Monday, May 30, 2016

Ready to die: How I was threatened in Congo by the government (part 1)

Threat to my life and profession in Congo

In this chapter, I am not going to enumerate all the major threats that I have been victim of while living and working in the Republic of Congo as a journalist. But, I must point out clearly that, it was a tough working environment. It was and it is still an environment that also requires a person who is ready for the ultimate sacrifice or a person who is equally as determined as the forces that were/are against democracy and above all, freedom of speech. In Congo, while I was determined to press forward my professional goal and also help push forward democracy through free speech, I knew the consequence would be an eventual, death. Death is the reward for anyone who is a prodemocracy advocate or a professional journalist, who doesn’t support the Congolese government. It is a brutal regime that hides its violence through the courteous manners of those manning it. I had made up my mind. I was prepared to die in defense of my professional independence, even though I must confess that, I was sometimes afraid. Nevertheless, I knew that, the inevitable was certainly going to happen, should I continue on the path that, I had opted. I also knew that, being an independent professional journalist with a knack for investigative journalism, I was going to suffer the same fate of four my late colleagues whose names I have mentioned below. If all those who have died because of what they believed in could be resurrected, I would want to hear their accounts on the months and days, before their brutal end in this world.

My experience has shown that, when you are hated for what you are doing, you are afraid, but you put on a brave face, while knowing full well that, you may be killed. The most difficult part is that, you know your fate, but you don’t when or how it will be carried out. As already mentioned above, I am only going to focus on the most recent threats that I underwent. In Congo, all journalists, even those who are singing the praise of the system have or are subject to one form of threat to the other. The paradox with the regime of Denis Sassou Nguesso that spends billions to launder his image and also that of his country is that, on paper, the republic of Congo doesn’t have journalists in jail. That sounds good. And this is exactly an aspect that deceives some human right defense groups such as Reporters without borders (rsf), which in their recent or 2015 press freedom rankings, placed Brazzaville in a better position than countries such as Nigeria.  The reality is that, Congo’s violation of press freedom might be at par with that of Eritrea. For this is a country where almost all newspapers that are supposedly against the government, have either been suspended or banned indefinitely. It is also a country where the owners of electronic media: Radio and Television are either member of the presidential family or close to them. And while the Congolese government, stifle internal presses freedom, the same government sponsors prestige media projects such as Africanews or Afrique media or Africa 24.

Congo might appear to some organisations as a country where the press is not under threat, but they (Congolese government), have shown to the world, their true colour. For they have carried out a number of violent expulsions of journalists and also carried out the assassination of four others: Bruno J. Ossebi, Ghislain Simplice Ongouya, Joseph Ngouala and Prosper Mokabi Ndawa. All these journalists have been assassinated by either the Congolese government or pro-government thugs simply because, they were independent minded professionals, who have not pander to what the government, wanted them to do. In Congo, when a journalist is about to informed or killed, he is forewarned. The Congolese government is as you will read in the chapter on Congolese culture, is a system that seldom likes criticism. They prefer praises. Hence they spend billions to launder their rotten images. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rodolphe Adada: profile of a mathematician turn Congolese politician

He is a mathematician by profession and also one of the rare well mannered politicians of northern Congolese extraction that I have seen or discovered. We have met twice. The reason of our first meeting was because of Rodrigue Nombo. Mr Nombo is the archetype of a Congolese and African elite: corrupt, inhumane and arrogant. He was the director of the Congolese national airline: Nouvelle Air Congo. Rodrigue Nombo did not only refuse to pay his staff for months, he also never insured the aircrafts, staff or passengers of his company. Rodrigue Nombo was also the embodiment of all what is wrong in Congo. He had abandoned his office. To find him and also talk or negotiate anything regarding Nouvelle Air Congo, there were two places locate him: La Mandarine of Mammy Water, both famous restaurants in Brazzaville.  When I broke the news about the chronic mismanagement and outright theft at Nouvelle Air Congo, carried out by Rodrigue Nombo, in Ca Discute Le Matin, a breakfast show on MNTV, which was anchored by Gustelle Klaire Nkoudissa, Mr Nombo went mad. He reported me to Rodolphe Adada, who was at that time, the minister of transport. And Adada, fearful of his post, because Mr Rodrigue Nombo was the protégé of Mrs. Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, wife of President Sassou Nguesso, he intend, reported me to Maurice Nguesso. Mr Maurice Nguesso as you know is the owner of the media group, MNCOM. And MNCOM is the parent company of MNTV, that I was the director.

When Maurice Nguesso summoned me to come to his house and he also added that, when coming, I should bring proves to back up any controversial declarations I may have made on TV, I suspected that, it was about Nouvelle Air Congo. For I have been used to senior government officers and ministers going to complain or report me to my boss. When we met in the home of Maurice Nguesso, I brought proves of my allegations, which included the fictitious insurance policy contracted from a marginal insurance broking company. When Mr Adada, discovered that, I was not wrong, he did not argue for too long. He asked me to come and see him in his office two days later. When I went there, he gave me his business card and also confided to me that, he could not do anything against Rodrigue Nombo, the rogue manager of Nouvelle Air Congo.

Why? It was simply because Antoinette Sassou Nguesso never wanted that, Rodrigue Nombo should be sanctioned. He told me that, Mrs. Sassou Nguesso had told him this: why do you want to take away bread from the mouth of Nombo? Rodolphe Adada was not the only Congolese minister who was grumbling about the intrusion of the ruling Nguesso family into the management of their ministries. The other one who complained to me was Basile Ikouebe. Mr Ikouebe was so fed up to the point that, he tendered in his resignation, which was dissimulated as a sacking. For Sassou Nguesso decided to reshuffle his cabinet, when it became clear that, Basile Ikouebe would make a public declaration.  Basile Ikouebe left the ministry of foreign affairs without stealing a cent, a feat for a Congolese government minister. He was replaced by Jean Claude Gakosso, nationally known to be corrupt, with little or no knowledge on international affairs. There are two things that I retained when we met in the house of Maurice Nguesso about Rodolphe Adada. First, Maurice Nguesso told me in the presence of Adada that, he (Adada) enjoys drinking champagne, which was in my understanding, a metaphor to the cliché of an elitist, which is too often attached to the man, who always dons a bow tie. The second, Maurice said, Rodolphe Adada was the most competent Mbouchi man capable to replace Sassou Nguesso in 2016. As far as Maurice Nguesso was concern, his younger brother, Sassou Nguesso had to respect the January 20th 2002 constitution of Congo, which set two presidential term limits. 

