Sunday, 23 December 2012

We wish you Happy Holidays!

Myself, Gael Masengi and the rest of contributors would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New year 2013 to all of our "Gael On Media" faithful readers from around the world. We hope to see you again in the upcoming year as we promise more depth news coverage and opinion from an African point-of-view!

Here are some of  2012's most read stories on the blog (Click on the title to read):

Are Belgian immigration laws strict or reckless?

Cyberspace: Africa’s new alternative media?

How DRC tweets! And why.

“Neither Kabila nor the M23 rebellion is welcome!”

Is the DRC crisis really not worth making headlines?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Is the DRC crisis really not worth making headlines?

By Gael Masengi

 If you have been constantly asking yourself and wondering why the world deadliest conflict of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) still isn’t getting enough media coverage compared to others, well the chance is you are not alone neither insane. Just like you, I’ve challenged the idea of one’s blood is more worthy than the other but given the situation and overwhelming media attention certain wars are getting no one will blame many who seem to think the opposite.

This past week Khadija Patel wrote an outstanding piece in the Daily Maverick news website, in the article titled “From Gaza to the Congo: Whose blood is more worthy of attention?”, the journalist sensibly compared media coverage and attention the week long Gaza bombing campaign had received to one of Congo, she noted that there was a remarkable disparity between both crises, despite the endless crisis of the DRC having claim more than 5.4 million of lives yet the war always get the least of media exposure, she wrote “Just over one week of bombing in Gaza and everybody was up in arms. There were rallies and protests right across the world. In the media, pages and pages of reportage analyses and testimony. Together with them, the reports of ordinary Palestinians on social media lent us some clues of scale of human tragedy unfolding in the homes, the media offices and the refugee camps in Gaza…and then there’s the Congo” she continues “In the last week, rebels from the M23 group humiliated Congolese troops, taking the town of Goma and vowing to press on to Kinshasa, the capital. In the wake of the rebel victory, an all too familiar cycle of unease, reports of abuse at the hands of militia and the threat of a worsening humanitarian situation.” Countless opinions view the Middle-East as a hot bed of westerners’ interests yet a fragile zone therefore it always apportioned much media exposure dissimilar to anyplace else, crediting that to American dominance on media. She however reckons the crisis isn’t really being completely ignored but it isn’t rather exciting as the attention that Gaza did.  Patel also senses that there is an invisible logic which states one must own a media platform with a global reach in order to influence the world opinion, referring to the skewed media coverage super storm  Sandy received when the US east coast were hit with how it affected the Caribbean’s islands of Cuba and Haiti a week earlier. 

Vava Tampa, a London-based anti “mineral conflict” Congolese activist, echoes the same feeling of either total lack of willing or conflict of interests when it comes to reporting on the world greatest humanitarian crisis of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the article published on CNN website, the activist wrote “…the question here is not whether the human suffering in Congo deserves more media coverage because it is greater than that in Syria or Gaza, but rather, why has the crisis in Syria or Gaza qualified for extensive media coverage, but not the killing and raping industries in Congo?” he questioned the motive behind this media blockade on the Congo whether it’s due to the geographical or cultural distance between Europe or America and Congo or just because no western ally or interests were in jeopardy . “What if Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or his disciples were implicated in funding murderous militia gangs in Congo?”  He asked, “Or if the killing was between black Africans and Arabs? Or if minerals funding Congo’s killing and raping industries benefited the East more than the West?”  

On Thursday I found myself debating critical issues on the DRC with activists from the South African Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS), something rang a bell when an activist invoked  the same concern of total absence on global media on what regards the DRC’s fifteen years-old problems, it suddenly struck me and became clear that the Congo’s conflict is purposely being suffocated inside flashy heaven-like news rooms in London, Doha or Washington but then again who does it benefit to?, I asked, Or are stories coming from that part of the world too sensible to report compared to an openly wounded five year-old boy in Israeli airstrike on Gaza?

I concluded as such, if the Congo conflict is decided inside some fancy sky scraper offices, by a bunch of well-dressed corporate executives, thousands of miles away, possibly the very same actors also hold major shares at large media conglomerates, which in their turn, they make sure that selective information get on-air, in fear not to lose that heavy cheque.

Monday, 26 November 2012

“Neither Kabila nor the M23 rebellion is welcome!”

By Gael Masengi

M23 rebels making way in the town of Goma
History might without doubt repeat itself if the Rwandan-backed rebel fighters of the M23 movement decide to advance into the capital Kinshasa as they have been promising, but unfortunately for them, this time will be way too different compared to more than a decade ago when another group made of dominantly Rwandan military and Congolese (formerly Zairian) dissidents walked into the city and received a stunned heroic welcome.

Resistance will be the word of the day and no Congolese will let again be fooled by some hollow speech of democracy and peace by a bunch of insurgents responsible of countless number of death of their mothers and sisters,what for? To “free” them from whom they helped put in power?! I can tell you that in the DRC nationalism may not be a course taught at any school but it is an ideology which every Congolese carry with him wherever he found himself, today you can surf streets of every province of the Democratic Republic of Congo and ask who’s the brain behind the status quo they will tell you clearly that it always has been Rwanda’s wish to weaken its giant neighbour, if possible create a state within state, therefore using Joseph Kabila as a facilitator to accomplish the fore mentioned, a sentiment the diaspora also echoes.

Many analysts I spoke to recently believe that the current Eastern DRC crisis highlight in bold how determined is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame to expand his tyrannical rule in central Africa in whatever way. From using the pretext of ‘going-after-members-of-former-ruling Hutu-ethnic-responsible-of-genocide-hiding-in-the-DRC’ to arming Rwandans and attack the Congo, as the Telegraph reported of UK last week, clearly the “new boss” of the Great Lake region will never rest until his mission is achieved. Even a two years old toddler will found it pathetic of the rebels to claim that Joseph Kabila has to admit he cheated last year’s presidential election and step down. Is the M23 some kind of electorate observing mission? What I observed is that, the people of Congo have advanced politically to comprehend who’s their enemy and who’s a real pal, Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”Obviously no soul will again afford any more lies from any pretender to come in name of ‘peace and reconciliation.’

Here we are fifty years after independence, the country hasn’t made any important  progress in terms of political stability, infrastructures development, economy growth, health care delivery or quality education yet we are still debating who will rig the next presidential election or what armed group will seize what part of the country, I will somewhat blame ourselves because of the failure to take extreme actions which are indeed necessary in order to establish an equitable state the DRC badly needs thus far never was since its existence. Reliance on so-called International Community (whoever they are) have proven to be a biggest disappointment, proof, since the UN started its mission in the country some thirteen years ago over 5.4 million people had died under their watch and an estimated number of more than 1.5 million people are internally displaced, many of them women and children. How many again do we want dead for us to take action? maybe a sort of civil revolution/war is definitely needed in order to take back what is rightfully for the people and establish a legitimate government as suggested a former Congolese soldierliving on exile in Johannesburg, turned “Combatant” anti Kabila activist He reckoned that power in the Democratic Republic of Congo rest on the hands of Kigali-controlled incompetent Joseph Kabila and must be snatched away from him whatever it takes, however doing so, he said, will require a lot of courage and effort, the audacity former service man stresses Congolese people don’t have…yet.

Certainly the frustration is growing among the Congolese people whether be in the diaspora or at home, it is only a matter of time until the folks, especially those within the DRC borders to realise that a ‘Patria O Muerte’ speech is needed to overcome that evil of fear, adopt the ‘Egyptian-approach’ and go “Tahrir-Square” on both Joseph Kabila and his M23 creation and finally put an end to eleven years reign of impunity, serious human-rights abuse, organised rebellion and dictatorship.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The digital battle of Goma!

By Gael Masengi

Clicking, uploading or ‘hash tagging’ every good and bad moment of our everyday lives has become an habit we, human beings have adopted and come to love so much. Whether it is the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the killing of Osama Ben Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan or the Arab Spring in the Middle-East or the Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan, New York, surely you will know about it before turning-on your TV screen.

This week as the fierce battle of Goma town in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo escalate, the Twitter community or simply known as “Tweeps” have taken into storm the social network to support, blame or just alert the rest of the globe about atrocities being committed in North-Kivu by the infamous Rwandan-backed M23 rebels. Since the on-going conflict erupted early this year, the United Nations’ so-called Group of Experts on Congo findings have painted the neighbouring Rwanda and recently Uganda as the main sponsors of the Congolese mutineers, allegations confirmed by various international anti-war organisations but constantly denied by Rwanda despite overwhelming evidences. 

Just like in any conventional war there’s two side in every argument, yes, only in this day and age is a little bit different because public opinion has undoubtedly become or should I say always has been one of the most important ‘tools’ of war, a notable example of what I’m talking about is how the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been engaged in a “twitter war” with pro DRC ‘tweeps’, overwhelmed by negatives tweets, Minister Louise Mushikiwabo tweeted “Gov Rwa is again asking FARDC, M23 and all other armed groups in the DRC to stop fighting; extra-regional meddling should end as well!” indicating that her country has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going-on in the DRC, the FM went-on to get defensive as she adds “…No question DRC has good ideas for peace, if only it could be allowed to govern itself”. However in contrast to his minister, Paul Kagame left his 87,924 followers in the dark as he preferred to remain silent rather taking all the commendations from angry folks twitting angry tweets, directly holding him accountable and imploring him to put an end on what they call ‘madness.’

