Gabon president to speak publicly for first time since stroke

LIBREVILLE, Gabon – Gabon's President Ali Bongo will deliver a speech on New Year's Day, a source close to his entourage said Wednesday, December 26, in what will be the leader's first public address since he had a stroke in October.

The 59-year-old leader has not been back to Gabon since he fell ill in Saudi Arabia on October 24 and will address his nation from Morocco's capital Rabat, where he is recovering, the source told AFP.

The president has "charged the Prime Minister (Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet) to meet the expectations of the citizens" until his return to Gabon at an unspecified date, the source added. (READ: Electoral fraud in Africa getting trickier – experts)

A lack of official news on the leader's health after he first fell ill sparked fevered speculation that he was incapacitated or even dead.

It was only revealed earlier this month that he had suffered a stroke.

A single photograph of Bongo and two videos without sound are all that has been published in the two months since his stroke, further fuelling rumours about his health.

3 opposition party leaders have called for an independent medical team to see Bongo in Rabat to assess whether he can perform his presidential duties. (READ: Gabon parliament set ablaze after Bongo declared winner)

The Bongo family has governed the oil-rich equatorial African nation for 5 decades.

Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father's death in 2009.

He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.–