Gabon’s ex-president Ali Bongo Ondimba has been granted the freedom to travel abroad for medical treatment, following his release from house arrest by the military.
Bongo, who was toppled from power after winning disputed elections, had been held under house arrest since August 30. However, due to his deteriorating health, he is now allowed to leave the country for medical check-ups.
Gabon’s military spokesman, Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi, announced Bongo’s release and stated that he is free to move about as he wishes. The statement was signed by General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, who was sworn in as Gabon’s new head of state on Monday. Oligui, a cousin of Bongo, had been a bodyguard to Bongo’s late father and headed the country’s elite military unit, the republican guard.
Bongo’s release gives him the option to leave the country if he decides to do so. Reports from Dakar, Senegal suggest that he intends to seek medical treatment abroad. Five years ago, Bongo suffered a stroke and has not been able to access his own doctors since. This grant of freedom to travel is seen as a positive step towards ensuring that he receives the medical attention he requires.
Ali Bongo Ondimba is a controversial figure in Gabonese politics, having extended his 14-year rule as president through much-criticized elections. His victory sparked widespread protests and allegations of election fraud. The military coup that led to his removal from power was seen as a response to the discontent among the population.
“For his family, this is a significant issue. His wife and son Noureddin were held captive on the fourth floor of the presidential palace. All of them are facing serious charges of high treason,” stated.
According to Nguema, the new leader of the country, they will be brought to justice for allegedly embezzling funds from the state treasury.
Following his inauguration at the presidential palace on Monday, Oligui declared that the military had peacefully assumed control and intends to restore power to the people through fair and transparent elections.
While many citizens in Gabon have expressed support for the coup, it has been widely condemned by both the African Union and international community.