Democracy In Africa: Coup plotters claim Gabon’s President Ali Bongo is physically and mentally incapable of ruling the country

What you need to know about the attempted coup in Gabon
Coup plotters claim Gabon’s President Ali Bongo is physically and mentally incapable of ruling the country.

Residents of Gabon’s capital Libreville woke up to shots being fired and tanks patrolling streets early on Monday after military officers launched a coup attempt in the country.

Here are three things you need to know about what’s happening:

1. Who is behind the coup and what is its objective?
Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, the soldier who announced the seizure of power through national media, identified himself as deputy commander of the Republican Guard and president of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defense and Security Forces (MPJFDS).

According to his statement, the group had to take control because Gabon’s President Ali Bongo was physically and mentally incapable of ruling the country due to his health.

He criticised “the high military hierarchy” for failing to defend “the best interest of the nation” by tolerating the president’s lies about his health, referring to a New Year’s speech made in Morocco in which he claimed he was well.

The government of Gabon later Monday declared it was in control after it said four of the five plotters had been arrested.

“Calm has returned, the situation is under control,” government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told AFP news agency.

Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang announced the seizure of power on national media

Ondo Obiang said the aim of the coup was to save democracy and preserve “the integrity of the national territory and national cohesion”.

Describing the attempt as “Operation Dignity”, he asked all security forces and the youth of Gabon to arm themselves and “take control of all means of transport, barracks, security checkpoints, armouries, airports”.

Gabon will be ruled by “a national council of restoration” that will be set up shortly, Ondo Obiang said.

He said the coup was being carried out against “those who, in a cowardly way, assassinated our young compatriots on the night of August 31, 2016”, a reference to deadly violence that erupted after Bongo was declared the winner of a disputed election.

2. What is Bongo’s story?
The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for nearly half a century. Ali Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009 after ruling for 42 years.

Ali Bongo’s re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.

The 59-year-old president was hospitalised in October in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke. He has been in Morocco since November to continue treatment.

In his speech to mark the New Year, Bongo acknowledged health problems but said he was recovering. He slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm, but otherwise appeared in decent health.

3. Is this the first coup in the country?
Gabon has experienced a military coup once before. In 1964, army officers rose up against then President Leon Mba, but he took control back within days with the help of then French President Charles de Gaulle.

More than 150 of Mba’s opponents were arrested following the incident with the president vowing to show “no pardon or pity”.



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