A group of soldiers sought to take power in Gabon yesterday while the country’s ailing president was abroad, but the government declared the bid had failed and the rebels had been arrested.
Soldiers burst into state radio offices at dawn and called on the public to “rise up”, an appeal made as President Ali Bongo remained in Morocco after suffering a stroke last year. Shots were heard around state broadcasting headquarters in Libreville, capital of the oil-rich West African nation, at about the same time as the message was read.
However, within a few hours, government spokesman GuyBertrand Mapangou told AFP:
“Calm has returned, the situation is under control.” Of the five who entered the radio station,
“Four have been arrested and one is on the run”, Mapangou said, before adding that security forces had been deployed in the capital and will remain there over the coming days. The gunfire, he said, was used to control a crowd.
The elite Republican Guard was deployed around the building and armoured vehicles blocked access to the area, an AFP correspondent saw. In a rundown district nearby, dozens of young people torched a car and set fire to tyres, while the security forces fired teargas to try to disperse them.
The dramatic developments came as Bongo is living at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke. He made a televised speech on New Year’s Eve, but has not been in the country since October.