Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is recovering from an undisclosed illness in Saudi Arabia and still performing his duties, according to a statement released on Sunday amid mounting speculation about his health.
The issue is a particularly sensitive one in the Central African nation. When Bongo’s father died in 2009 after more than four decades in power, Gabonese officials angrily denied French media reports of his death for almost a day, and shut down the internet in the country for several hours.
The statement said that Ali Bongo was suffering dizziness at his hotel in Riyad, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 24 when he sought medical care at King Faysal Hospital.
The information about the president’s health is “extremely reassuring” and the president “continues to perform his duties,” the presidency said.
The communique came amid a swirl of rumors over the president’s health back home in the Central African nation. Some media reports suggested that Bongo had suffered a stroke, though government spokesman Ike Ngouoni cautioned people about “fake news”.
“It would be in his interest entirely to make his presence. I think they’re not putting him in front of the cameras intentionally,” said Douglas A. Yates, a Paris-based Gabon expert.