However good and noble were Maurice Nguesso’s allegations, he wanted political power to remain not only in the north of Congo, but within the hands of ethnic Mbouchi. Before the declarations of Maurice Nguesso aforementioned, I knew that, this ethnic Mbouchi from Bondji, was born on the 28th of April 1946. Bondji is located some 47 km from Edou-Elanga, the village of President Sassou Nguesso. Another twist noted with Mr Adada is that, it is not certain whether he was born in Bondji or in Gamboma. However what is generally said about him is that, he is a sleek politician. He leaves little or no foot prints. I also knew that, he had held several ministerial functions, first under General Yhombi and then under Sassou Nguesso. He was only shown the door out of ministerial appointment recently. Besides working in Congo, he has worked as the Joint UN-AU representative in Sudan with focus on Darfur. In my humble opinion, Rodolphe Adada is perhaps the most prepared ethnic Mbouchi, with the necessary international connections, intellectual capacity and cultural finesse to rule Congo, if there were any internal power alternation within the ruling PCT party a la chinoise or a la Chama cha mapinduzi.

Unfortunately within the ruling PCT party, there are no alternatives other than Sassou Nguesso. Anyway, that is how Sassou Nguesso has made things to appear. It partly explains the reason why, even though he was among the potential successors of Ambroise Noumazalaye at the post secretary general of the PCT, during its 2011 Extraordinary Congress, Denis Sassou Nguesso dumped Adada just like many others, for Pierre Ngolo, who is a man without personality. Some people claim that, just as he leads a clean and orderly life, so also is his managerial decency at the head of all the ministries that, he has headed. It is claimed by some Congolese that, if he is not corrupt, it is because he is married to a White French woman, who owns one of the most prestigious private schools in the capital, Brazzaville: Ecole Privee Madame Adada. However, not everyone things that Adada is unblemished as far as corruption is concern. The soft spoken consumer of champagne, according to Maurice Nguesso, is not a paragon of financial honesty.

According to his successor at the ministry of foreign affairs, Basile Ikouebe, when Adada was leaving the ministry of foreign affairs, he left with the budget of FCFA 800 million, earmarked by the state to equip the brand new foreign ministry furniture. The ministry of foreign affairs building in Brazzaville is a gift from the Chinese government.  Rodolphe Adada might not fall into the cliché of northern Mbouchi politicians of the ruling party, who are unashamedly corrupt and above all, who entertain several mistresses or are regularly involved in salacious affairs, but he is not as clean as he wants the people to think, Basile Ikouebe confided to me. As far as ordinary Congolese are concern, he might be less corrupt and less interested in extramarital affairs, which are a hallmark of influential Congolese political and business elite, but he is not generous. That is the general complain from the masses about a man who could have been the candidate of the ruling party in 2016, had Sassou Nguesso not decided to stay in power everlastingly.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Henri Djombo: Profile of Congo's new minister of Agriculture

I have met and interviewed Henri Djombo three times. Besides those three occasions, I have met and spoken with him on a number of other occasions. Most often, I was in the company of Carine Oyoma, a female journalist, specialized on environmental matters and working with the state owned national broadcaster, Tele Congo. Today, Carine Oyoma is married to Leon Juste Ibombo, the current minister of Post and Telecommunications. My relationship with Henri Djombo could be classified as an acquaintance or one notch under the grade of full friendship. Professionally, I have met with him twice in Paris, France.  At that time, I was still working with the French-speaking pan-afro-Caribbean and pan African TV, 3 A Telesud. My third interview with him was when I was working in Congo with MNTV/ MN Radio. This interview was done on lawn of a wing of his large high walled compound in the heart of Brazzaville. I was introduced to Mr Djombo by Nicole Sarr, a Senegalese lady who was managing his communications and also that of his ministry, in France. What I noticed with Henri Djombo was that, he spoke very little and was constantly wearing or putting on a wired smile on his face.

The type of smile put on by people who are either constantly scheming against someone or is ready to defend himself. Perhaps that reflex comes from the fact that, he practices martial arts or working for system that constantly threatens the lives of those working for it. He also seems to master his subject which was environmental protection. For he was at the time that I met him, Congo’s minister of Forestry economy. Currently, he is minister of state for Agriculture. At first, I was intrigued because he was an author of several books with enigmatic titles. It is not as though he was/is the only person close to Denis Sassou Nguesso who likes writing or who was an accomplished author. The other Sassou Nguesso ally who is an accomplished writer is General Benoit Mondele Ngolo. While Mondele Ngolo is outspoken and Sharpe tongue, Henri Djombo is not. Among the many books that he has written, the one that retained my attention was in titled in French: Le Mort Vivant or in English, The living dead. To me, it was a fascinating and also an enigmatic title for a book. I asked him why such as strange title? He only smiled and told me that, he was preparing to write another book. Detractors of Henri Djombo claim that, his writing ability that has been developed into a kind of semi-cottage industry was not the fruit of hard work or any literary ingenuity, but more of intellectual or literary outsourcing. In other words, his detractors meant that, he is not the author of his books and plays, but that his books and plays were written by Nzuzi Kadima, a man from the DRC that he had employed.

Personally, I don’t doubt his intellectual or literary power or capacity. In Congo, there is always a conflict in Congolese between those who studied in the west and those who studied in the former Soviet Union, former Eastern Europe and Cuba. Congolese who have studied in the west always put in doubt not only the credentials of those who studied in the former communist bloc, but also doubt their intellectual capacity.  The cold war or the Berlin wall may have fallen, but it is still well alive in Congo. However, I was told by one of his former girl friends that, his books were a reflection of the struggles that he was undergoing within the government. She also added that, Henri Djombo; contrary to his inoffensive ever smiling looks, hides an ambitious man who not only loves women, but nurses the secret hope to rule Congo, one day. Congolese political scene or any accomplished Congolese political elite, belonging to the ruling Congolese Workers Party or the PCT, won’t be complete without a salacious affair. While he is not known to be an assertive womanizer as his colleagues are, his love for aphrodisiacs shows that, he might be dissimulating a voracious appetite for the opposite sex. He so love aphrodisiacs to a point that, he has brewed his own brand called “Campec”. It is, as he told me and others who visits him and that he proudly offers them, that, “Campec” is a mixture of French Camp-Paris liquor with roots of unnamed plants infused with traditional Palm wine. He assures his male visitors that, “Campec” is better than Viagra. Another contradiction that I have noticed with Henri Djombo is found in his deep freezer.

His claims to fight against poaching and also against the hunting of endangered animals, but his freezer is full of endangered animals such as monkeys. I personally found that, disgusting and I understood the reason why the protection of wildlife in Congo and most of equatorial Africa was an illusion. This made me doubt whether all the conventions signed by Congo through Henri Djombo, for the protection of the forest of Congo basin could be respected by someone like him at the head of such as strategic ministry, not only for Congo and Africa, but for the world. For the preservation of the biodiversity of the Congo forest basin was of strategic importance. Henri Djombo, who is a lover and player of Table Tennis, also heads the Congolese Table Tennis Federation. He is behind the naturalization of Chinese table tennis stars that helped Congo defeat Nigeria and Egypt, two African Table Tennis powerhouses in continental competition. Henri Djombo might dissimulate and pour it in books that, he writes, but he remains a Sassou Nguesso loyalist. However, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is a professional conspirator and well known coup plotter, doesn’t have 100% confidence in him. It explained why, when Djombo among others who wanted the post of secretary general of the ruling party, were all dumped by the president. Sassou Nguesso preferred to offer the post to the little known Pierre Ngolo.  

The educational profile and matrimonial background of Henri Djombo could portrait him as a real communist. For he did not only study in the former Soviet Union, precisely in Leningrad now called Saint Petersburg and also in Bulgaria, he is married to a Russian. But like all former communist who have converted to market economy, he loves material processions. His yard looks like that of a luxurious SUV car vendour. As to whether this man born in 1952 has a political future in Congo after Denis Sassou Nguesso is gone, it is difficult to predict.  His long stay at the head of the ministry of forestry where he is alleged to have grown rich because of corruption and couple with the fact that, he is the author of several books denouncing the very system he has been working for, gives him ambivalent categorization. However, given how Denis Sassou Nguesso is hated, I think, it would be difficult for him to have any future.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

ALEXIS VINCENT GOMEZ: Profile of a poor boy turn International lawyer and real estate Mongul

ALEXIS VINCENT GOMEZ:  from Jeans seller to billionaire in FCFA

He was also born in the populous neighborhood of Poto-poto, located north of Brazzaville, the capital of Congo. Alexis Vincent Gomez is also known as a Sassou Nguesso created millionaire by his detractors.  For it is believed that, he is also playing the same role like Paul Obambi, another alleged Sassou Nguesso created millionaire. While Paul Obambi is an economist by profession, Alexis Vincent Gomes is a lawyer by profession. The only thing that, both new generation Congolese businessmen have in common is their proximity with the President of the Republic and his wife. He is a very simple man, who has not forgotten where he comes from. When I met him in 2013, he was 58 year old and that night, he was spending time with some of his childhood friends in a popular bar in Poto-poto called Espace Feignond. He does that regularly whenever he is in Brazzaville. To him, Poto-poto is his Israel or promise land. However, if you want to talk serious business with Alexis Vincent Gomez who is also the Governor of Lions Club, it is in Diosso, a locality situated some 23km from Pointe Noire, the economic capital of Congo. The city of Pointe Noire is the most populated and the richest in Congo and it is located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Congo’s second city financially and economically is not Brazzaville, but Ouesso.  Mr Gomez is not only a simple man as already mentioned, he is also a bright international lawyer and also a formidable businessman. He has invested in real estates in Congo, France and in the United States. His investments or properties are estimated according to him to stand at FCFA 1 billion in Congo, France and in the United States.

While Vincent Gomez could be loquacious, he becomes taciturn when he is asked to explain how he became a billionaire. For like Paul Obambi, he is also suspected to be a straw man or fronting for the Presidential family and precisely the wife of the President of Congo, Mrs. Antoinette Sassou Nguesso. It is an allegation that he roundly rejects and instead says that, he is what he is today because of hard work and also because of the help that, he got from one Raymond Obadiah.  In the words of Vincent Gomez, his story is a classic case of a poor boy becoming rich or from rag to riches. Mr Obadiah, the mentor of Alexis Vincent Gomez, he claims, was a Jewish merchant whom he met at the Strasbourg Saint Denis market in Paris. Mr Gomez adds that, he knew Mr Raymond Obadiah because, he frequented the Strasbourg Saint Denis market in Paris where he bought jean pants that he sold back in Brazzaville, when he was on vacation. He also told me that, Raymond Obadiah, who was a wholesale merchant, gave him packages of jeans pants on loan and he only paid him back after selling them. Another lining of the admiration that Alexis Vincent Gomez has for Raymond Obadiah was the Jewish merchant’s capacity to forecast. Alexis Vincent Gomez also told me among the predication his friend or business partner told him was that, he (Alexis Vincent Gomez) had a bright star. Some might think it only want embellish is his past or mystify it. 

However, one thing that is true about Alexis Vincent Gomez, he was born into a very large and poor family and he only knew his father when he was 11 years old. He grew up with his mother, grandmother, half brothers and sisters. And life was very hard for him.  He was conscious that, things where very hard and he knew that, his only salvation was education. Hence he studied hard and passed his Advance levels exam or Baccalaureate at the age 20. He later on got admitted at the lone University of the country known then as the University of Brazzaville, which is today known as the Marien Ngouabi University.  Upon graduation, he obtained a scholarship to further his studies in France, where he studied law and specialized in international business law. It was while in Paris and in order to make ends meet that he met with Raymond Obadiah, whom he claim is the source of his wealth and business mentor. He also told me that, while practicing law, he came into contact with George Walker Bush who was at that time the Governor of Texas. In what conditions or circumstances did he meet with former Governor and former President Bush? He doesn’t explain.

But he told me that, the friendship that he made with George Bush helped him a lot, when he decided to return to Congo in 1983. His friendship with George Bush enabled or facilitated him to work or win contracts with US oil firms working in Congo and also within countries of the Gulf of Guinea. While he is explicit in his relationship with Raymond Obadiah and George Walker Bush, he says nothing concrete regarding his relation with the ruling Nguesso family. As for his relationship with the President of the Republic, he claims that, they knew each other when he was still in France and President Denis Sassou Nguesso, appreciated his job and told him he was real lawyer. But he doesn’t also explain why what made him to meet the president and also why the president said he was a real lawyer? Are other lawyers not genuine? Those are questions that he seldom answers. While he is evasive, about is relationship with the President or his wife, he is rather clear as to how he views the opposition in his country. According to Alexis Vincent Gomez, the opposition political parties in Congo are led by amateurs who are threats to the economic prosperity and stability of the country. Why? He doesn’t answer. Perhaps, he will one day give an answer as to the reason why, he thinks the opposition in Congo is not business friendly.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Obambi Paul: Profile of Congo's Aliko Dangote

Congo, for all the noises made by its happy corrupt few, it is a strange country. It is a country that has been destroyed by more than 3 decades of Sassou Nguesso misrule.  The more than 3 decades of Sassou Nguesso rule has not only seen the destruction of the education and health systems, it has also made the country  to produce the laziest and less ambitious  women in the word, especially those born between 1978 and 2000. Sassou Nguesso has also destroyed the entrepreneurial character in both men and women of Congo. Hence, it is hard to see a successful business man in Congo Brazzaville today. Most businessmen and women are briefcase businessmen and woman or are people who survive on contracts from the civil service. However in that entrepreneurial desert, there are nonetheless some oases of entrepreneurs such as Pierre Otto Mbongo, late Charles Ebina and to a certain level Maurice Nguesso. These old generation businessmen are the few who can boast of having established businesses in the private sector, even though they are not always very successful. But one thing is clear; the private sector in Congo is a desert for indigenes. Those controlling what could be described as the private sector are foreigners, in particular Lebanese, West Africans from Mauritania, Mali, Senegal and Guinea, some Cameroonians and Nigerians and also the French. They are mostly operating in the retail business sector and very little in the service and industrial sectors.

Paul Obambi is therefore one of the few young or new generation indigenous businessmen of the country. However, for all his talents and business ingenuity, he can’t justify how he got his wealth. Pierre Otto Mbongo, who is also related to Paul Obambi, once told me that, Mr Obambi was an investment or business straw man for Sassou Nguesso. In other words, what Pierre Otto Mbongo fondly known as “Pierrot” meant was that, the business investments of Paul Obambi, was in fact that of Denis Sassou Nguesso. However, when I asked Paul Obambi about the claim of Pierre Otto Mbongo, he rejected the allegation as pure jealousy from an old man. Whatever the allegations made against Paul Obambi, there are nonetheless two things which are true. He is an organized soft spoken man, who makes many promises and seldom keeps them.  On the other hand, he is also an astute businessman. Hence he has been able to join the league of top African businessmen.  And because of his business successes, he is regularly received by some African leaders with whom they discuss business ventures. Paul Obambi enjoys meeting with top political figures and also his business peers. However, his other pleasure is his love to be in the company top African musical stars such as Koffi Olumide or Papa Wemba.  His business bases are: Brazzaville, Kinshasa, Abidjan and Paris. However, the headquarters of his business empire is located in Brazzaville on the Edith Lucie Bongo Ondimba Avenue.

This avenue is located within the industrial district of Mpila, a neighbourhood situated north east of Brazzaville. Although Paul Obambi presents himself as a self-made man and attempts to distance himself from the President of the Republic and the Congolese government, the walls of in his vast office are strewn with souvenirs which are also evidence of who has made him to be what he is today financially. He also has a large photo that he took in the company of President Denis Sassou Nguesso and his wife Antoinette Sassou Nguesso. Paul Obambi is the CEO of an agro-industrial group called SAPRO and he also doubles as chairman of the Chambers of Commerce, industry, agriculture and trade and mines of Brazzaville. He has been the chair of the Brazzaville chamber of Commerce since 1996. Paul Obambi is always clean shaven, strapped in his trademark sumptuous navy blue suit, probably crafted in France as any typical Congolese elite will do. Paul Obambi also likes to be informal. Hence, he prefers to be simply called as “Yaya Paul or Ya Paul" (big brother Paul, a sign of respect). He is a flamboyant geek. Paul Obambi is not yet Congo’s Aliko Dangote, but he is aspiring to become one of the continent’s richest men and hence he is focusing the expansion of his business mostly out of Congo, because he claims, his country is not business friendly coupled with the fact that, it has a small population. Hence he focuses on Cameroon and neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Paul Obambi was on the 13th of December 1959 and founded his Sapro group immediately he returned from France, where he studied economics. As far as the source of his wealth is concern, Paul Obambi claims  that, it was savings that he made during his brief spell in the public service, which he used to start his own business. But the reality is that, without the help of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, he won’t have been successful as he is today. Even though he vehemently refuses, he truly seems to be fronting for the President of the Republic of Congo. For given the business reality in the country, it is almost impossible to succeed without support from someone influential within the system. It is claimed from reliable sources that, it is the President who facilitates his meetings with African head of states. And the question this: why will Sassou Nguesso, who prefers his children and immediate family members help Obami if he has no interest in what he is doing? Paul Obambi doesn’t give any convincing answer but focuses at giving candid responses when addressing the reason why Congolese don’t succeed in private entrepreneurship.

He claims that, Congo is a country destroyed by communism and also where the culture of mediocrity and economic and educational stagnations constitutes a real handicap to development". He also adds that: Congolese are very lazy. Paul Obambi is not only an Intellectual, but also a shrewd businessman, known for his objective analysis of developmental issues in Africa. His mastery of developmental challenges in Africa has been demonstrated by a presentation that he delivered at the Forbes Africa Summit, which was held on the 29th of July 2013 in Brazzaville. After a slow start in 1990, Sapro group that he leads has extended its tentacles in the industrial, Oil and Gas and Food sectors. The Sapro Group is also present in the services and construction sectors.  Today, for all its shortcomings, Sapro group is one of the successful models of private initiative in Congo. It has more than 1,000 employees across its ten subsidiaries spread in Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad, Niger, Ivory Coast, and Central African Republic and soon in Cameroon. In the DRC, its oil subsidiary, Sapro Oil, recently bought Congo Oil. Congo Oil was a state owned lost making company, which the DRC authorities had decided to privatize. Solupac is another subsidiary of Sapro. This company was set up in partnership with a German company called German Mirror & Co. It is a company that specializes in the production of a wide range of lubricants for vehicle engines. While international media, the first independent billboard display company in Congo, controls 80% market share of outdoor advertisement in the country. According to Paul Obambi, he wants to become the market leader in the African market of bill boarding or outdoor marketing.

International Media, the adverting arm of Sapro has 1,000 bill boards of different types across the country. In Ivory Coast, International Media is the second company in the sector, says, Paul Obambi, while smiling from ear to ear. Paul Obambi is also in the mobile phone business, which is currently experiencing a great boom, albeit with changing consumption attitudes on the continent. He is the majority shareholder of Azur Telecom, which is the fourth mobile telephony operator in the Congo. The parent company of Azur Telecom is Equator Telecom, which is a subsidiary of SAPRO group. Through Equator Telecom, he has taken   control of Azur Gabon and Azur CAR. Paul Obambi once told me that: Our ambition now is to create an investment bank, before listing at the Abidjan regional stock Exchange.” He however added: Before we get there, we are already going into mining and we will soon be producing iron ore from Mayoko-Moussondji in the Niari department”. The SAPRO group, he continued: owns three operating licenses in partnership with Congo Mining, which is a subsidiary of Australia's Equatorial Resources”. While it is true that Sapro group is worth over FCFA 500 billion in terms of capitalization, Paul Obambi doesn’t like to talk about his wealth or that of his group. "Money hates noise, and in Congo, a country of jealous and lazy people, it better not to speak too much about your success" he once told me. Paul Obambi, who was born in the populous Poto-poto neighborhood of Brazzaville, used to play football, barefoot and he was also a militant or activist of the former Union of Congolese Socialist Youth abbreviated UJCS. This was during the one-party communist rule state (1969-1991). "Now I'm away from political passions and I prefer my hat of a businessman", he told me. 

