Gabon’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba has been absent from his country since October when he left for a conference in Saudi Arabia and fell ill.
After several speculations of transferring the 59 years old president from the King Faisal hospital in Riyadh to a hospital in Europe, Ali Bongo was moved to Rabat in Morocco on Wednesday to recover from what was reported to be a stroke.
First Lady Sylvie Bongo said in a Facebook post that the decision to transfer her husband to Morocco follows an invitation by King Mohammed VI.
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“My husband intends to take advantage of this brief period of convalescence to regain his full physical abilities, as well as to work on the most important issues for our country Gabon,” she said while indicating that key government officials will join him in the hospital to work on urgent matters.
She wrote that “principal decision-makers at the heart of the presidency” will join Bongo. Meanwhile, a source told RFI’s Service Afrique that the president had requested that presidential staff including the secretary general, office director, protocol chief and spokesperson join him to work.
Some weeks earlier, Gabon’s constitutional court gave the vice president and prime minister some powers to carry out certain roles of the president while he is away. However, the government spokesperson, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, told the media that there is no power vacuum and the president is getting better.
Ali Bongo joins a long list of African leaders who suffered from serious ill health while in office and who have sought treatment outside their countries. Some of them include Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Cameroon’s Paul Biya among many others.
President Bongo took over power in 2009 following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled Gabon since 1967.