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Information blackout as Bongo receives treatment in Spain

Text by FRANCE 24 , Adeline PERCEPT

Latest update : 2009-05-26

A Catalan newspaper revealed on Thursday that Gabon’s President Omar Bongo was being treated for cancer in a Spanish hospital. Today, the entourage of Africa's longest-serving president carefully filters information about his state of health.

Barcelona’s private Quiron clinic has turned into something of a fortress since the arrival of Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba. On Thursday, Catalan daily "La Vanguardia" revealed that the long-serving president had been admitted for treatment of a “serious tumour”.

 

On Saturday morning, a member of the Gabonese delegation visited the hospital's intensive care unit. In the afternoon, twenty Gabonese relatives and officials belonging to his entourage visited an area on the 6th floor of the establishment. This area has been curtained off and inaccessible to the public for two weeks now, according to regular clinic visitors and a nurse who asked to remain anonymous. Though it has not been confirmed, it appeared the 73-year-old Bongo is staying in this part of the hospital.

 

The president's aides are not particularly forthcoming with information about Bongo's condition. When they’re not diving into a large Mercedes with tinted windows, they simply repeat the official line announced by Bongo’s cabinet in a press release on Friday. The presidency in Libreville insists that Bongo is in Spain for “a health check-up” and to “recuperate”, following the recent death of his wife Edith Lucie.

 

The five-star Rey Juan Carlos I hotel, where the Gabonese delegation is staying, has apparently been instructed to remain discreet. The hotel’s director asked a FRANCE 24 journalist to leave the premises several times, saying her presence in the hotel’s bar “disturbed” the clients. Under pressure from the hotel’s security personnel, she was eventually forced to leave the building.

 

At the hotel, however, Bongo's entourage appear relaxed. Several have been spotted returning from Barcelona’s city centre with shopping bags.

 

Snubbing French authorities

 

Spanish authorities are as equally unwilling to communicate on Bongo’s state of health. While Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the head of Gabon was in Spain undergoing treatment, his ministry later added it would not comment on his health. The ministry said the Gabonese presidency would address the question – when it decides to.

 

Also according to "La Vanguardia", Bongo arrived at El Prat airport in Barcelona on May 6 on an aircraft leased from the Saudi company Mideast Jet. The paper said that fifty people, including his daughter Pascaline, were on board.

 

Africa’s longest-serving ruler, Bongo is usually treated in France, but is apparently snubbing his French ally over an official probe into his financial activities. He is currently facing a judicial inquiry in Paris over allegations he embezzled money from his country to buy property and luxury cars in France worth tens of millions of euros.
 

Date created : 2009-05-25

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