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Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Gives First TV Speech Since illness

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.

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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.

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