The state of Gabon President Ali Bongo’s health has come under heavy scrutiny prompting a media entity suspension, a slew of questions as well as numerous accusations leveled against government officials.
According to an AFP report, citing an unnamed source, Bongo suffered a stroke. “A group of people within the president’s office has opted for evasiveness, duplicity and even (for telling) a state lie,” coalition political entity National Union said in a statement.
The opposition National Union was formed in 2010 after the African Development Movement (MAD), the Gabonese Union for Democracy and Development (UGDD) and the National Republican Rally (RNR) merged.
On Friday, Gabon’s official media watchdog announced the three-month suspension of newspaper L’Aube for publishing an article stating that Gabon was on “autopilot” due to Bongo’s hospitalization and suggesting that Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet be appointed the interim leader.
A spokesperson for the head of state, Ike Ngouoni, first stated that “persistent vertigo... [had prompted medical attention and] first tests revealed bleeding which justified medical-surgical care in a highly specialized sector.”
But, following the spokesman’s initial remark, Bongo’s condition was quickly upgraded to “greatly improved” and “recovering most of his functions.”
However, on Sunday, Ngouoni, changed tune and acknowledged that the 59-year-old president had indeed been treated for a “serious illness.”
The National Union pointed out that the two statements from the spokesman were “completely contradictory” and could be considered “grave and harmful” if the government was actively withholding information, about the condition of President Bongo, from the Gabonese people.
In October, Ngouoni had also issued a statement declaring that Bongo was suffering from “severe fatigue” following the president being hospitalized in Saudi Arabia while attending an economic summit.
At that time, Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet was required to fly to Riyadh “with a nationally representative delegation” to reportedly hold a meeting with Bongo, Saudi authorities and a medical team.
Bongo took office after his father, Omar Bongo, died in 2009 after four decades at the helm.
Gabon - which has a population of nearly two million people - has large oil, mineral and tropical timber resources with a per capita national income that is four times greater than that of most sub-Saharan nations.