Ali Bongo returns to Gabon from Morocco following illness

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FILE PHOTO: 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/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: 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/File Photo

Gabon president Ali Bongo returned home on Saturday, accompanied by his wife, after spending several months in Morocco recovering from illness.

Thousands of people, watched over by a strong police presence, turned out to welcome the leader who was received by Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale and senior members of the government.

The ruling Democratic Party had earlier announced Bongo’s imminent return and called on supporters to give the leader a warm reception.

Bongo has only been briefly back to Gabon on two occasions since suffering a stroke in October last year during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Bongo fell ill while attending an economic forum in Saudi Arabia on October 24 and was flown to Morocco to recuperate. The government denied the president had a stroke and, instead, said that he was suffering from fatigue.

After a prolonged silence, the vice president came out in December to announce that Bongo had suffered a stroke after speculation that he may have been incapacitated or was dead.

On New Year’s Eve, Bongo addressed the country for the first time since falling ill in a recorded speech from Morocco which critics maintained showed signs of apparent ill health.

An attempted coup by renegade soldiers on January 7 this year came as a result of Bongo’s continued absence which sparked concerns about a possible power vacuum and his ability to lead the country.

Bongo led a cabinet meeting in late February during which a series of appointments was announced and several close aides were dismissed

Bongo, whose family has ruled the central African nation for nearly fifty years, has been president since succeeding his father Omar in 2009.

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