Gabon government says country "under control" after attempted coup

Soldiers appeared on state television to announce their attempt to "restore democracy" to the country

Gabon government says country "under control" after attempted coup

In this image from TV, a soldier who identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, reads a statement on state television broadcast from Libreville, Gabon, saying the military has seized control of the government, 07-01-2019. Image: AP/Press Association Images

An attempted coup in Gabon is now "under control" after four of five rebels were arrested, according to the West African nation's government.

This morning, soldiers appeared on state television to warn that they had launched a coup in a bid to "restore democracy" to the country.

They read out a statement in which they said the military had seized power from the government and called on people to "rise up."

Hours later however, government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou said: "Calm has returned, the situation is under control."

Those in the country's capital, Libreville, reported seeing tanks and other armed military vehicles patrolling the streets following the television broadcast.

A curfew was imposed in the city and internet access was cut off as the attempted coup unfolded.

Despite people reporting "calm" in most of the capital, sporadic gunshots were heard at a radio station seized by rebels, according to a witness.

About 300 people gathered at the radio station in support of the coup but the military dispersed them using tear gas.

One of the rebels remains at large and a manhunt is underway in the region.

African Union chief Moussa Faki later condemned the attempted coup.

He tweeted: "The @_AfricanUnion strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in #Gabon. I reaffirm the AU's total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power."

Gabon, flanked by the Republic of the Congo to the east, and Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to the north, is one of Africa’s most oil rich nations.

Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba attends a round table at the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing, China 04-09-2018. Image: Xinhua/Li Xueren

Since 2009, President Ali Bongo has been in power but has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke.

However, he recently addressed the country in a new year's speech from a hospital bed in Morocco.

The country has been ruled by the Bongo family for more than 50 years.

One of the rebels managed to escape and a manhunt is under way.

President Ali Bongo has held power in Gabon since 2009.

He has been out of the country since October following reports he had a stroke. However, he recently addressed the country in a new year's speech from a hospital bed in Morocco.

The country has been ruled by the Bongo family for more than 50 years.