Saturday, January 30, 2016

Congo: a Central African regional laboratory or testing ground

Therefore, Jean Dominique Okemba who doesn’t like contradictions himself and by extension free speech is not the one influencing Denis Sassou Nguesso to dislike press freedom, the president likes a press that showers praises on him and all what he does and nothing.  Denis Sassou Nguesso is a dictator, who thinks that, he was created by God to rule Congo. And as long as he is alive, he wants to be president of Congo and also have influence within the sub region and beyond. Armed with the support of Maurice Nguesso, I went ahead and established the editorial line, which was liberal and pro-democracy oriented. Personally, noted the heavy influence of Communism on Congolese and I hell bent at contributing in destroying it at my small level.  I consider Communism as a policy that was vile.  Communism in my humble opinion encourages personality cult culture, absence of a culture of merit and worst of all dictatorship. I felt it was an opportunity for me to encourage Congolese to be more liberal culturally, pro-democratic and business oriented. I also had another objective besides my inner most desire to encourage free speech and the destruction of a system, which I quickly assimilated to be diabolic.

My other objective was that, I wanted Congo to become an English-speaking country or to love Anglo-Saxon culture. For I have always thought rightly or wrongly and this perhaps, because I am from Anglophone Cameroon and an Anglophone nationalist, that, the French language for all its praises and decorum was a language of oppression and economic degradation.  The French language made most French-speaking Africans not to be independent minded and more, that language made it also easier for France to continue to dominate most or all French-speaking African countries. Hence, in my secret ambition to make or contribute to make Congo to become English-speaking or to develop  love for the English-speaking world and also look beyond France, I did all I could, to sign a partnership with the Voice of America (VOA) and started broadcasting English language programmes on MNTV/MN Radio. Besides the above, VOA programmes also came as help to our shortage of internal productions. 

Although there were some programmes in French such as Washington Forum on Television, most of the programmes from VOA that were broadcast on radio were in French hence, I didn’t care whether they were broadcast or not. However, mindful of the power of the radio because, it remained the main medium that had and still has the capacity to reach the homes of several Congolese, hence, I ordered that, the broadcast of VOA English language programmes on radio as well.  My targets were young Congolese who were born between 1990 and 1997, although these groups like those born between 1978 and 1980 downward, have only known Denis Sassou Nguesso as president, with a short but violent period of Pascal Lissouba. The first groups were more open to democratic progress and change than the second. For they were more  ready to listen or watch other radio and television stations other than Radio France International or TV5 or France 24 from France and more, they like American culture and the English language.

My other observation was that, Congo with its influence within the sub region, its rich culture and striving intellectuals who were almost all living in exile because of Denis Sassou Nguesso, was for me a central African regional laboratory or testing ground. If there was any regime change or respect of the constitution by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, it might influence what is happening in Cameroon where Paul Biya and his corrupt regime have been governing Cameroon for 33 years. It might also influence the Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo was everything or was the fulcrum in the pro-democratic plans that I had for a part of Africa that is a hideout of the worst dictatorships on the continent. The most difficult experience that I had in Congo were not the challenges of censorship or death threats or  best expulsion, which eventually happened on the 26th of September 2014. The most difficult thing was to get a team to work with as earlier mentioned. This was so because, Congo as already mentioned, has a problem of acute shortage of qualified labor or manpower.

Nonetheless, I had to rely on the help of Alexandre Pierre Bougha who was the Director of Programmes. The other pair of sure hands was Sam Nick Owosso, who was the technical Director and also Alain Shungu, the news Director. Frustrated and appalled by the standard of the journalists that, I had or met at MNTV/MN Radio, I once asked Alain Shungu this question: why an experience journalist like you could employ or recruit people or journalists who could not read or write French or even the two national languages of the country, namely: Lingala and Kituba? He replied: the 10 who could read and write were the ones that I recruited or recommended that they should be recruited. The rest, he concluded: were recommendations from Maurice Nguesso or Simon Zibe, the adviser of Maurice Nguesso on matters of Communications. It was around those ten journalists who had amongst them a talented and I think a gifted journalist called Prince Bafoulou. Besides Prince Bafoulou, there were other talents such as Herve Ekirono, Serge Bakola aka le Francais, Guy Blaise de Seydoux Mamadou, Leho de Paris Bantsimba, Esther Bikoumou and Alexan Vinet Foundou, Davy Mossa and Emery Patrice Orbargui, they constituted the core of the newsroom.

