Changes in Gabon as Bongo remains away

Wednesday January 30 2019

A handout from the Moroccan Royal Palace of

A handout from the Moroccan Royal Palace of King Mohamed VI (L) with Gabon's President Ali Bongo at the military hospital in the capital Rabat on December 3, 2018. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AFP
By AFP
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Gabon's presidency announced changes Wednesday to the government sworn in two weeks ago, with President Ali Bongo still abroad recovering from a stroke and rival clans jockeying for power.

The main change was the replacement of Etienne Massard Kabinda Makaga as Defence minister with the mayor of Libreville, Ms Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda.

Mr Makaga, who had held the post since 2016, is a member of the Bongo clan.

Mr Biendi Maganga Moussavou, the son of Vice-President Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou, recovered the Agriculture ministry portfolio he lost in the reshuffle two weeks earlier to Mr Ali Akbar Onanga Y'Obeghe.

Mr Norbert Emmanuel Tony Ondo Mba became Energy minister, replacing Christian Magnagna.

Stage a coup

"This is a 'reorganisation' of the government, not a reshuffle," said the president's office.

President Ali Bongo returned to Gabon for just 24 hours earlier this month for the swearing in of the previous ministers before returning to Morocco where he has been recovering from his illness.

Just a week before that visit, a small group of soldiers briefly tried to stage a coup before it was quashed by security forces, who arrested the leader and killed two others.

The newly appointed ministers will not take their oaths in front of President Bongo, said a source in the president's office.

The West African state has been without an effective government for months since President Bongo, 59, suffered the stroke in late October during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

In a wheelchair

After initial treatment at a hospital in Riyadh, President Bongo was transferred to Morocco, officials said.

President Bongo has not been seen in public since being taken to hospital on October 24, though video of the swearing-in ceremony earlier this month offered a few brief shots of him, seated in a wheelchair and squinting slightly.

That appearance has failed to quell speculation about his health.

The Bongo family has governed Gabon for five decades, and long maintained close ties with former colonial master France.

Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father's death in 2009. He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

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