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.

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