It is also true that, Herve Ekirono, Guy Blaise de Seydoux , Serge Bakola aka le Francais and Stanislas Okassou, were reporters who came over from the daily Le Fanion, when it was closed. But they brought in a fresh blood with their talents into the TV and Radio. I also noticed some promising reporters and presenters such as Stella Lurnelle Mfina, Oliviane Bayanga and Olga Tchitembo. It is also true that, I made a mistake, when I was about to appoint the first news editor of MNTV/MN Radio. Instead of appointing Prince Bafoulou, I appointed a certain Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape. He too was talented and much more experienced than all. But Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape drank a lot. He was an alcoholic that I have never seen before. I don’t know whether it was because of the consequences of the civil war or whether it was his family brother that made such a brilliant journalist such as Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape to love the bottle, the way he did. However, I was told that, it was curse that was cast on their family.

But I don’t believe it, for I am of the opinion that, you are what you decide to be. Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape has visited several revival churches to help cast out the demon of alcoholism in him had failed. In the battleground that Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape body became, “Satan the devil”, defeated God in and out.   I think the appointment of Yvon Armand Amoko aka le Pape as the first editor-in-chief of MNTV/MN Radio was also the first fundamental strategic mistake that I did and wish I regret because I or we lost Prince Bafoulou. It is true that, Congolese or within MNCOM, there was a dearth of professionals, but Prince Bafoulou was an exception. He had his training in journalism not in Congo but in the Republic of Benin, a country well respected for its free speech and solid democratic credentials. From that mistake, I learnt five things in management: don’t rush, don’t judge on appearances, and don’t listen to what people say on others, make your own patience assessments and always work with the best. While the credit for what MNTV/MN Radio has become most often is directed to me, the one who instituted or the real architect of our success on TV and Radio was Alexandre Pierre Bougha, for he was the one who created most of the programmes on Radio and Television.

Alexandre Pierre Bougha is a very intelligent man with a strong analytical mind. And I learn at MNCOM that, to succeed, always surround yourself with the best minds. A good leader or anyone who wants to succeed must not be afraid of brilliant and intelligent people. Besides the challenges to have a team of train journalists or technicians which was solved as time went by especially with on the job trainings and my capacity to adapt and operate with empiricism. The other challenge was how to work independently without the government or the ruling family interferences. In Congo, in has to pointed out that, the ruling Nguesso family are present everywhere. It is a kind of a republican monarchy. Any person with a license to operate anything must be close to the ruling family. The first privately owned Radio and Television Station to operate in Congo is called DRTV or Dabira Radio and Television. But officially, it is called Digital Radio and Television. This TV and Radio station is owned by General Norbert DABIRA who is indicted in France for war crime.

It had to do with the role that he is alleged to have played in the 1999 Massacre of Congolese Refugees returning from the DRC. The Massacre is popularly known in French as Les Disparus du Beech. However, General Norbert DABIRA is not the only high profile Congolese general close to President Denis SASSOU NGEUSSO that has been indicted for war crime. The other notable indicted war criminal is General Jean François NDENGUET. Although General Norbert DABIRA is from the North of Congo like President Denis Sassou Nguesso and of the same tribe, President Denis Sassou Nguesso never wanted him to have or open his own Radio and Television station. That was what General DABIRA ones told me. I asked him the reason why he replied “the President and his family are accusing me that, I supported their 1997 coup d’état against the democratically elected government of President Pascal LISSOUBA very late”.

He concluded: “were it not for the intervention of Maurice Nguesso, when he still had influence on his younger brother before the arrival of Jean Dominique OKEMBA, I won’t have had the authorization to operate my Radio and Television station operational today”. I asked him again: why was President Denis Sassou Nguesso not willing, besides the fact that you failed to join them at the beginning of the 1997 uprising against president Pascal Lissouba?  He replied: “President Denis Sassou Nguesso thought that, by authorizing me to have a media or a Radio and Television station to be precise, I will get involve into politics, thus challenging his desire to remain in power for life. They are always like that in that family. They want others to work for them as slaves.  Even his uncle, who is the Minister of Justice, Aime Emmanuel YOKA, always thinks that, they are superior to other”. It has to be noted clearly that, because of the intervention of Maurice Nguesso, DRTV is alive and broadcasting today in the Republic of Congo. But the editorial line of DRTV  is not very different from the state owned broadcaster, Tele Congo. 

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