The Gabon army moved Monday to fill the power vacuum in the west African nation by taking over a national radio station — the latest signs of instability since its president had a stroke.
Gunfire was heard around the capital city of Libreville Monday as hundreds rallied in support of the coup attempt. But government officials said most of the renegade officers have been arrested and the “situation is under control.”
Soldiers loyal to the government fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told RFI four of the five officers were arrested.
“It seems it was a group of troublemakers because military officials say they weren’t aware of this group,” he said.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba had a stroke Oct. 24 while visiting Saudi Arabia and has since been treated in Morocco. His ailment has spurred a power struggle in the nation of about 2 million on Africa’s west-central coast.
Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang seized on the apparent weakness Bongo showed in a New Year’s address, saying it “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out the responsibilities of his office.”
“Once again, one time too many, the wielders of power deceptively continue to instrumentalize the person of Ali Bongo Andimba, a patient devoid of many of his physical and mental faculties,” he said.
In a video posted online, Ondo Obiang wore a military uniform and green beret flanked by two soldiers with assault rifles.
Bongo narrowly won re-election to a second seven-year term in 2016, a close contest that sparked violent protests and accusations of corruption. Bongo’s father ruled Gabon for 42 years.
President Donald Trump told Congress last week the first of 80 U.S. troops have arrived in Gabon to protect American citizens and diplomatic facilities in case additional violence breaks out.