Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Congo: land of extrajudicial assassinations and wanton arrests

In the view or opinion of the government of Congo, all those who are genuinely defending press freedom and democracy, were/are considered as traitors, who deserve to die. Hence, Bruno J. Ossebi, Ghislain Simplice Ongouya, Joseph Ngouala and Prosper Mokabi Ndawa were killed individually and in very atrocious manners. In mentioning them and also in writing this book, I am also trying to pay them in my own small way, a homage that, the people and the Congolese government, never gave them. On the 25th of May 2015 at 1 am, I received a message via Facebook messenger. It was written by a lady named: “Anastasie Chloe Ndongo-Obama and it read thus: Good evening Mr Smith. It is just to tell you that, you are an excellent journalist”. She went on: “Do not allow insults and other petty provocations to affect your morale. Were you on different continent, you would have been decorated for the way you are doing and have done your job, especially here in Congo. But Africa, being what she is, your work is being trampled upon by a people who lack any basic moral values. But know that, your work has made many things to improve positively here. I am sincere in what I am writing and I hope to see you again when next I am in Cameroon. Good night”. In fact, it was good morning, because it was already 1am on the 25th    day of May 2015.  And it was cheering to read such as good and encouraging message, from someone from the social media, in particular, Facebook.

In this period, no one could understand the impact of social media, in particular, Facebook, better than I. I know firsthand it impact and it influence. I have used it and it has also created me problems. For the threats that I mostly received came through social media and one of the reasons behind my expulsion, it is claimed by some, originated from there. However, I  am still convinced that, social media and in chief, Facebook remains  a formidable tool that can change or improve things positively in Africa, especially within countries and regions that  are not only led by dictatorial regimes, but that also have draconian press laws. But prior to the message that, I had received from Anastasie Chloe Ndongo-Obama, still from Facebook, I received a violent message from another lady who goes by the name: Carole Lou. And it went thus: “it would have been best for you to have been raped instead of your poor younger sister. Ungrateful Cameroonian, should you ever attempt to return to Congo, you will be beaten and killed”. She continued: “Long live General Jean Francois Ndenguet, for peace and long live operation “Mbata ya ba kolo”.  Mbata ya ba kolo or the knock from an elder, was the code of a violent Police operation launched in 2012, which resulted in the violent expulsion of  thousands of citizens from the Democratic Republic of  Congo, from Congo Brazzaville. That operation was a prelude to my expulsion and also that of my colleague, Sadio Kante-Morel. It was also a sign of more atrocious things to come.

It was on the 24th of May 2015, that I received the violent message from Carole Lou. The reaction of some people on Facebook toward me was violent. Most of them were hire social activists, paid by the government through General Jean Francois Ndenguet to denigrate anything that I or Sadio Kante-Morel wrote. It was a battle, this time around fought on social media, that, I think we and other social activists have won. We have won because, in spite all government tactics, we have been able today, to expose the government of Congo to the face of the world. Although the government of Congo spends billion on lobbying firms and also on media houses for adverts that launders their image, the world now knows that, Denis Sassou Nguesso is no better than, Robert Mugabe, Paul Biya, Issias Afwerki and other dictators around the world. However in this chapter I just wanted to bring up two views or messages from two ladies, representing the divided opinions on Facebook. 

However, no matter how violent some opinions or messages were, it showed that, social media was and remains, the only place in Congo and also in greater central African sub region, wherein real democracy can be practiced. For, people were able to express divergent views without fear of being arrested or killed. In Congo, I was persecuted not only physically, but also mentally and psychologically. I was a resigned person. I knew that, come what may, I will receive the same fate of Bruno J. Ossebi, Ghislain Simplice Ongouya, Joseph Ngouala and Prosper Mokabi Ndawa. I was a man sentenced to death and my entire environment was considered as my death squad. The only unknown, was when and where will I be gun down.  I was receiving regularly, dead threats and abusive or insultive messages on my phone as well as via Facebook messenger. Still on Facebook, I was misrepresented and most often caricatured as a monkey and worst; I was presented as an agent of the west, bent at changing the regime not only of Congo, but of the entire sub region. But I was not the only one who was receiving such threats via the aforementioned medium. Many of my colleagues, lawyers, and members of the opposition were also receiving death threats verbally, via their mobile phones or via Facebook. To attack independent journalists, independent lawyers and all other prodemocracy activists on social media, the Congolese government invested massively.

Private mobile phones companies such as the South African, MTN or the Indian, Airtel, were called into contribution by the government. Their role was eavesdropping on independent journalists, prodemocracy activists and also on western diplomats. The security service hired people who opened different or several Facebook, blogs, twitter and Whatsapp accounts, that are/were meant to insult or attack all those whose views are/were contrary to those of the government. The groups of people are known in French as les combatant du web or online warriors.  Then, I did not know that, social media were to play a major role in Congo’s presidential elections as it has done today. Exposing the fantastic electoral fraud of President Denis Sassou Nguesso in March 20th 2016 presidential elections. Congo is a gigantic torture house. And at the head of this formidable machine of physical and psychological torture is General Jean Francois Ndenguet. Their plan is to force their victim to quit or commit suicide. Africa is a strange place, where things that are not accepted elsewhere are either accepted or tolerated.  This is a continent where some or a majority of its leaders would want to hang on to power, even if it means killing an entire region or even country as it being observed in Burundi and currently I in  the Pool region of Congo.

Africa is a continent where some women will support rape, simply because they want to defend and protect their own interest. Fortunately, once in a while, there are some lining of hope, like the elections that took place in Nigeria and where there was peaceful alternation of power. But Congo, represent that small but equally bad Africa, whose negative images and actions erodes all the democratic advancements, however small that is taking place on the continent.   In term of the respect of human rights and democracy in general, the situation is deteriorating rapidly in Congo. People are being arrested in  wanton manner, the press is not free, extrajudicial assassinations are rampant, democracy is destroyed and corruption and immorality has been elevated as a way of life by government that wants to stay in power everlastingly, hence, all means are used to perpetuate its plans. All those opposed to the government are either arrested or forced into exile.  As regards my job and stay at MNCOM, which is owned by Maurice Nguesso, the elder brother of Denis Sassou Nguesso, I have also read lot things online about the reason why I stayed or worked in Congo. 

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