo, who was the country’s defense minister before becoming president, narrowly won re-election in 2016 while opposition rival Jean Ping claimed irregularities and continues to call himself the country’s real president.
This story has been corrected to show that Bongo’s New Year’s address was not from a hospital bed.