A coup attempt in Gabon has resulted in soldiers taking over the state radio and calling on the people to “rise up” ahead of the formation of a “national restoration council”.
According to AFP, gunshots were heard around state television headquarters in the centre of the capital at about the same time as the message was read at 6:30 am (0530 GMT).
Military vehicles also blocked access to the boulevard where the offices are located.
The message was read on state radio by a person who identified himself as the Deputy Commander of the Republican Guard and head of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.
Three soldiers wearing the green beret of the Republican Guard were visible on a video of the speech circulating on social media and authenticated by AFP.
The movement “calls on all young people from forces for the defence and security and Gabonese young people to join us,” the officer said, announcing that a “national restoration council” would be formed.
“We cannot abandon our homeland,” he said.
“The eagerly awaited day has arrived when the army has decided to put itself on the side of the people in order to save Gabon from chaos.
“If you are eating, stop; if you are having a drink, stop; if you are sleeping, wake up. Wake up your neighbours… rise up as one and take control of the street.”
He called on people to occupy public buildings and airports throughout the country.
Ali Bongo, President of Gabon since October 2009, has been recuperating in Rabat, capital of Morocco, and hasn’t stepped into the West African country since falling ill in Saudi Arabia on October 24
The 59-year-old leader has not been back to Gabon since he fell ill in Saudi Arabia on October 24.
It was revealed last month that he had suffered a stroke.
On December 31, he addressed the country for the first time since falling ill, saying in a recorded speech from Morocco that he had “been through a difficult period.”
The Bongo family has governed the oil-rich equatorial African nation for five decades.
Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father’s death in 2009.
He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.
Meanwhile, the government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told AFP: “Calm has returned, the situation is under control.”
Of the five who entered the radio station, “four have been arrested and one is on the run,” according to Mapangou.
Security forces have been deployed in the capital and will remain there over the coming days in order to maintain order, he said.
The elite Republican Guard was deployed around the building and armoured vehicles blocked access to the area, an AFP correspondent saw.
Mapangou added that the gunfire earlier was to control a crowd.