Gabon’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba hadn’t been seen in public for months. He had fallen ill in October 2018 while visiting Saudi Arabia. Over the next few months, questions about Bongo’s health grew as the government provided little and dueling health reports. In October, the president’s spokesperson said Bongo suffered “severe fatigue.” By mid-November, it was “bleeding.” A month later, the vice president said it was a stroke.
President Ali Bongo came to power in the oil-rich country of Gabon in 2009, after the death of his father who had been in power for 42 years. But Bongo’s rule was contentious. Although Gabon is a relatively stable country, Bongo’s 2016 reelection was met with violence and accusations of fraud.
When Bongo fell ill and disappeared from public life, critics of the president demanded answers. Some spread conspiracy theories that he was dead or replaced by a body double online. And when a video address from Bongo appeared at the end of December 2018, some thought it was a deepfake. A week later, soldiers attempted a coup. Subscribe to The Washington Post on YouTube: https://wapo.st/2QOdcqK