When I told him that, it seems his success is simply because of his links with the President of the Republic and his connections with friends within the ruling Congolese Workers Party abbreviated PCT, he replied:  those are words from lazy and envious people, who are jealous of my success. And he concluded: I am what I am today because of hard work and not because of imaginary connections with the President. Paul Obambi is a member of an African or an indigenous Congolese Christian church known as Kibanguist. This church was created by Simon Kibangu. Kibangu was born according to the on line dictionary Wikipedia, in the village of Nkamba on 12th or the 24th of September 1887 and died in prison on the 12th of October 1951. He was the son of a religious leader and became a Baptist in 1915 and worked as a catechist for several years before beginning his own ministry. He is the founder of Kimbaguism and his followers consider him to be the special envoy of Jesus Christ as quoted in the fourteenth chapter of the biblical gospel of John. 

Jean Claude Kakou: Profile a star journalist and presenter

Jean Claude Kakou: he is a star journalist and presenter working for the state owned Tele Congo, the national Television station also known as Tele fou-fou.  Congolese refer to their national television as Tele fou-fou, because it spends time broadcasting reports or propaganda on the President, his family and the government and little or no presence of contradictions. Unfortunately, Congolese are not the only ones who give very little consideration to their state broadcaster. In neighbouring Cameroon, its national broadcaster, CRTV is referred to as “good news media”. Jean Claude Kakou along with Joseph Bitala Bitemo is the few Congolese journalists trained in Western Europe precisely in France in the profession of journalism. Hence their professional output, which might be pro-governmental or judged one-sided is very different from a majority of Congolese journalists who trained in Cuba, former USSR or in other former Communist countries wherein they studied press and propaganda. Because of his professionalism has inspired most Congolese to opt for the journalism profession. For his style of presentation according to George Eboue, is similar to that of French TV anchor, Yves Mourousi. Late Mourousi was the midday anchor on TF1 from 1975 to 1988. As for George Eboue, he is a retired journalist who has worked with the sport service of the national broadcaster and who knew Jean Claude Kakou when he first to work for the state broadcaster as an intern. Although Jean Claude Kakou is a professional, the reproach made against him by most Congolese is that, he is no more practicing journalism.

He is instead working as a propagandist of the regime. Even though trained in France, my question that I have always asked is this: if a journalist, can no longer or doesn’t practice, the basic rule of journalism and is one-sided, can he or she be described as a professional? In my opinion, the answer is an emphatic No! However, to the discharge of Jean Claude Kakou, in a violent dictatorship like that of Congo, professional journalists have only two options: conciliate professionalism with survival instinct or practice pure professionalism at your risk and peril. This simply means that, for all the one-sided or imbalance reporting or programmes that, Jean Claude Kakou presents on Tele Congo: it doesn’t take away the fact that, he is a professional. His only problem is that, there is no enabling environment for him to practice his profession.  Jean Claude Kakou was once a considered as pariah by the current regime because of his support of the government of Pascal Lissouba. Now he seems to have been rehabilitated.  Even though he has been accepted  and he is now working at the national television station and producing and presenting only programmes that glorifies President Sassou Nguesso and his government, he is still hated by some members the regime for having supported the regime of Pascal Lissouba. While the government might hate him or look at him with suspicions, he also doesn’t hold the regime with any esteem. He works for them simply because he has no alternative.

General Pierre Oba: Profile of an author and the current minister of Mining and Geology

General Pierre Oba: he is an author and the current minister of Mining and Geology. And he is also one of the strongest supports of President Denis Sassou Nguesso. The 64 year old, is the author of the book: Le Protocole de Brazzaville, une victoire Congolaise meconnue, in French or in English, the Brazzaville Protocol: an unknown Congolese victory. It is rumored that, he knows all the secrets of Denis Sassou Nguesso and even the darkest of them. Hence, he is so attached to Denis Sassou Nguesso, for whom he is also suspected to have committed a lot of political assassinations. General Pierre Oba aka Peter, is also considered as Sassou Nguesso’s man for mission impossible, consequently, it is claimed that, he has a lot of blood in his hands.He was the God father of late Edith Lucie Bongo Ondimba and when she was alive, Pierre Oba held the same position currently held by Jean Dominique Okemba on the side of the Sassou Nguesso. Besides that, he is an excellent negotiator. He did play a central role in negotiations between the South African, Angolan, former USSR, Cuban and US governments, which led to the Brazzaville Protocol.  The Brazzaville accord was signed on the 13th of December 1988 and it is the central piece of his book above mentioned, wherein, he tries to explain the fundamental role played by Congolese diplomacy. 

In spite his influence, the tall and imposing but now frail man, remains humble and speaks very little. The lengthy stay of this father of several children and a polygamist in the government and his acquaintance with high profile Africans and western diplomats has given him a different view on how to handle sensitive matters. While he is not for total free speech, he is methodic and he won’t brutalise a journalist, the same way as Jean Dominique Okemba or jean François Ndenguet are currently doing. He understands the essence of public relations and he also has respect for people. However, he reacts quickly and firmly whenever there is anything information that has to with the security of the state and also the security of the president of the Republic. Even though he is no longer policing the country as he used to do when he was minister of interior, his prolonged stay within the intelligence services has made him to have a formidable network of informants around the country. Hence, when a commission of inquiry was created by the President to investigate the causes of the March 4th 2012 explosions at an ammunition depot northeast of Brazzaville, he was the chosen to chair the commission. It demonstrated to the face of the world once again how much confidence that, the president of the Republic has in him. He is such a diehard supporter of the President of the Republic. He even claims that there is no other person capable of governing Congo other than Denis Sassou Nguesso. His greatest adversaries nonetheless in the system especially within the security apparatus are Jean Dominique Okemba and Jean Francois Ndenguet, both of whom he suspects of having a secret agenda against the President of the Republic.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Alain Shungu: profile of a trainer of Congolese reporters

Alain Shungu: one can’t talk about contemporary Congolese journalism without mentioning the name of Alain Shungu. He stands on the same pedestal with veteran journalists such as Mfumu Fylla, Joseph Bitala Bitemo and Jean Claude Kakou. Alain Shungu has worked as a stringer or local correspondent for several African and western media outfits. He has also offered several Congolese, on the job training, to become reporters. Besides that, he launched the news services of three radio and television stations in Congo: DRTV, MNTV and ESTV. At DRTV, he is credited to transformed, the pan European TV concept: No Comment, into a Congolese concept of long commercial breaks of 15 minutes, paid for by advertisers. In short, the Congolese “NO Comment” is not about news but about long promotional advert. The soft spoken journalist is amongst those who have influence the Congolese media landscape. In doing so, he has contributed in the promotion of democracy and freedom of speech in Congo. Even though, freedom of speech and democracy are still a luxury or a mirage in Congo. Unlike militant journalists such as Ghys Fortune Dombe Bemba of Talassa or Guy Milex Mbondzi of La Voix du Peuple or even Francois Bikindou of Le Troubadour, he is not known for taking sides on any controversial political, economic or social issues. Alain Shungu is an enigma person to many Congolese. Some claim that, because of his proximity to some influential members of government, in particular Pierre Oba, hence he is silent on major abuses carried out by the state. However, I have also noted that, while he doesn’t criticize the government, he doesn’t also criticize the opposition, as do some of his colleagues, especially, Francois Bikindou.

