France Denounces Gabon failed military coup – curfew imposed after day of chaos

FRENCH foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll denounced Monday’s thwarted coup attempt in the Central West African nation of Gabon, saying that the failed bid to overthrow President Ali Bongo threatened the oil-rich country’s “stability”.

Photo: Getty Images

 

The African country’s president has been receiving secretive medical treatment in Morocco since suffering a stroke in October, prompting claims he is unfit for office. “Gabon’s stability can only be ensured in strict compliance with the provisions of its constitution,” Mrs von der Muhll said. “We condemn any attempt to change the regime outside constitutional rules,” she added.

France, the country’s former colonial ruler, also urged its 8,900 citizens living in Gabon to “avoid moving around” Libreville. A curfew was imposed over the capital and the internet was cut.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also condemned the putsch attempt, stressing that the UN strongly opposes unconstitutional changes of power.

“The Secretary General has always stood against unconstitutional changes of power, especially by force, and in that light, he condemns the attempted coup,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Gabon authorities foiled the attempted military coup on Monday morning, killing two suspected plotters and capturing seven others just hours after they took over a state radio in a bid to end 50 years of uninterrupted rule by Mr Bongo’s family.

Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou announced the deaths and arrests after soldiers briefly seized the radio station and broadcast a message saying that Mr Bongo was no longer fit to be president and that they planned to “restore democracy”.

“The government is in place. The institutions are in place,” Mr Mapangou told France 24, stressing that calm had been “restored” and that the situation was “under control”.

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Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba

In a radio message at 4.30 am (03.30 GMT), Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, who described himself as an officer in the Republican Guard, said Mr Bongo’s New Year’s Eve address “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out the responsibilities of his office”.

Mr Bongo, 59, suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October, and has been out of the country several months receiving secretive medical treatment in Morocco.

On December 31, in one of his first television appearances since the stroke, the president slurred his words and appeared to have difficulty moving his right arm. It is unclear whether he is still able to walk.

In his address, Mr Bongo said the country was “indivisible” and acknowledged his poor health without giving details.

He also promised to put more effort into improving the daily quality of life for Gabon’s people, about one third of which live below the poverty line, according to World Bank data.

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Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres

Outside the radio station, pro-government soldiers fired teargas to disperse about 300 people who had come out into the streets to support the coup plotters, a Reuters witness said. Helicopters circled overhead and there was a strong military and police presence on the streets.

But Africa experts have since told Reuters that the quick failure of Monday’s putsch and the lack of widespread enthusiasm for a new leader suggest further bids to remove Mr Bongo from power are unlikely. The coup attempt is the first there since the 1960s.

However, the attempt alone reflects growing frustration with a weak government run by an absent president.

Gabon, sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer, has been ruled for more than half a century by Mr Bongo and his father Omar, who died in 2009. But his re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.

Source :

Express

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