Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba is undergoing “routine medical checks” in London during a family trip, the presidency said on Monday, denying his health was deteriorating nearly a year after he suffered a stroke.
Bongo’s state of health has been the subject of fierce speculation, as the Gabonese leader has made few appearances and spoken only a few words in public since returning in March after treatment overseas.
The 60-year-old leader suffered a stroke last October while visiting Saudi Arabia.
“At no time has the president’s health deteriorated, on the contrary … Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba is on his way to recovering his full physical abilities,” the statement from the presidency said.
It said the Gabonese president remains in charge of the country and would return home soon.
Gabon’s government denied a Bloomberg news agency report, which cited sources familiar with the matter saying Bongo was hospitalised in London with his condition worsening.
“The President of the Republic is not hospitalised (…) but is on a private stay in his London residence where he took a few days off with his family,” the presidency said.
“He is performing routine medical checks and continues his rehabilitation.”
Health checks –
Last month, Bongo appeared in public twice to attend the country’s independence day celebrations, laying a wreath at a tomb and the next day using a long cane to walk to an observation stand for a military parade.
After his stroke, with the initial months of absence and official silence, speculation about his health and fitness to govern were further inflamed when he returned home to Libreville.
Ten members of Gabon’s political opposition, civil society and trade unions had filed a legal petition requesting Bongo be assessed to see whether he is medically fit to continue in office.
But earlier on Monday Gabon’s Court of Appeal refused to hear that suit.
The appeals court has “buried” the case, said Jean-Paul Moumbembe, a lawyer for the petitioners, as he left Monday’s session.
A lower court dismissed the case in May. It said only the two houses of parliament, or the Constitutional Court acting at the behest of the government, were empowered to determine whether the president was unfit.
But on August 12, the Court of Appeal said it would hear an appeal by the plaintiffs. The court’s president was then suspended for two months by the ministry of justice.
It said she had contravened a decision by the Court of Cassation, the paramount authority in Gabon’s judicial system, which had ordered the case dropped.
In her absence, appeals judges on Monday sent the case back to the Court of Cassation, according to Bongo’s attorney, Tony Serge Minko Mi Ndong.
“Either the court will rule in our favour and put an end to this or it will rule to the contrary and send it back to the appeals court,” he said.
But opposition attorney Moumbembe said: “We should consider this case buried forever” while the Call to Action group which filed the petition, called the appeals court ruling “fixed” justice.
Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who became head of state in 1967 and died in June 2009, leaving a legacy of corruption allegations.
ADF rebels claim lives in Democratic Republic of Congo
Between 10 and 21 civilians were killed in two attacks by a notorious ADF militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where government forces have vowed to root out armed groups, sources said Wednesday.
Seven people were killed in the city of Beni and between three and 14 were killed near Oicha, 30 kilometres (18 miles) away, according to the UN radio Okapi, which quoted the military, and local civil society.
The attacks late Tuesday were blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia of Ugandan origin targeted by an army campaign to restore peace to DR Congo’s troubled east.
At least 60 people have been killed by the ADF since the offensive began on October 30, according to a toll compiled by reporters.
Commentators see the massacres as warnings to the local population against collaborating with government forces.
The city of Beni was last targeted by the ADF in October 2018.
The latest attacks sparked an exodus in the Beni district of Boikene and in the Mavete district of Oichi.
Protests erupted against poor security, and members of the UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, were advised not to go out on the streets of Beni.
The ADF’s historical roots lie in Islamist Ugandans opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The group has plagued the North Kivu region bordering Uganda since the Congo Wars in the 1990s, although its membership has since broadened to non-Ugandans and it has not carried out an attack on Uganda for years.
Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the shadowy organisation since 2015.
The so-called Islamic State group has claimed some of the attacks ascribed to the ADF this year, but there is no clear evidence of any affiliation between the two groups.
Angolan parliament suspends ex-President’s daughter, Welwitschia dos Santos
Nicknamed “Tchize”, Welwitschia was elected to parliament in 2008 and joined the central committee of the ruling MPLA in 2016
Angola’s parliament has suspended a daughter of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos for “unjust enrichment” as his successor seeks to crack down on nepotism past and present.
Dos Santos appointed several family members to key economic and political positions during his 38-year rule, which ended after he stepped down in September 2017.
Welwitschia dos Santos, nicknamed “Tchize”, was elected to parliament in 2008 and joined the central committee of the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in 2016.
The National Assembly late on Tuesday voted to suspend Welwitschia — one of the ex-president’s six children — from parliament, saying her absenteeism from the body amounted to “unjust enrichment”.
Tchize, the former president’s second daughter, moved to Britain last year after claiming Angola’s secret services were threatening her.
Lower profile than her half-sister Isabel — a billionaire businesswoman appointed to head the state oil company during her father’s reign — Tchize was an influential figure in Angolan media and controlled one of the country’s leading advertising agencies.
From Britain, Tchize has repeatedly used WhatsApp to blast her father’s successor Joao Lourenco.
In her latest recording, she accused parliament of political persecution and claimed she did not choose to leave Angola.
“I had to flee because I was being threatened with death by the MPLA,” Tchize said via WhatsApp on Tuesday.
“I am completely censured by public press and even by most private media (outlets) controlled by people linked to the regime,” she added.
The MPLA had already threatened to suspend Tchize’s mandate in May for spending more than 90 consecutive days abroad.
Lourenco has launched a large-scale purge of the administration and public companies, mainly targeting dos Santos’ relatives.
The President dismissed Isabel dos Santos from her position as chair of state oil company Sonangol two months after he took office.
Her brother, Jose Filomeno who was appointed in 2013 by his father as head of Angola’s sovereign fund, was also dismissed from his post in January 2018.
Most members of the dos Santos family have moved abroad.
Lourenco is struggling to wean Angola’s economy off of oil, which accounts for one-third of the country’s GDP and more than 90 per cent of exports.
7 Cameroonian soldiers plead not guilty to executing women and children
The video that went viral on social networks in early July 2018 showed men in military uniform summarily executing two women and two kids
Seven Cameroonian soldiers accused of killing two women and their children in an alleged summary execution that was caught on video pleaded not guilty at a military tribunal on Monday.
The six soldiers and a captain have been charged with joint participation in murder, breach of regulations and conspiracy, according to the indictment.
The video that went viral on social networks in early July 2018 showed men in military uniform summarily executing two women, blindfolded and on their knees, along with a little girl and a baby one of the mothers was carrying on her back.
The video was initially dismissed as “fake news” by the Cameroonian authorities. But Amnesty International revealed credible evidence that Cameroon’s military was responsible, and the authorities later announced that the seven soldiers depicted in the video had been arrested and would be prosecuted.
For the first time, the military tribunal in Yaounde trying the soldiers allowed them to enter their pleas, all of which were not guilty, a journalist reported.
The killings took place in 2015 in Zeleved, in Cameroon’s Far North region where troops have been deployed to fight Boko Haram jihadists who have crossed over from Nigeria to wage attacks in the neighbouring country.
During the investigation, the six soldiers claimed they acted on orders from the captain, their superior officer, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
The captain has contested this version of events, claiming he told the soldiers to hand over the two children and their mothers, accused of ties to Boko Haram, to the police, the same lawyer added.
The tribunal has set the next hearing in the case for November 4.
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