Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Gabon soldiers read message on state radio as shots heard in Libreville

Gabon soldiers read message on state radio as shots heard in Libreville

Only hours earlier, soldiers burst into the national radio station and called on the people to "rise up", an apparent bid to oust ailing President Ali Bongo, who is out of the country.

Reports emerging Monday afternoon stated the government had regained control of the situation and arrested a number of soldiers involved in the coup while one was on the run.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned an attempted coup in Gabon, his spokesman said, recalling that the UN chief opposes unconstitutional changes of power by force. Helicopters circled overhead and there was a strong military and police presence on the streets.

Soldiers took control of the national radio station's offices at dawn on Monday and called on the public to rise up against Bongo, 59, who has been recuperating overseas after suffering a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October, according to reports by Bloomberg and Reuters.

According to commentators, the coup failed because it was poorly planned and had relied on citizens rising up against the government.

President Ali Bongo is now recovering in Morocco, after suffering a stroke in late October 2018.

The soldiers said that the president's recent televised New Year's Eve address "reinforced doubts" about Bongo's "ability to carry out the responsibilities of his office", according to Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang.

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Current leader Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009.

Bongo addressed the Gabonese people in a televised message on New Year's Eve, saying he had been through a hard period.

Local news described the event as an "attempted coup d'etat" and said the Gabon Republican Guard was seizing power.

The economy was long buoyed by oil revenues, much of which was funneled to the country's moneyed elite while most of the 2-million population live in deep poverty. Two other soldiers with rifles stand behind him. In 2016, during his re-election, violent protests broke out amid claims of fraud.

In a video circulating on social media, three young soldiers can be seen in a radio studio wearing military fatigues and holding guns.

"We can not abandon our homeland", said Kelly, who said he was a part of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces (MPJFDS).

US President Donald Trump had deployed 80 US military personnel to Gabon in response to possible violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a disputed and delayed election.

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