The coup was staged in the early hours of Monday morning when Gabon military officers occupied the state radio station declaring their dissatisfaction with President Ali Bongo, over his New Year’s Day speech that was aired from Morocco where he was recovering from stroke.
A government spokesman said the attempted coup had been brought under control. Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told France 24: “The government is in place. The institutions are in place.”
He said four of five Gabon military officers had been arrested at the radio station they briefly took control of.
But a fifth officer fled and is being searched for.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in Gabon’s capital Libreville on Monday after the radio station was seized by military officers, who claimed they had seized power to “restore democracy”.
A crowd of about 300 people gathered at the station in support of the attempted coup, but soldiers fired tear gas to disperse them.
Libreville remained calm but there was a strong police and military presence on the street and helicopters circled overhead.
Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, said the New Year’s Eve address by President Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office”.
Obiang said the coup was being carried out against “those who, in a cowardly way, assassinated our young compatriots on the night of August 31, 2016,” a reference to deadly violence that erupted after Bongo was declared the winner of a disputed election.
The radio message was broadcast at around 4:30 am local time (0530 GMT).
A source close to the government said there were gunshots around the national television station, but that the plotters appeared to be a small group of soldiers.
Bongo, 59, was hospitalised in Saudi Arabia in October after suffering a stroke.
He has been in Morocco since November, continuing his treatment.
In his speech on New Year’s, Bongo acknowledged health problems but said he was recovering.
He slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm, but otherwise appeared in decent health.
The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for nearly half a century. Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009.His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.