A group of soldiers attempted to take power and called in a radio appeal for a popular uprising against ailing President Ali Bongo, who is abroad recovering from a stroke.

A still image taken from a video posted on January 7, 2019, shows military officers giving a statement from a radio station in Libreville, Gabon.
A still image taken from a video posted on January 7, 2019, shows military officers giving a statement from a radio station in Libreville, Gabon. (Reuters)

Gabon said it foiled an attempted coup on Monday after a group of soldiers called for a popular uprising while the country's ailing president was abroad.

The chief military rebel who led a failed coup in Gabon and seven others have been arrested after they stormed a public radio station, the presidency said. Two of the rebelling military men were killed. 

A group of soldiers attempted to take power and called in a radio appeal for a popular uprising against ailing President Ali Bongo, who is abroad recovering from a stroke.

Security forces stormed the radio station in the capital Libreville to take it back, killing two rebel troops, arresting their leader and freeing journalists who had been forced to help rebels make their appeal.

"The situation is under control," the presidency statement said.

The six rebel troops had burst into the state radio broadcasting station, "neutralising" gendarmes in front of the building before making their broadcast, it said.

The message was read by a person who identified himself as Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, the deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a previously unknown group, the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.

He said a " national restoration council" would be formed in the former French colony "to guarantee a democratic transition for the Gabonese people."

Support for the Bongo government

"The African Union strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in Gabon," the head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on Twitter. "I reaffirm the AU's rejection of all anti-constitutional change."

France, which ruled Gabon from 1885 until independence in 1960, said it condemned "any extra-constitutional attempt at regime change."

"The stability of Gabon can only be assured by strict adherence to the provisions of the constitution," foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in Paris.

The Turkish foreign ministry condemned the coup in a statement. "Turkey is against all attempts aiming to unlawfully change elected governments," the ministry said. 

The Bongo family

Bongo is staying at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke. 

In a televised New Year message from Rabat, Bongo said he will return home soon but has not been in the West African country since October.

Bongo, 59, came to power through an election in 2009 following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled the central African country for 41 years.

Gabon has been rocked by sporadic violence since the 2009 poll, the results of which have been questioned by the country’s political opposition.

For the past 50 years, the Bongo family has dominated Gabon, where a third of the population lives below the poverty line despite the country’s vast mineral wealth.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies