The official statement has come after a fortnight of intense speculation over the president’s health among locals and mounting pressure from opposition groups and business leaders. Given the concentration of power in the hands of the president in the oil-rich country, uncertainty over his health has also likely triggered caution among investors. Bongo’s family has ruled the country for half a century as Ali Bongo took over in 2009 following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had held power for 42 years.

The ongoing episode over president Bongo’s health is likely all too familiar for Gabonese locals. Nearly a decade ago, former president Omar Bongo passed away in Spain under a shroud of secrecy despite the government’s repeated assurances about his good health. As is usually the case with ailing presidents across Africa, Gabon has tried to control the flow of information since Bongo was hospitalized: last week, it suspended a newspaper for three months for reports suggesting the country was on “autopilot” and could soon appoint an interim president.

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