Gabonese soldiers announce a coup attempt against the government of President Ali Bongo. Image Credit: Photograph: Gabon Television

Gabon's army declares coup 'to restore democracy'

Military in central African country attempt to overthrow ailing president Ali Bongo

Soldiers in Gabon have appeared on state television saying they have launched a coup against the government of ailing president Ali Bongo.

Early on Monday, one soldier flanked by two others holding guns read out a statement saying the military had seized control of the government “to restore democracy” to the country.

In a separate message on state radio, military officers declared their dissatisfaction with Bongo, who is recovering from a stroke in Morocco.

A New Year’s Eve address by Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office”, said LieutKelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon.

Location map of Gabon Image Credit: Google maps

The radio message was broadcast at about 4.30am local time (0530 GMT), and the TV message shortly afterwards.

A source close to the government said there were gunshots around the national television station, but that the plotters appeared to be a small group of soldiers.

A spokesman for the presidency told Reuters he would make a statement shortly.

Bongo, 59, was hospitalised in October in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke. He has been in Morocco since November to continue treatment.

In his Yew Year speech, Bongo acknowledged he had health problems but said he was recovering.

He slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm, but otherwise appeared in reasonable health.

The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for nearly half a century. Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009.

His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.