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Gabon government: coup d’etat over

media Screen grab of military while reading their statement over Gabonese TV and radio, 7 January, 2019 Reuters

A reported coup d’etat in Gabon mounted by five military officers in the early hours of Monday morning has been thwarted, according to a government spokesman.

“The situation is under control,” said Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, government spokesman, adding that four of the officers had been arrested and a fifth had fled.

The five had taken over the state radio and television station at approximately 6:30 am, amid reports of gunfire, calling on young people from the defence and security forces to join them.

The message, read by a man who called himself Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, said that a “national restoration council” would be created to guarantee a transition to democracy for the Gabonese people.

“We cannot abandon our homeland,” said Kelly, who said he was a part of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces (MPJFDS).

A video of the men shows three of them wearing Republican Guard green berets, while two had assault rifles.

President Ali Bongo, 59, is recuperating in Morocco after suffering a stroke while visiting Saudi Arabia and has not been back in the country since October. He took over power after his father, Omar, who seized control in 1967.

“This morning we were woken, astonished. But I think that we are a country that is used to being political. We are not a country where the military takes charge and makes such a declaration,” Gabriel, a resident of the capital Libreville told RFI, saying there were no people nor military in the street this morning.

“I don’t think [anyone] here has ever seen this type of action in Gabon,” he said.

Everything was shut in the capital on Monday morning, according to Alain, another resident.

“We have to go to little side streets to buy water, bread, to do our shopping. Everything is closed,” he said.

Mapangou says that forces have been deployed to Libreville and will remain until order is restored.

Gabon is currently being run by the prime minister and vice president after the Constitutional Court transferred some of the president’s power in his absence.

Bongo addressed the Gabonese people in a televised message on New Year’s Eve, saying he had been through a difficult period.

The MPJFDS says it considered Bongo’s speech “shameful” and called the transfer of power “illegitimate and illegal.”

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