By Patrick Jaramogi
Libreville, Gabon: Monday morning January 7 2018 was awash with news regarding the overthrow of Ali Omar Bongo’s Gabonese government by the military.
The news that spread like bush fire is however fizzling out with latest report from the Gabon Capital Libreville, indicating that it was just an ‘attempted coup’.Four of the five soldiers who stormed the National Radio at 4.30 am announcing the take- over have been arrested and the hunt is on for the fifth who is on the run. According to the Gabonese Government spokesman, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, the five soldiers read a short statement announcing a “National Restoration Council”. The BBC earlier quoted Lt Kelly Ondo Obiang, who said he represented a group called the Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, specifically appealing to young people to “take charge of their destiny”. The insurgents called on soldiers to take control of the transport system, ammunition reserves and airports “in the interests of the nation”.
The coup took the state by surprise since the Presidential Guard that is heavily dominated by members loyal to the Bongo family has always been seen as loyal. The nations president was last October airlifted to neighboring Morocco where was treated after suffering a stroke. The ailing leader, Omar Bongo, who has ruled Gabon with an iron fist for over 50 years has been out of public domain for some months with many fearing he was dead after suffering the stroke. The Government spokesman, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told reporters that four of the rebels had been arrested by the authorities. The junior officers claimed they seized power “to restore democracy” in oil-rich Gabon, where the ailing leader’s family has ruled for 50 years. Tanks and armed vehicles could be seen in the capital Libreville. “The situation is calm. The gendarmes who are often stationed there have taken control of the entire area around the radio and TV headquarters, so everything is back to normal”, said Mr. Mapangou. Mapanagou made it clear that that the army generals, civil society and opposition leaders mentioned in the rebels’ statement as potential supporters would be investigated. He added that the officer on the run would be arrested “in the coming hours.”
Current leader Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009. He narrowly won re-election in 2016 in a poll marred by violence and accusations of fraud. The president’s term in office has been overshadowed by a long-running French investigation into allegations of embezzlement involving the Bongo family’s assets.