Ailing Gabonese president calls on government to join him at hospital bedside in Rabat

President Bongo at conference for the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party on 10 December 2017 in Akanda, near Libreville.
President Bongo at conference for the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party on 10 December 2017 in Akanda, near Libreville. Photo: Steve Jordan/AFP

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo travels to Morocco on Wednesday to continue medical treatment after being hospitalised in Saudi Arabia. Bongo’s wife said on Tuesday that her husband’s health had improved and he would “pursue his convalescence” in Rabat following an invitation by Morocco's King Mohammed VI.


“This transfer to Saudi Arabia to Morocco has been made possible following a significant improvement in the health of the president,” Sylvie Bongo wrote in a Facebook post.

“My husband intends to take advantage of this brief period of convalescence to regain his full physical abilities, as well as to work on the most important issues for our country Gabon.”

Rabat move?

Bongo has not been seen publicly since being hospitalised on 24 October during a conference in Saudi Arabia. Gabon’s constitutional court in mid-November ruled that the vice president or prime minister could carry out certain roles in the president’s absence.

“Principal decision-makers at the heart of the presidency” should join Bongo in Rabat, the first lady wrote. Bongo requested that staff within the presidency including the secretary general, office director, protocol chief and spokesperson join him in Rabat to work on urgent matters, according to a source within the presidential palace speaking to RFI’s Service Afrique.

The exact nature of Bongo’s health problem is not entirely clear and his illness is a reminder of his father’s death in 2009 which was shrouded in secrecy.Omar Bongo was treated at a clinic in Spain for cancer while rumours circulated about his death before the government eventually confirmed he had died of a heart attack.

Continuing treatment in Rabat is the wish of the president, his family, wife and government, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, the minister of communication told correspondent Yves-Laurent Goma.

“Maybe in two, three, four days or a week you’ll see pictures of the president,” said Mapangou, in response to a question by RFI’s Libreville correspondent Goma about proof of life for the president.

“We can’t speak of a power vacuum, we are telling you the president is getting better and better,” the government’s spokesperson added.

'Persistent discomfort and vertigo'

The presidency had earlier said that Ali Bongo had “persistent discomfort and vertigo” and was transferred to the King Faysal Hospital in Riyad for appropriate tests and treatment.

The Gabonese opposition have seized upon Bongo’s illness to call for Jean Ping to be automatically recognised as the country's president.

Challenger Ping rejected the results of the 2016 election, which handed Bongo a second term in office with 49 per cent of the vote, further extending the rule of Bongo’s family who have been in power since 1967.

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