He is on the fence to some, while others claim that, he is a professional, hence his neutrality. In spite his professional experience, he is humble and always ready to learn. He is also humane, hence ready to offer assistance to others, especially his colleagues. If there was a medal decoration awarded to journalists for their mastery of the socio-political and economic reality of any given country, Alain Shungu would have qualified for one. For he  knows a lot about Congolese politics and also the country’s terrible human rights record, especially immediately after the 1997 civil war. His mastery of Congolese social and political engineering is akin to those of Alphonse Ndongo and Joachim Mbanza, two brilliant journalists. Furthermore, he also knows all those who partook in war crimes or atrocities during and after the 1997 civil war and the two wars that preceded it. Unfortunately, the only  obstacle on the way of Alain Shungu, obtaining an award for his mastery of Congo’s socio political and economic realities is that, he has never sat down to write his experiences: professionally, socially, politically  and economic. As concerns the beach massacre, he is also very conversant with what happened and how. For the so-called beach massacre took place in 1999, when 352 Congolese refuges, returning from the DRC went missing at the Brazzaville’s, Congo River port, generally referred to as beach. Hence the name: Beach massacre or in French, le massacre du beach.  Alain Akouala, former minister of Communications, describes Alain Shungu as a hardworking journalist.

While Maurice Nguesso, the chairman of the board of directors of the media group MNCOM, parent company of MNTV/MN Radio says: without the help of Alain Shungu, he won’t have been able to launch his Radio and Television station in 2009.But not everyone has kind words for Alain Shungu, in spite having spent most of his life in Brazzaville and married to a Congolese woman with children, some still consider him as a “Zairois”, which is a derogatory term to describe Congolese from the DRC.  Although he knows most Congolese authorities, it has not shielded him from attacks, especially whenever he allows the opposition to speak or covers stories that, the government doesn’t want Congolese and the world to know about. Alain Shungu was born on the 27th of December 1960 in Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but grew up in Brazzaville, where he began his journalism career. He first started working as reporter for the following weekly newspapers papers: Le Patriote and Aujourd’hui, respectively in 1991 and 1992. While working for the latter newspapers, he also served as correspondent in Brazzaville, for Forum des AS, a biweekly newspaper, based in Kinshasa in the DRC. He later on, worked successively as correspondent for Radio France International, Voice of America, and Deutsch Welle, respectively from 1993-1988, 1993-2007 and 1995-2010.

He has also worked for French and pan African newspapers such as Ouest France from 1994-1999, Africa International from 1993-2012. And from 1999 to 2005, he was the trainer and pioneer news Director of Congo’s first privately owned Radio and Television called Digital Radio and Television abbreviated DRTV. He held similar function from July 2009 to October 2011 at MNTVTV/MN Radio. And since November 2011, he is the Managing Director of Equateur Service Radio and Television. It is a privately owned media. Alain Shungu is the cofounder of an NGO called African Journalists in Danger, known in French as Journaliste Africain en Danger abbreviated JED and this since 1993. Since February 2014, he is the correspondent of TV 5 Monde in Congo with possibility to cover the DRC. Alain Shungu has until 2005, also served as representative for Reporters without Borders abbreviated RSF.  I can’t still understand the reason why he has not written or published a book on all what he knows on all the atrocities carried out by the government since 1997, in particular, the beach massacre.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Paul Soni-Benga: Profile of a disappointed supporter of Sassou Nguesso

Paul Soni-Benga: He is the director of the first privately owned Radio and Television station in Congo. However, there is a little story on the creation of DRTV that I will like to share with you. The license of DRTV or Digital Radio and Television was granted only after Maurice Nguesso pressured his younger brother Sassou Nguesso, to allow General Dabira to own a media house. This was what Maurice Nguesso told or convinced his younger to allow Dabira to launch DRTV: “for once that, an ethnic Mbouchi wants to do something good, why on earth do you want to prevent him?” President Sassou Nguesso was afraid that, since Dabira was a soldier, allowing him to own a media house, will be tantamount to granting him more power. So, without the intervention of Maurice Nguesso, DRTV would have remain, just another unrealized projects.  General Norbert Dabira, in spite suspected by Denis Sassou Nguesso as potential coup plotter, is still an ally of the President. General Norbert Dabira is accused by a French court, precisely the high court of the city of Maux, of having taken part in 1999, in the disappearance or the massacre of Congolese refugees who were returning from exile from neighbouring DRC.

It is however, an accusation that is rejected by General Dabira, who has since been issued an international arrest warrant by France. That sad period is generally referred to in Congo as “Les disparu du Beach”. In that massacre, it is reported that, close to 400 Congolese disappeared or could not be accounted for. As for Paul Soni-Benga, it well known that, he is a journalist and politically, he is close to the late Ambroise Noumazalaye, the last charismatic secretary general of the ruling PCT party. His current relationship with the regime is distant. However, like most Congolese, he was a supporter of Denis Sassou in France, when he (Denis Sassou Nguesso) was preparing to overthrow the democratically elected government of Pascal Lissouba. Paul Soni-Benga is among the rare journalists in the country in whose programmes people with different political orientations are invited to take part. He operates at equidistance between self censorship and independence is broadcasting or authorization to cover any events. He is admired by most of his staff because of the way he manages them and also because of his honesty. And in order to remain professionally balance or neutral and also avoid police harassments, he seldom exposes his political orientations or thoughts, especially about the current regime. But it is evident that, he doesn’t support how things or the way the country is being currently managed.

