Soldiers in Gabon took over state radio in an attempt to seize power in a coup on Monday, but the government said four of the plotters had been arrested and that normalcy would be restored in the Central African nation.
A fifth suspect was on the run, Reuters reported, after soldiers announced plans for a “national council of restoration,” in a country where the ruling Bongo family has been dogged by accusations of corruption and fraud during nearly a half-century in power.
Government soldiers swarmed the streets of the capital, Libreville, guarding the national radio and TV stations, but things appeared to be returning to normal. “The government is in place,” a government spokesman, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, told France 24. “The institutions are in place.”
Ali Bongo Ondimba, the president, has been out of Gabon since October while receiving medical treatment for what many believe was a stroke he suffered while attending a conference in Saudi Arabia. He had sought to reassure the nation he was fit during a New Year’s Eve speech televised from Morocco, where he is recuperating.
Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defense and Security Forces of Gabon, said on state radio that the speech “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office,” Reuters reported. Local news media reported that shots had been heard in Libreville.
There was no immediate comment from Mr. Bongo or his administration about the developments in Gabon, where his family has long been criticized for enriching itself with proceeds from the country’s rich oil and mineral wealth while much of its population lives in poverty.
During his speech on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Bongo said, “It is true that I have been through a difficult period, as sometimes happens in life. Today, as you can see, I am better and I am preparing to meet you again soon.”
The video failed to put the matter to rest, with observers noting that Mr. Bongo slurred some words and did not move his right arm.
Mr. Bongo’s time as president has been accompanied by criticism that he has carried out fraudulent elections, sometimes to violent ends, in hopes of hanging on to power. His father, Omar, was president for 42 years before dying in office in 2009.
When Mr. Bongo was first elected to replace his father, logistical issues during an unanticipated election led to accusations of irregularities. Mr. Bongo edged out his opponent, Jean Ping, but the 2016 contest was marred by accusations that the vote counting was tainted by fraud.
Protesters at the time set fire to the Parliament building, and the presidential guard was accused of attacking Mr. Ping’s headquarters, killing two people and wounding others.
Yet Mr. Bongo’s actions to protect his nation’s relatively untouched forests, savannas and coastlines, all teeming with wildlife, earned praise from conservationists.
Mr. Bongo, who served as foreign and defense minister before becoming president, is almost entirely French educated, and is also a jazz musician who years ago released a funk album.
With tensions running high after recent presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo nearby, President Trump said on Friday that he had sent about 80 troops to Gabon in case the election dispute made it necessary to evacuate Americans.