Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba arrives for a group picture at the BRICS summit meeting in Johannesburg. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters.

Libreville - Gabon's President Ali Bongo, hospitalised in Saudi Arabia on October 24, is seriously ill but on the mend, the presidency said Sunday.

The 59-year-old leader's condition "has greatly improved" and he is in the process "of recovering most of his functions," Ike Ngouoni, the spokesman for the presidency, said.

Lack of official news -- along with memories of the secrecy-shrouded death of Bongo's father Omar Bongo in office in 2009 after decades at the helm -- has set the rumour mill churning about his health.

A foreign source close to Bongo and his French-born wife Sylvia told AFP on Wednesday that Bongo had had a stroke.

Bongo served as foreign and defence minister during his father's rule, and after his death was elected head of state in August 2009.

He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

AFP