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.

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