Gabon junta frees deposed Bongo from detention, says he can seek medical care abroad


Gabon’s military government freed President Ali Bongo from house arrest, a week after overthrowing him in a bloodless coup.

The deposed president is free to seek medical treatment abroad if he wishes, a junta spokesman said on state television in the capital, Libreville, on Wednesday. His release comes two days after coup leader General Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in as transitional president.

Bongo, 64, was shown on television meeting United Nations special envoy Abdou Abary. It was the first time he’s been seen since Aug. 30, when he issued an appeal hours after being placed under house arrest in a video message urging his supporters to “make noise” about the unfolding events in the Central African nation.

The putsch in the former French colony is the ninth in sub-Saharan Africa in the past three years, and follows a coup in Niger last month. The military takeover drew condemnation from the US, Nigeria, France and the African Union, as it sparked a slump in the nation’s dollar bonds and raised concerns of a spillover of the selloff to other African countries with high political risk.

Gabonese bonds have plunged since the military takeover. Debt due in 2031 dropped 2.1 cents on the dollar to 74.88 on Wednesday.

Fitch Ratings this week placed Gabon’s ‘B-’ issuer default rating on negative watch, signaling potential credit-rating adjustments for the nation’s bonds.

Bongo was first elected president in 2009, four months after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had held power since 1967. He was overthrown last week hours after he was declared the winner of a highly-disputed election that was widely condemned as rigged, in which he secured a third seven-year term.

The ruling family’s grip on power has come under pressure in recent years. Soldiers launched a failed coup in 2019, months after Bongo suffered a stroke that sidelined him for almost a year.

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