Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, in his first televised speech since he returned to the country after a long absence due to a stroke, on Saturday called on his prime minister to form a new government.
He called for a smaller government, capable of being “exemplary, honest and ethical”.
Ali Bongo last month sacked his vice president and forestry minister following a scandal over the smuggling of precious timber.
The recorded speech came more than two months after his return to the country after a five-month absence in Morocco, where he was recovering from a stroke.
And it came as the country marked the 10th anniversary of the death of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who ruled the country before him for 41 years.
Television pictures showed Ali Bongo, his wife and senior politicians at a mass in his memory in the presidential palace on the seafront of the capital Libreville.
Saturday’s speech was the first speech by the president since before his stroke.
But apart from a few words spoken on his return to the country in late March, he has said nothing in public since.
During his extended absence, the army quashed a brief attempted coup.
When he did return, on March 23, some opposition politicians called for a judicial enquiry into his state of health to determine if he was still capable of leading the country.
Ali Bongo took office after an election in 2009 that followed the death of his father.
Militia behead 16 people in new DR Congo massacre – civil society
Suspected militia fighters have decapitated 16 people in a new village massacre near Beni in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, civil society sources said Friday.
Three more civilians were wounded in Beni town by an explosive device on Thursday night, an official source said, in a new tactic in a region beset by militia violence for decades.
The killings on Thursday in the Mbau region north of Beni have been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia group responsible for a string of massacres since the start of November.
“Sixteen decapitated bodies have been found in searches that started in the evening,” Jamal Moussa, spokesman for the network of civil society organisations in Mbau said.
The massacre targeted the small village of Mantumbi.
“The ADF terrorists attacked in daylight (on Thursday), first in the bush where people were in their fields, and then in the village,” Moussa said.
DR Congo forces launched operations against the ADF in the eastern region at the end of October. But in response, the ADF has carried out massacres, in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.
At least 100 people have been killed since November 5 in attacks blamed on the ADF, an Islamist-rooted militia with origins in Uganda.
No military sources would officially confirm Thursday’s report, but the Congolese army and UN troops deployed to the vast country have announced joint operations against ADF forces in the Beni region.
Another civil society group, Lucha, reported a toll of at least nine people killed near Mbau.
The administrative chief of Rwenzori, one of the four districts of the town, Alois Mbwarara, said two passengers on a motorbike reportedly threw an explosive device which blew up in the market, wounding three people.
“The ADF, on the run from the Congolese army, now uses their stooges in the town for acts of sabotage,” he said.
The army is analysing debris to determine whether it was a homemade bomb or a hand grenade.”
The last time an explosive device was used in Beni was in 2007, the official added.
The Congolese army has discovered “a factory for large-scale production of homemade bombs” at a seized ADF camp, military spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga said on Wednesday.
Hundreds gather as DR Congo buries 27 massacre victims
Mourners gathered in silence around the Oicha morgue, near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni
The DR Congo town of Oicha on Friday buried 27 victims of the latest massacre in the sprawling country’s east, with hundreds paying homage to the dead.
Mourners gathered in silence around the Oicha morgue, near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni, the scene of repeated deadly attacks.
Workers wore face masks as they wrapped the corpses in shrouds. Wooden crosses marked the graves and many wept as the bodies were lowered.
During the mass funerals, gunfire broke out from the nearby bush but it was unclear who was firing.
The victims had been hacked to death with machetes on Wednesday, taking to 107 the number of people killed in and around Beni since November 5.
The vast majority of the killings have been allegedly carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia that has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east since the 1990s.
The massacres have sparked protests against the local United Nations peacekeeping mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO.
Meanwhile, a general shutdown was observed in Goma, the main city in DRC’s east, in solidarity with the beleaguered residents of Beni and Oicha.
The UN refugee agency said there has been an exodus of locals from Oicha to Beni, about 30 kilometres away.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday announced that among other things”… alarming reports from the region suggest people being trapped and under threat from the armed groups, with daily reports of loss of life.”
Abductions and attacks on schools, health centres and indigenous communities are also on the rise.
Information remains difficult to verify, as the movement of humanitarian workers is restricted due to insecurity around the city and in the territory of Beni, as a result of violence.”
Gabon detains 8 over theft and oil revenue embezzlement
The current investigations are a follow-up to Operation Mamba — an anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 by President Ali Bongo
Oil-rich Gabon has detained eight people for theft and money-laundering as the government intensifies a crackdown on corruption, the prosecutor for the capital Libreville said Thursday.
The revived anti-graft drive has seen a string of top-level arrests in the country, as accusations that millions of Euros have disappeared from state coffers swirl around top officials.
“Eight people have been placed in preventive detention,” said prosecutor Andre Patrick Roponat, adding that they were accused of “siphoning public funds and money-laundering.”
The group appeared before a judge on Wednesday along with eight others who were released on bail, Roponat said.
Pro-government newspaper L’Union reported this week that more than 85 billion CFA francs have “evaporated” over the past two years from the funds of the Gabon Oil Company.
The current investigations are a follow-up to Operation Mamba — an anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 by President Ali Bongo, who has been battling serious illness.
The 60-year-old president said last month he is “fiercely determined” to push ahead with the campaign against graft.
One high-profile political figure embroiled in the affair is Brice Laccruche Alihanga, Bongo’s former cabinet director who took the lead and spoke for the president after he suffered a stroke in 2018.
Laccuruche held his cabinet post for more than two years but was dismissed on November 7, at the start of a wave of arrests.
He has announced on social media that he will undertake a new mission for “the president and for Gabon”.
Earlier this week, lawyers told international media that presidential spokesman Ike Ngouoni and a dozen others were arrested and questioned over their ties to Alihanga.
During his months-long absence abroad for treatment, speculation over Bongo’s fitness surged and the army quashed a brief attempted coup.
Bongo has ruled Gabon since 2009, following the death of his father Omar Bongo, who was in power from 1967.
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