Sunday, 5 February, 2023

Gabon foreign minister dies of heart attack ahead of cabinet meeting

Gabon's Foreign Minister Michael Moussa Adamo died on Friday after suffering a heart attack while waiting to go into a cabinet meeting, the government and a presidential source said.

Moussa Adamo, 62, a long-standing ally of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, suffered a heart attack and died "despite efforts by specialists" to revive him, the government said in a brief statement.

He "sat down in the waiting room" just before the start of the cabinet meeting "in the presence of some of his government colleagues and began to feel unwell", a source close to the presidential palace told AFP.

He was taken to a military hospital while unconscious but died just after midday (1100 GMT), the source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

- 'Loss for Gabon' -

Reacting to his death, President Bongo described Moussa Adamo on Twitter as "a great diplomat, a true statesman".

"To me, he was firstly a friend, loyal and faithful, on whom I have always been able to count. It's a huge loss for Gabon," he added.

Moussa Adamo was born in the northeastern town of Makokou in 1961 and started out as a presenter on national television.

In 2000, he was made chief of staff for the defence minister, who at the time was Bongo.

When Bongo was elected president on the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba in 2009, Moussa Adamo served as his special advisor.

After a decade as Gabon's ambassador to the United States until 2020, he became, first, defence minister and then foreign minister in March last year.

Moussa Adamo held a master's degree in international relations and communications from Boston University.

He had just been reappointed foreign minister on January 9 when Bongo appointed a new prime minister, Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze, in one of the frequent cabinet reshuffles in the oil-rich central African state.

"The medical team at the presidential palace took him in immediately after his illness. He had to be taken unconscious by ambulance to the Omar Bongo Ondimba military hospital where he was placed in resuscitation but, despite the efforts of specialists, the death was noted at 12:12 pm (1112 GMT)," the source said.

Gabon has entered an election year with presidential, legislative and local elections due in summer 2023.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, who suffered a stroke in October 2018 that kept him away from politics for months, has not yet declared his candidacy for a third term.

It is widely expected he will throw his hat into the ring, as his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) has repeatedly announced he is its "natural candidate".