Thursday, June 8, 2017

Congo Brazzaville, land of Flattery and French courtesy


What I have also observed with some Congolese elite that I have visited and befriended is that, they are very unauthentic. On the advice of one of my Congolese friend, I did at some points, began limiting the expression of what I honestly thought on Television and on Radio or even on social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Viber. Clearly speaking, I started self censorship. In other words, I became a hypocrite, just like most Congolese politicians and elite are. I became like them: shallow in my thoughts and utterances, because I wanted to please. Paradoxically, it did not prevent them from expelling me.
Rules in Congo: Flattery and French courtesy

One golden rule in Congo is that, it is proscribe to tell the truth, in particular to the governing elite. It explains why the country is full of professional liars. To survive in Congo, you must lie or shower the elite with excessive praise, in behaving that way, you are assured to win their favour.  I have personally tried the experience and it has succeeded. Whenever I visited a friend who belonged to what I generally referred to as the “happy few” or “its governing elite”, I played “the Congolese ways”. That is, tell my host what he wanted to hear. However, there were occasions and people to whom I could honestly speak what I thought. But it was reserved only to elite that I had known for a very long while and whom, I must have tested and discovered that, he/she can take praise as well as criticisms. Alain Akouala, Clement Mierassa, Raymond Zephirin Mboulou and Bienvenu Okiemy are the only close Congolese elite that I know who accepted honest appraisals: positive and negative. And the second rule in Congo is, always to rain praises or flattery on your interlocutor, in particular, if he/she is a minor or major actor within the governing elite. Objectivity is alien to those currently governing the country. Another observation that supports the fact that, most Congolese elite, in particular males, loves praise and little critics is this: whenever a Congolese  government minister grants an interview to the Press, especially to Radio France international, he/she will call all his/her collaborators around and ask them to give their impressions. The responses expected must all be positive, for any contrary comments attract the rage of the minister and also the risk of loss of employment. That is why; Congolese authorities and government officers always make strategic mistakes, because there are no rooms for those hired as advisers to express sincerely what they really think. As a consequence, most keep their opinions to themselves for fear of losing their jobs and privileges.

Experience (1)

I once visited a government minister who was living in the heart of the city of Brazzaville and in keeping with the advice of my Congolese friend, when I arrived at the minister’s house and was given a seat, I sat down. When I was comfortably seated, I sensed that, the minister was preparing to go out. Where was he going to? That I can’t tell, but I told him: “Sir, you are well dressed”. Immediately, he smiled from ear to ear. And, strangely, a man who looked as though he was in hurry to leave when I came in suddenly went into slow motion, and he replied: “I have spent most of my life in Paris, the global capital of fashion. That explains why I make sure am always well dressed and in a trendy manner.” And he went on: “I am not like the other minister who is a railway trade unionist and a communist, who studied in the former Soviet Union”. Then, after our conversation, I don’t know whether, he really wanted to go out or he simply wanted to show me his latest suit from Paris, he went into his room, changed and don a new suit. He behaved as if he was in a dress rehearsal for a male fashion parade.

Show and tell

The way the latter mentioned government minister reacted is a well known attribute of Congolese elite: show and tell. Most of them are also very pretentious.  Congolese elite like to dress well and take good care of their physic by buying expensive perfumes and also sadly, use bleaching creams to whiten up. Remember this rule, which must not be neglected in Congo: you must constantly compliment Congolese elite and never criticize him/her, if you want to have any favors. The other brand of Congolese elite is that, his dresses won’t be given any consideration, if they are not bought in France. That is, his suits, tie, shirt and shoes. This concerns not only the top alpha male but also women belonging to the “happy few circles”. 

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