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Gabon - Military seizes national radio station in apparent coup

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7 January 2019 - RPS Partnership

The Story

An unspecified number of soldiers have seized control of the national radio station and broadcast a message at 0430 hrs local time saying they had seized control of the government. Local media sources reported gunfire in the vicinity of the radio station in Libreville.

The unnamed soldiers announced that they would set up a National Restoration Council to manage the political transition. Soldiers have reportedly blocked the central Boulevard Triomphal, while local media reported gunshots near the waterfront. Unconfirmed images and videos shared on social media depicted armoured vehicles and tanks driving through Libreville. In a separate message, the soldiers justified their coup, saying they were unsatisfied with the speed of President Ali Bongo recovery. Bongo is currently in Rabat recovering from a stroke suffered in October 2018.

Soldiers are expected to deploy to key government agencies and are likely to set up checkpoints around police stations and at the entrances to Libreville.

There were no initial reports of clashes between the mutinying and loyalist soldiers, but such fighting cannot be ruled out as the extent of support for the coup in the armed forces remains unclear.

The French embassy in Libreville issued a statement calling expatriates to remain at home until further notice.

The coup is likely to lead to severe disruption to travel, while violence could escalate in the coming hours as soldiers will seek to take control of strategic infrastructure sites. Flight information services have not yet indicated delays or cancellations to flights, although flight disruption at Léon Mba Libreville International Airport is likely to occur in the coming hours.

Five things to know about Gabon (courtesy of BBC)

  • Compared to most West African countries, Gabon has seen much less political turmoil, and has had just three presidents since 1960
  • Former ruler Omar Bongo dominated Gabonese politics for almost four decades, crushing dissent
  • It is a major oil producer but one third of its people live in poverty
  • It has a population of 1.8 million people, with an average life expectancy of 62 years. The youth unemployment rate is around 35%
  • The country's national symbol is the black panther

RPS Partnership advises you not to travel to Gabon at present, until the situation is clearer. Contact us if you need more advice or training on info@rpspartnership.com