Gabon top officials join ailing president in Morocco

Tuesday December 4 2018

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. PHOTO | AFP 

By AFP
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Gabon's top government officials gathered Tuesday in Rabat where President Ali Bongo is recovering after treatment for an illness that has not been officially revealed, his office said.

The 59-year-old leader, who fell ill on October 24 at an economic forum, arrived in Morocco last week following a month's treatment at a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, Vice-President Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou and the head of the constitutional court, Ms Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, were among the senior officials to join Bongo in Rabat, the president's office told AFP Tuesday.

A day earlier, Morocco's King Mohammed VI, a long-time friend of President Bongo's, visited the latter at the military hospital.

A short video

The palace later released a handout picture and a short video which it said showed the pair's encounter.

Both leaders are seen seated together -- with President Bongo smiling and dressed in a turban and djellaba robe -- next to the flags of their countries.

The move came after persistent rumours over the health of the Gabonese president for more than a month.

After an extended period of silence, the Gabonese presidency eventually admitted last month that President Bongo was "seriously ill" and had undergone surgery, but said he was on the mend.

Beating opposition

His recovery would take weeks, or even days, a source in the presidency said last week.

A lack of official news -- along with memories of the secrecy-shrouded death of President Bongo's father Omar Bongo in 2009 after decades at the helm -- had sparked numerous rumours, including speculation he was incapacitated or even dead.

The Bongo family has governed Gabon for five decades. Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father's death.

He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 after beating opposition challenger Jean Ping by a few thousand votes following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

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