Gabon military seizes State Radio in apparent coup

By Eric Mbog Batassi and Elie Smith

(Bloomberg) – Military officers seized Gabon’s national radio to read a statement announcing they want to install a “restoration council” in what appears to be a coup, as gunfire rang out over the capital, Libreville, on Monday.

Young members of the security forces are disappointed with a speech by President Ali Bongo on Dec. 31 that he broadcast from Morocco, where he’s been recovering from a stroke for more than two months, according to Ondo Obiang Kelly, a lieutenant who read the statement. Helicopters were circling overhead near the building of the state broadcaster.

“I am locked up in my house like many others, but information I have is that fighting is going on” around the offices of the state broadcaster RTG, former Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima said by phone from Libreville. “Things are still very confused, hence I can’t say for sure whether it is a coup d’etat or a mutiny of the rank and file of the army.”

Bongo has only appeared in public twice since he was rushed to the hospital while attending an investment conference in Riyadh on Oct. 24, in videos recorded in Rabat. He has been in power since elections that were held months after the 2009 death in office of his father, Omar Bongo, who was at the time the world’s longest-serving president. He was re-elected in a disputed 2016 vote that the opposition said was rigged, defeating main opposition leader Jean Ping by a tiny margin.

Oil-dependent Gabon is the second-smallest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.