Gabon’s military leaders announce that deposed ailing President Ali Bongo is free to leave the country and seek medical attention
Gabon’s deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had been under house arrest since he was removed from office last week, is no longer in custody and is able to leave the county, the new military leadership has said.
“Given his state of health, the former President of the Republic, Ali Bongo Ondimba, has freedom of movement. He can travel abroad if he wishes to carry out his medical checks,” Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi Manfoumbi said on state television on Wednesday evening, reading a statement signed by coup leader General Brice Oligui Nguema.
Gabon’s General Brice Oligui Nguema (R) salutes as he is inaugurated as Gabon’s interim president, Libreville, September 4, 2023. © AFP
Ali Bongo, who had held power for 14 years after succeeding his father Omar Bongo, who had ruled from 1967, was put under house arrest after a group of uniformed Gabonese soldiers took power on August 30. The overthrow came hours after longtime leader Bongo was declared the winner of the presidential election, giving him a third term.
Nguema was sworn in as interim leader of the new military government on Monday, and vowed to hold “free” and “transparent elections” without specifying a date.
Bongo suffered a severe stroke in October 2018, leaving him with difficulty moving his right arm and leg.
In an address on Saturday afternoon, an army spokesman said that the new government intends to resume normal relations with the rest of the world. He said that Gabon’s land, sea, and air borders would be reopened “with immediate effect,”because the military was “concerned with preserving respect for the rule of law [and] good relations with our neighbors and all states of the world.”
Gabon, the spokesman said, wants to maintain its “international commitments.”
The coup has been strongly condemned by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), while Nigerian President Bola Tinubu – who heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – warned on Thursday that “copycats will start doing the same thing until it is stopped.”
Bongo’s recent re-election gave the Gabonese military impetus to seize power. Army chiefs called his victory – supposedly with 64% of the vote – fraudulent, and declared that his 14 years in office had resulted in a “deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos.”
Western observers have long considered Bongo corrupt, with Washington’s Freedom House NGO expressing zero confidence that the ousted president was “elected through free and fair elections.” A 2010 US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks alleged that Bongo had embezzled millions of dollars from the Bank of Central African States.
Source Guradian/Freedom House/AFP/RT