Rebels take over oil-rich Gabon national radio station, say they are overthrowing the government
LIBREVILLE, Gabon — Soldiers in Gabon appeared on state television saying they have launched a coup to “restore democracy” in the West African country.
Early Monday a soldier who identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, read out a statement saying the military has seized control of the government. He was flanked by two other soldiers holding weapons and all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and green berets.
Government spokesperson Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told the BBC that four of the rebels were arrested since the announcement and a fifth is on the run. He said “everything is back to normal.”
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. No violence has been reported.
President Ali 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.
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