Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is set to return to the international diplomatic scene in Libreville on Wednesday with a summit of Central African Heads of State (CEEAC) more than a year after his stroke and in the midst of an anti-corruption operation that has shaken the heart of power.
This extraordinary summit of ECCAS, an organization created in 1983, bringing together 11 countries with the objective of establishing a common market, was announced a few days ago by the cabinet of Mr. Bongo, who holds the rotating presidency.
It will be devoted “essentially to the institutional reform” of this community which is still struggling to materialize compared to its counterparts from ECOWAS and SADC.
Experts and diplomats see it more as an opportunity for Mr. Bongo to once again appear on the diplomatic scene after a long month of absence – including from Gabonese politics -, recovering abroad then in Gabon after a a stroke in October 2018 that had weakened him considerably.
« Yes, it is his return to the international diplomatic scene, » said Gabonese Foreign Minister Alain Claude Bilie-By-Nze on Monday in an interview with the AFP on the sidelines of the preparation of the summit.
For more than a year, « if we except bilateral meetings, it will be the first time that he will meet with heads of state on a specific subject, the institutional reform of ECCAS », explains the minister .
Six heads of state present
According to the presidency, six heads of state confirmed their presence on Wednesday in Libreville in addition to Mr. Bongo, out of the eleven member countries of ECCAS (Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea Equatorial, Rwanda, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe).
During his convalescence, Mr. Bongo, in power for 10 years after being re-elected in 2016, suffered an attempted coup in January 2019.
His former closest collaborator, who became the real strongman of the country during the president’s absence, ex-chief of staff Brice Laccruche Alihanga, was ousted, charged in particular with embezzlement of public funds and imprisoned alongside three others on Friday ministers. They joined other senior government and administrative officials close to Mr. Laccruche in prison, also accused of corruption.
These rapid upheavals, which have taken the political class by surprise, have occurred in the past four weeks as Mr. Bongo again multiplied public appearances, clearly in better shape than in previous months.