The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said Saturday that he is deeply concerned about instability in the West African nation of Gabon as its leader remains hospitalized.
Faki, alongside AU President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, wished President Ali Bongo a full recovery in an announcement made from Addis Ababa, where leaders are meeting for an AU summit. Yet the power struggles in Libreville over who is leading the country in Bongo’s absence are escalating into cause for concern.
The country’s vice president, Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou, took over on Friday with a meeting of the country’s ministerial council. The move is facilitated by Gabon’s high court, which changed the constitution on Wednesday to allow for the interim leader. That decision was rejected by opposition parties who warned of a political and constitutional crisis.
Faki called on all parties to “show the necessary collective leadership during this time in order to preserve unity, peace and stability in the country.” He also said the AU will send a fact-finding mission to Libreville to assist.
Bongo has remained under care in Riyadh since an October 23 trip to attend the “Davos in the Desert” investment forum. The severity of his condition, believed to be stroke-related, was not acknowledged until a formal statement from Gabonese government spokesman Ike Ngouoni released last Sunday.
While he did not provide medical details, Ngouoni corrected an earlier statement attributing Bongo’s condition to severe fatigue. The lack of information caused the political opposition, and then the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) as well, to press for transparency on Bongo’s situation.
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.
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 his opponent Jean Ping, who has never accepted results of the disputed 2016 contest and again declared himself the real Gabonese president in Bongo’s absence.
Image: Presidency Gabon