February 25, 2019 / 1:04 PM / 7 months ago

Gabon president returns home for second time since suffering stroke

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba arrives for a group picture at the BRICS summit meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon President Ali Bongo returned to his country late on Sunday for the second time since suffering a stroke in October, a source at the presidency told Reuters on Monday.

Contradictory information about Bongo’s health and an extended convalescence in Morocco have fuelled instability in Gabon which his family has ruled for over 50 years.

“The president returned yesterday. This morning he has meetings with the heads of constitutional institutions and then with certain members of the government,” the source said, adding that no public appearances were scheduled.

Asked if the return was permanent, the source said: “nothing has been said or determined by his medical staff on this subject”.

Frustration at the lack of information boiled over in January, when a small group of soldiers briefly took over state radio and called for the president to step aside.

In an apparent effort to shore up his political base after the failed coup attempt, Bongo paid a short visit to Gabon the following week to swear in a new government. From televised footage of the ceremony it was not clear if he could walk or move his right arm.

Bongo took over the presidency when his father Omar Bongo died in 2009. He won re-election in 2016 by fewer than 6,000 votes amid widespread accusations of fraud, sparking deadly clashes between protesters and police during which the country’s parliament was torched.

Reporting by Geraud Wilfried Obangome; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Ed Osmond

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