Gabon’s coup leaders say ousted president is ‘freed’ and can travel on a medical trip

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(LONDON) — Gabon’s ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba has been released from house arrest a week after a group of mutinous soldiers seized power.

The country’s new military leaders, who call themselves the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), announced on state television Wednesday evening that, “given his state of health,” Bongo “is free to move about” and “travel abroad for medical check-ups.”

Bongo’s condition was not immediately clear. Video shared on social media by local TV channel Gabon24 on Wednesday showed the 64-year-old deposed president limping as he met with Abdou Barry, head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa.

The military junta declared a coup d’état on Aug. 30, hours after Bongo won reelection for a third term in a vote that was criticized by international observers. The coup leaders described the election as fraudulent and said the results were “canceled,” all borders “closed until further notice” and state institutions “dissolved.” They also announced that the president was under house arrest in his residence in the Gabonese capital of Libreville.

Bongo, 64, became president of Gabon in 2009 following the death of his father, who had ruled the oil-rich Central African nation since 1967.

The junta has since appointed Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema as chairman of the CTRI and president of the transitional government. Nguema met with local and regional officials earlier this week, pledging to improve infrastructure and shepherd the country through a peaceful transition back to civilian rule.

Gabon’s coup marked the eighth to occur in West and Central Africa since 2020. It came about a month after a military junta in Niger ousted the West African nation’s democratically elected government.

Gabon, home to more than two million people, is located on the western coast of Central Africa, sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. The country is a member of OPEC, with a production of 181,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

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