Gabon president freed from house arrest, military leaders say

Ali Bongo Ondimba is now able to have medical check-ups abroad

Torn campaign posters of ousted Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his political party the Gabonese Democratic Party in Libreville. AFP
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Gabon’s ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba has been freed from the house arrest he was placed under by the military after it staged a coup last week.

Mr Bongo is now free to travel abroad for medical appointments, Gabon's new military leaders said.

“He can, if he wishes, go abroad to carry out his medical checks," Col Ulrich Manfoumbi, spokesman for the transition committee, said on state television.

The status of Mr Bongo's health is not immediately clear, although he suffered a stroke in 2018 that kept him incapacitated for months.

Local television Gabon24 broadcast a meeting late on Wednesday between Mr Bongo and Abdou Barry, head of the UN Office for Central Africa.

“I found him in good health,” Mr Barry said.

Mr Bongo, 64, was removed from power amid a resurgence of coups in parts of Africa. It came shortly after he was declared the winner of a disputed election that would have extended his family’s 55-year reign. Mr Bongo succeeded his father in 2009.

Gabon's new military leader, Gen Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, met regional and local authorities this week, promising better infrastructure and a peaceful transition to citizens in the oil-rich Central African nation.

“Our discussions focused on the current situation of our nation as well as the promising prospects of the transition,” Gen Nguema wrote of his meeting with Mr Barry on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Concerns remained about the military takeovers and the delayed return of democracies in parts of Africa where soldiers have promised a lengthy transition process. The new military leader in Gabon has also promised to return power to the people by organising free, transparent and credible elections, but gave no date for a transition.

At Gen Nguema's meeting this week with senior Gabonese government officials, he pledged to deliver “real development” to people whose oil wealth has been widely seen to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

Nearly 40 per cent of Gabonese, aged 15 to 24, were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank.

“We want simple things for the Gabonese people,” he said on television, promising national health care and improved education and environmental policy.

"But to achieve this, you must first have an effective administration,” he added.

Updated: September 07, 2023, 2:34 PM