After nearly three weeks, Gabonese government spokesman Ike Ngouoni admitted Sunday that President Ali Bongo was seriously ill but is now recovering in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Bongo has remained under care in Riyadh since an October 23 trip to attend the “Davos in the Desert” investment forum. The latest word, coming in a formal statement from Ngouoni, adds little in specific detail but is the first since one early statement attributing Bongo’s condition to severe fatigue.
The new information comes following an Africa Intelligence report that said the 59-year-old Bongo had been sedated and in a coma to protect against brain swelling. Various medical and diplomatic sources have said for weeks that he suffered a stroke, but the new report said he was brought out of his medically induced coma last week.
Doctors were working to assess the impacts to Bongo and are expected to make a public statement this week, the report said. “It is expected that Ali Bongo will leave the Saudi hospital in less than a fortnight for several months of recovery, probably in Europe or Morocco,” it added.
The political opposition, and then the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), have pressed for a transparent account of Bongo’s situation. The closest thing to full acknowledgement had come from his wife, Sylvia, who thanked well-wishers and said on Thursday that she and Bongo were touched by the public’s concern.
Ngouoni has condemned “fake news” since rumors and some reports of Bongo’s death have made the rounds. At least two media outlets have been suspended – one as recently as Friday – for questioning the official accounts or insisting that an interim leader be named in Bongo’s absence.
A 2016 election returned Bongo to office for another seven-year term while also bringing violence to the streets of Libreville. His legitimacy remains disputed by opposition politicians including Jean Ping, who has never accepted results of the bitterly disputed 2016 contest and has again declared himself the real Gabonese president in Bongo’s absence.
Image: Sylvia Bongo