Soldiers seize radio station in oil-rich Gabon in coup attempt

 
James Booth
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Gabon's president Ali Bongo (pictured) has been ill since an apparent stroke in October (Source: Getty)

Soldiers have launched a coup in oil-rich West African state Gabon in attempt to oust the country’s ailing President Ali Bongo.


Army officers seized the national radio station this morning and read a short statement proclaiming a "National Restoration Council".

Ali Bongo, who succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009, suffered an apparent stroke in October and has been out of the country for two months receiving medical treatment.


In an attempt to persuade Gabonese citizens of his health, he recorded a New Year address which said he was feeling fine.

The coup plotters said the message was a “pitiful sight” and said "It reinforced doubts about his ability to assume the responsibilities of his role as President of the Republic".

The government of Gabon said the political situation is “under control” and said four of the attempted plotters had been arrested.

Bongo won re-election in 2016 by fewer than 6,000 votes, which led to deadly clashes between protesters and police.

Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, who read the statement released by the coup plotters, described himself as an officer in the Republican Guard and leader of the Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon.

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