Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Francois Bikindou: Profile of the devil’s advocate

Francois Bikindou: he is the publisher of a bimonthly newspaper called Le Troubadour that is nationally known to be sponsored by Vice Admiral Jean Dominique Okemba through General Jean Francois Ndenguet. But Francois Bikindou, albeit a former bête-noir of the people that he is now sheepishly serving, is an excellent journalist. Even his detractors know that he has an excellent pen. He was the former correspondent of the French service of the BBC in Congo.  And were it not for an information tip from Alain Akouala, who was then the minister of Communications and now Minister of Special Economic zones, Francois Bikindou would have been killed by the killing squad of General Jean Francois Ndenguet. The only crime of Francois Bikindou then, was that, he was a professional journalist and reported accurately the atrocities happening in the Pool region. In Congo, history keeps repeating itself. Like yesterday, the Pool region was a secluded killing field that, the Congolese government did everything to hide its atrocities nationally and internationally. And today, they are doing the same thing: massively killing people in the southern part of Brazzaville and the Pool region. It is an unnamed genocide that is being carried out by the Congolese government, against the people of southern Brazzaville and southern section of the Pool. The Pool region is a killing field without images. Francois Bikindou was accused by Francois Ndenguet of being a “terrorist journalist” who supported Reverend Pastor Ntumi and late Bernard Kolelas.  

Today he has become the guard dog of Francois Ndenguet, his former enemy. Even though he was persecuted, some still claim that, he was a kind of intermediary, between Pastor Ntumi and the regime. Whether it is true or not, is not important. All I know, from my investigations and conversations that I had with Francois is that, he was being blackmailed by Jean Francois Ndenguet, because he was doing just his job. And everyone knows that, in Congo, it is seldom accepted or appreciated for a journalist to do his/her job professionally. In order not to have the fate of Bruno Ossebi, he had to escape to the United Kingdom via the Democratic Republic of Congo and seek asylum.  According to people who know him in the UK, the home office rejected his application for asylum several times, because, they had information that, Francois Bikindou was for all his professionalism, a disguised Trojan horse within the opposition and civil society, at the service of the government.

However, after several interventions from Bush House, that never wanted to abandon its reporter, he was granted asylum status. While in exile, he wrote two books. One was called in French: Des Rires sur Larme and a second one that, I have forgotten the title, was a tirade against Denis Sassou Nguesso. He also worked for a Congolese community radio based in Bradford and whose coverage was Bradford, Huddersfield and Halifax... Today, he holds dual British and Congolese nationalities.  But no one can explain his dramatic change in his position from a professional independent journalist to become the Communications adviser of Jean Francois Ndenguet and the publisher of propaganda newspaper called Le Troubadour. Le Troubadour newspaper that he manages has today become the official mouth piece of the destructive and evil machine of Jean Francois Ndenguet. It is well known that, the head of the Congolese Police Force is an assertive and also an unrepentant violator of human rights. He is known for his summary executions and he even boast of all his atrocities. Jean Francois Ndenguet, his current boss also has three well known militia groups: GRB, Gordon Security and Dorsah Security. His close aides also run their own independent killing squads or squadrons, around the country, especially in Brazzaville and in Pointe Noire.

Jean Francois Ndenguet also has an elaborate network of journalists’ fan-out within all the media houses, who feeds him back with information. In this manner, he controls every bit of information published or broadcast within media houses that are all under state control. Le Troubadour churns out blatant lies and character assassinations at industrious scale and almost all, are always directed at people who are suspected or opposed to the regime. Le Troubadour has become the rumor mill par excellence, that doctors falsehood into information to make it appear as true.  Because of his proximity with the most dreadful members of Sassou Nguesso regime, he is hated by most Congolese, especially people from his native region of the Pool and also by well known political dynastic families such as the Kolelas. Francois Bikindou is now referred to as the devil’s advocate. Some people without any prove have gone the extra mile of accusing him of having betrayed Pauline Makaya, a Congolese opposition politician, who is now in jail. When his father and more recently, his mother died, it was a desert at their wake keeping, a strong sign of disapproval or pariah status, within his community. However, since even the Devil can’t be hated by all, he has his friends in the Pool region. They are Michel Mampouya, Hellot Matson Mampouya and Claude Alphonse N’silou. Interestingly or not, all his friends are supporters of the regime.

Sadly, his professionalism is put at the service of a cause that doesn’t promote free speech and real democracy. Instead he is helping to consolidate a violent dictatorship that wants to keep a family in power forever, like in North Korea. The sad or good thing is that, Francois Bikindou doesn’t believe in the movement for which his paper was created to ventilate or to promote. Since his sponsors wanted a professional and were ready to pay, Francois Bikindou, who is in his early 50s was ready to parcel and market a product that he doesn’t believe in, however bad the content is. His action is not only selfish, but he is an example of why freedom of speech and democracy has failed in to take root in a country, where most people have lost interest in fighting for the collective good. Some Congolese, in particular, a special crop of press men and women, members of political parties and civil society organisations, have lost any sense of sacrifice, partly because of the heavy hands of the current dictatorship.

The other reasons are: endemic poverty and also the growth of individualism and the appalling pursuit of personal wealth. Everybody in Congo, especially in the press, politics and civil society, wants to become rich. Whether Bikindou is an opportunist or a vile realist, it is left for him to classify where he truly belongs. However, he once told me that, he is supporting the regime; because he is sure that, Jean Dominique Okemba, will succeed Denis Sassou Nguesso in 2016. But should the population resist the change of the constitution of January 20th 2002, Jean Dominique Okemba is preparing to rule Congo in 2021 after Denis Sassou Nguesso. He even invited me to join them. He also told once in a restaurant in Brazzaville called Sympathique that, the real sponsor of his newspaper was Jean Dominique Okemba.  The sponsorship was done through Jean Francois Ndenguet. He was just confirming what I already knew. General Jean Francois Ndenguet is the right hand man of Jean Dominique Okemba and also of the regime. On that day, when we met and eat at the restaurant “Le Sympathique”, he asked me this question: don’t you want to have or buy a house either in Cameroon or in France? He went on: My question is because we want you to join us. You are professional, popular and influential in this country because of your job. And he added with assurance: come and joins us because the next president of Congo will be Jean Dominique Okemba.

He was very sure of himself and was not speaking conditionally. I told him that: I might sound naive. But I have two boys and I want that, whenever they  come to visit Congo and they tell anyone who asked them, who their father is or was,  they should be given respect for what their father has done professionally. I also added: that, I am working with the elder brother of the president and would not want to take part in what appears to be a coup d’état in preparation. I concluded: I am a journalist and a foreigner. I will not want to take sides, professionally or otherwise, it is not good for me. To this, he smiled. Perhaps he said inwardly that, I was either naïve or stupid. The irony, as above mentioned, is that, Francois Bikindou was almost assassinated by this same regime and the very people that, he is now working for. It is sad how we can change sides because of money.  In Congo treachery because of money in politics just as in matrimony is a common practice. It is disheartening that, such a brilliant journalist has carpet crossed to serve people, who are not only killing Congolese, but his own very people of the Pool region. It is generally claimed that, life is a matter of choice and Bikindou has chosen the path of the devil. He is married to Chantal and has two children: boy and girl and they live in Manchester.

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