Gabon’s military says deposed president Ali Bongo ‘free’ to travel abroad

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Bongo’s release comes after General Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as Gabon’s new head of state on Monday.

Gabon’s deposed president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, has been released from house arrest and is free to leave the country for medical treatment, the military which removed him from power last month has said.

Bongo was toppled from power on August 30, shortly after being declared the winner of much-criticised elections that would have seen him extend his 14-year rule as president.

“Given his state of health, the former President of the Republic Ali Bongo Ondimba is free to move about. He may, if he wishes, travel abroad for medical checkups,” Gabon’s military spokesman Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi said in a statement read on national television on Wednesday evening.

The statement announcing Bongo’s release from house arrest was signed by General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, who was sworn in as Gabon’s new head of state on Monday.

Oligui is a cousin of Bongo, had served as a bodyguard to Bongo’s late father and also headed the country’s republican guard, an elite military unit.

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, said Bongo now has the option to leave the country if he decides to do so.

Bongo suffered a stroke five years ago and has not had access to his own doctors, Haque said.

“For his family, it’s another issue. His wife was held on the fourth floor of the presidential palace with his son Noureddin. All of them are accused of high treason,” Haque said.

And according to the country’s new ruler Nguema, they will have to face justice as they have been accused of stealing money from state coffers, Haque added.

After taking an oath of office in the presidential palace on Monday, Nguema said the military had seized control of the country without violence and would return power to the people by organising credible and free elections.

The coup has been welcomed by members of the public in Gabon but has drawn condemnation from the African Union and the international community.

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