Paul Soni-Benga is certainly a disappointed man, for he supported Sassou Nguesso in 1997, because he had promised a new Congo that will be free from corruption, tribalism. Sassou Nguesso also promised a Congo where freedom of speech and democracy will reign supreme. Sadly for Paul Soni-Benga, Congo under Denis Sassou Nguesso has become a lawless country. While he  ruminates his disappointment, he also spends most of his time between Congo and France, where his family still resides. He is the anchor of “Sans Detour”, the flagship TV programme broadcast on DRTV. Paul Soni-Benga is a man of few words and very observant. Even though he treats all subjects in his programme evenly, it has not shielded him from being subject of verbal abuse and death threats from General Jean Francois Ndenguet. He is an avid supporter of press freedom and real democracy.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Guy Milex Mbondzi: Profile of an insatiable investigative journalist

Guy Milex Mbondzi:  He is a journalist and publisher of La Voix du Peuple.  And La Voix du Peuple, in my opinion is perhaps along with other newspapers such as: Sel Piment, Nouvelle Observateur and La Griffe, the last truly independent newspapers left in Congo. But as at the time, that I was typing or writing this book, La Voix du Peuple had also suffered the same fate of Talassa newspaper. That is, banned indefinitely by the government of Denis Sassou Nguesso. However, he now runs or publishes, La Trompet, a sister newspaper. Unfortunately for him and the Congolese readers, La Trompet newspaper has also been banned by the government. Until the indefinite ban of La Voix du Peuple, took place, it was perhaps the only newspaper in Congo, which held the record in term of suspensions from the government. It immediate competitor was Talassa. It was thanks to La Voix du Peuple and also Talassa that, the scandal of the sale of Congolese diplomatic passports to Lebanese, suspected of belonging to Hezbollah was exposed. La Voix du Peuple was the first to reveal the secret love child of Jean Dominique Okemba. The mismanagement at LCB Bank by its former manager, Younes El Masloumi was exposed or revealed by La Voix du Peuple and when Jean-Jacques Bouya appointed his younger brother, Serge Bouya as the deputy Director of the Pointe Noire Autonomous Port, the paper that broke the news was La Voix du Peuple. The head of the Congolese National Communications Commission, Mr Philippe Mvouo calls Mbondzi a “terrorist journalist” while Clement Mierassa, chair of an opposition party calls him a freedom fighter.  

Mbonzi’s insatiable love for investigative journalism has created him several enemies within the circles of power and also within the journalism profession. Within the profession, some of his colleagues are jealous of him because, he is young and also because of the notoriety that he has created for himself and newspaper, within a very short time.  Until I was expelled from Congo by General Jean Francois Ndenguet, because I dare protest after he ordered thugs to attack my home and also gang rape my younger sister, I have been observing Guy Milex Mbonzi with admiration. I was impressed and I always said to myself that, if Congo had five courageous and honest journalists such as Mbonzi, the days of the dictatorship of Denis Sassou Nguesso would have been numbered. Sadly, most Congolese journalists are professionally lazy, corrupt and dishonest. They are mostly animated by foolish pride, sterile nationalism, jealousy and envy. Most often some observers do accuse the opposition and civil society organisations in the country for not only being weak, but corrupt. And they claim that, it is because of the weak, corrupt and divided oppositions and civil society organisations, which have made Denis Sassou Nguesso to stay longer than needed in power. It is partly correct, but they also forget to mention the aspect of violence employed by the government on the population, as being another factor in the long reign of Denis Sassou Nguesso. 

The other perhaps crucial aspect seldom mentioned in to the reason why Denis Sassou Nguesso can extend his rule or misrule, without and organized resistance or prolonged protest, is the dubious role played by most Congolese journalists and their press. Most Congolese journalists are not only corrupt; some even go the extra mile of betraying their colleagues and members of the opposition to the Police, for a monthly stipend.  Most Colleagues journalists work as spies for the regime, especially for the Police. However, Guy Milex Mbonzi and some few others are the exceptions to the rule in a country whose press is rotten. Throughout my stay in Congo, I knew that, La Voix du Peuple has been published and is in circulation, whenever I saw Guy Milex Mbonzi, dressed in a black Mao Zedong style coat and holding his black briefcase and walking around the business and administrative district of Brazzaville. Instead of him hiding in his BasCongo neighbourhood, whenever he published La Voix du Peuple, he was in town. And more, he was aware that, each edition of La Voix du Peuple on the newsstand was synonymous to a bomb explosion of revelations on the lives of the rich and powerful. And in spite the risk, he still had the effrontery to come and defy those on whom he had published articles.

The content of La Voix du Peuple was so valued and appreciated by the population to a point where, it survived economically without adverts until it was banned. His secret was simple. He did investigative journalism and focused not only on political subjects, but more on financial subjects and also on the political, economical and salacious lives of those governing the country. He is bold and enjoys risking taking. He is also a militant in the defense and protection of free speech and democracy. Furthermore, he is honest and knows how to keep secrets. Those are qualities, besides professionalism, that most Congolese journalists do lack. Guy Milex Mbonzi has created a name for himself because he doesn’t take bribe or is not at the mercy of any political affiliation. He has refused to used be by the government, especially by the Police of General Jean Francois Ndenguet to spy on opposition party leaders and other prodemocracy activists, as most of his colleagues are doing. However, he seems to have an idealistic view of the world and of Congo in particular.

Furthermore, he sometimes doesn’t make distinction between his profession and his hatred of the misrule of the country by Denis Sassou Nguesso and his cohort. He is a person who believes in Congolese and African traditions. He says he is an African Christian and a nationalist; hence he is a member or follower of Andre Grenard Matsoua. Followers of Andre Grenard Matsoua, a Congolese nationalist and pan Africanist are called the Matsouanists. Matsouanism is an indigenous Congolese Christian movement. He also leads a very secretive live, for it is not known whether he is married or whether he has a partner or children. To confront the current dictatorship in Congo, there is need for such bold press men and women like Guy Milex Mbondzi, who are not corruptible and who also believe in true multiparty democracy and freedom of speech. He is the only Congolese journalist , during my close to four years stay in that country, whom I have seen refuse money and also a proposition of trip to France to stay and continue his education. Those offers were made to him by Bienvenu Okiemi, former minister of Communications. The former minister wanted him not only stop investigating how he ran the ministry of Communications, but the minister also wanted him to give him his source of information within the ministry or elsewhere. Guy Milex rejected all those demands. All those transactions took place in my presence and the venue was the restaurant of Mikhael Hotel in Brazzaville. He stands out as an honest diehard advocate for press freedom and democracy, in a country where most journalists because of limited or no resources, have become informants of the police.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ifrikia Kengue: Profile of a hard working female journalist from Congo

Ifrikia Kengue:  she is perhaps the best online journalist in Congo. Calm, intelligent and above all, independent minded. She is the antithesis of Sadio Kante-Morel in term of character. However, professionally, she is to print media and online or social media, what Sadio Kante is to TV journalism in Congo. Another difference with Sadio and her is that, she is purely a journalist and keeps her political opinions to herself or expresses them only to friends that, she has confidence in them. However, this has not shielded her from being subject of attacks from the government and their thugs. Ifrikia Kengue is in my humble opinion, the embodiment of what a journalist should be. That is: hard working, not accepting the dictates of the employer, especially if they are against the respect of human right and press freedom. In my opinion also, a journalist must moreover be ready to defend and promote free speech and free market, as well as, all liberal orientations. 

Ifrikia Kengue is also the antithesis of most Congolese girls, in particular female journalists, whose only ambition is to be showy and always desiring to get married to a rich old baron of the ruling party. Rather than count on men, she is hard working. She does not only defy the macho world of the Congolese press, she has even gone the extra mile to create her own media company. It is a testimony not only to her professionalism but more of her independent and bold spirit. And in a country where the press is weak and also where most journalists are not digitally savvy, she is a pioneer in digital or online journalism in Congo. Her only rival or competitor is Sadio Kante-Morel. Ifrikia Kengue is a graduate of the school of Mass Communication of the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville. She has worked for several newspapers in Brazzaville and abroad either as a permanent staff or as a stringer. Some of them are: Jeune Afrique, La Semaine Africaine and Terrafrica. She is also known well as a prodemocracy activist and also women’s right activists.

Sadio Kante-Morel: profile of a journalist fighting against the 33 years misrule of Denis Sassou Nguesso

Sadio Kante-Morel: Until she became the flagship rabble-rouser on the streets and halls of France, rallying the Congolese and French-speaking black African Diaspora against the 33 years misrule of Denis Sassou Nguesso and other dictators, Sadio Kante-Morel was a seasoned reporter. She was a stringer with Thompson Reuters and the BBC Afrique in West Africa. It was an occasion that took her to several hotspots on the continent, in particular in the north of Ivory Coast, when it was under the control of the rebels, who are currently governing in Abidjan. And while in Congo, she was concomitantly stringing for Reuters and also collaborating or taking part at regular intervals in TV programmes on MNTV. The programme where she most participated was Point de Press. This programme was anchored by Emery Patrice Orbargui. Sadio Kante-Morel, who is a widow with only one child, is dedicated to her job and also a fearless militant against corruption and against dictatorship. Because of her dedication to her job, she most often neglects herself and doesn’t care about her looks. The dreadlock, eyeglass wearing and chaining smoke lady, is the only high profile female journalist of Congo presently.  Even though, she is now fully dedicated militant in France to see the back of Denis Sassou Nguesso, she remains professionally a journalist. This can be seen through her posts on her Facebook page where she interviews politicians and civil society activists of Congo from both sides of the divide.

Congo is a pathetic country for female journalists and professional women in general. It is a country where the system has destroyed any entrepreneurial spirits in women.  However this aspect will be developed on the chapter on Congolese culture.  The sad thing with the journalism profession in Congo is that, since female journalists such as Solange Samba Touyou, Arlette Soudan-Nonault and Marie Jeanne Colombo, left the profession, Congo no longer has high calibre female journalists capable of handling major economic or political programmes on TV, Radio and also in the print media. Today, most female Congolese journalists, especially those who are on TV and to a certain level radio, are not professionally ambitious.  Their presence on TV or Radio is a stepping stone to getting married or to be seen by powerful old and corrupt politicians or superficial businessmen. Hence in most newsrooms in Congo, whenever there are squabbles amongst female journalists, it is not for professional reasons. But their disputes occur because they want to accompany a minister or a member of the ruling party on mission to the interior of the country. For they are of the opinion that,  luck might smile to one of them and she will be selected as the mistress or second or even fourth wife of the minister or high ranking politician who came to solicit the service of their media house to send them as reporters to cover his activity.

It is a pitiable observation that I have made while in Congo. By contrast, in other Africans countries such as the DRC, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Senegal, female journalists are competing with their male colleagues professionally. In Congo, female journalists are instead competing with each to sleep with the most influential politicians, in order to have a RAV4 SUV or a trip to Paris or Dubai. However, Sadio Kante-Morel and perhaps two other journalists, whose profile you will soon read, were the exceptions to rule. Because of Sadio’s devotion to her job, she was expelled from her native country Congo to Mali. Sadio Kante-Morel is a pure Congolese born in the populous neighbourhood of Poto-poto, from Senegalo-Malian immigrant parents. She speaks fluent lingala.

Even though her parents are Muslims, she is not a practicing Muslim and has the liberal behavior of any women born in Christian and animist equatorial Africa. It is refreshing to find an independent and also bold female journalist working professionally, the way Sadio did until her expulsion and this, in a country where women are not professionally ambitious. It is not as though there are no female journalists in Congo. There are a good number of them. However none has been able to singularize herself professionally as Sadio has done within the electronic media. However, the only problem with Sadio, if it is really one, is that, she likes smoking and she also talks a lot. On the positive side, she is not rancorous and professionally, she likes investigative journalism with an insatiable desire for risk taking. She adores being the first on a story or making the breaking news. She was even the one who first broke the news of my spectacular armed robbery and the gang rape of my younger sister on the night of the 9th breaking September 10th 2014. The fact that through social media she informed the world about my gruesome attack, it was never appreciated by the hierarchy of the Police and in chief, Jean Francois Ndenguet. She is also digital savvy, in a country where journalists: men and women are on the same level in their ignorance of new media. Sadio Kante-Morel gets angry very fast, but as mentioned earlier, she keeps very little or no grudges. She is perhaps the only journalist in Congo male and female who have received record aggressions and attacks from the Police.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ghys Fortune Bemba: Profile of a militant and fearless jourrnalist

Ghys Fortune Bemba: he is a journalist and publisher of a weekly newspaper called Talassa. Unfortunately, Talassa has been indefinitely banned by the government of Congo on the instruction of the president of the Republic, so I was told by Philippe Mvouo. Mr Mvouo is the head of the National Communications Council, a government body in charge of monitoring the press. Mr Bemba, who is must be said is not a journalist by profession but a theologian, who is at the forefront in the crusade against corruption and also against the dictatorial government of Denis Sassou Nguesso. unlike other professional journalists such as Joachim Mbanza or Alphonse Ndongo, who take precautions, Ghys Fortune Bemba enjoys risk taking when it come to denouncing corruption, state sponsored brutalities and all the excesses of the regime of Denis Sassou Nguesso. He likes championing lost causes and for that, he has also paid the price. Hence on several occasions he has been arrested and tortured. And sometimes, he is on voluntary exile in France or in Cameroon where he studied theology at the Protestant University of Yaoundé. He is militant and fearless and uses his paper to write or criticize corruption, human rights abuses and obstructions to press freedom and democracy.

What he lacks professionally and intellectually is compensated through his militant posturing. His fearless or boldness have helped solve several problems in the country. However, the only problem that I have noticed with Bemba is that, he likes talking more how he has succeeded in becoming rich with his colleague than on how to help improve the profession and also how best to fight against the current dictatorship.  When I came to see him, he will spend a long periods talking about his new buildings or his new car Rental Company. Like any other person of his stature, he has his own detractors. Some claim that, he can’t write French, while others claim that, he was formerly working in collaboration with General Jean Francois Ndenguet. But I have no proves of all those allegations. For if he was working for General Jean Francois Ndenguet as claimed by some of his detractors, his newspaper won’t have been ban and he would not have been a wanted man in the country. However, what I know with him is that, he is close to the opposition, in particular to Andre Okombi Salissa.