Shortly after their triumphant entrance in Goma city, the rebel fighters of M23 confirmed the capture of Goma Airport on their Facebook page saying “Mapambano ineekeya ku Mont goma. Aeroport yote Tayari”  meaning that although fighting continued in Goma the airport was already under their control, within seconds, the wall post has recorded over two-hundred and fifty "Likes" and more than three-hundred and fifty sympathising comments, clearly the antagonist also have supporters. The M23 propaganda mechanism didn’t stop there; the rebels went-on to mock the government and Joseph Kabila himself writing “overwhelmed by the status quo, President Joseph Kabila calls the Congolese people to mobilise,”  “who will listen to you?” ask the fighters and accompanying the message with a photo of a frustrated Kabila. Many agree that the rebel fighters have so-far cleverly use both the mainstream and social media to navigate their message, within a week of intense battle to take the key town of Goma, numerous people have changed their view towards the M23, some calling them freedom fighters and others comparing them to the 1997’s “Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo” a coalition of Rwandan and Congolese dissidents, this is the kind of publicity the rebels needed knowing that just like fifteen years ago, the Congolese people lost faith on the regime of Mobutu Sessesseko and were ready to welcome whoever to come in name of ‘liberation’ and ‘democracy.’  

The increasing use of social networks in conflicts and specifically in this one surely indicated how anyone can take advantage of new technology to control the narrative and ultimately normalise even though not a justifiable cause.

Meanwhile the people of Goma and surroundings villages are left at no one’s mercy as the so-called International Community which always feels guilty (of holocaust and Rwandan genocide) watch at distance and having little or nothing to do about it. But hey! Who’s to blame? The incompetent government of Joseph Kabila, which many of them voted for on late last year’s election, have completely failed them.

Is it unlikely for the rebels to march into the capital Kinshasa? Will they be welcome? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Joseph Kabila in hot water in S.A

By Gael Masengi

Stand-off between Activists and S.A cops (Photo, GoM)
On Tuesday [October 23th] the South African capital, Pretoria’s diplomatic district was transformed into a scene of clash, shout, screams and “anti-Kabila” chants as Congolese activists stormed the hotel where the meeting between Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila was taking place.  

Attending the 8th Session of the South Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Pretoria, the ‘Congolese president’ Joseph Kabila had encountered a strongest protest yet from the members of the Congolese community and dissidents residing in Johannesburg and surroundings. By midday the main street leading to the Sefako  Makgatho Guest House [formerly, the presidential guest house] in a discreet suburb of Pretoria was filled by angry protesters who came to “question” the head of state for allegations of his implication with the Rwanda-backed M23 rebellion and confront him for the latest shocking revelation implicating him directly to the murder of a leading human rights activist, Floribert Chebeya of Voice of the Voiceless (VSV, its French initials)and his driver Fidèle Banzana.

murdered activist, Armand Tungulu
The scene quickly turned into a brief scuffle between the cops and activists when the South African police requested the protesters to back-off as they were blocking the road, before you know it things started to get a little out of hand. Armed with placards, sings and posters bearing the images of rapped and slaughtered women in the eastern DRC, the activists were nowhere to compromise with law enforcers, arguing that Kabila might get away should they leave the place but outnumbered by the men-in-blue who started to flock-in, “anti-Kabila” campaigners eventually were driven out of the street but not before attacking the Congolese embassy, which is located about 100 meters in the surroundings and  get exposure they needed from significant number of media, that includes the South African Broadcasting Corporation television.

“Kabila hosted officially by Zuma?!” exclaimed an activist who asked not to be named, “it’s disappointing if a country like South Africa where at least democracy and human rights exist opting to deal with that man” he said, referring to Kabila’s record on human rights as not being satisfying and very well known by everyone, “We should be given a chance to lead our country ourselves, not by people chosen for us by the international community” said Jean Didier, another activist “to me it seems as a curse, my country [DRC] being blessed with all the mineral resources”   he pointed out that there are things that make Kabila an illegitimate president, namely, last year’s elections results were called by international observers as flawed and not credible.

On the other hand the South African President, Jacob Zuma opened the meeting with congratulations to his Congolese counterpart for hosting a “successful” Francophonie summit, “Your historic hosting of this important summit is a demonstration of trust and confidence in you and your country.” Said Zuma “It is just over a year since our last meeting in Lubumbashi where we took important decisions. One of those decisions was South Africa’s commitment to support the government of the DRC to organise the November 2011 elections. We are happy that those elections were successfully conducted in a peaceful environment…” really? “Successful environment?” clearly Mr Zuma is either ill-informed or lying.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Is France losing its influence in Africa?

By Gael Masengi

It came as a surprise to those die-hard supporters of the French language in Gabon when the president, Ali Bongo announced two weeks ago that he is planning to replace French and promote English as the second language in attempt to improve opportunities for its people.

Gabonese president, Ali Bongo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda
President Bongo Odimba made the announcement less than ten days before flying for the 14th Francophonie (French-speaking community) summit held this past week-end in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. His spokesperson told AFP the president coming back from Rwanda, where a similar move has proved successful, has come to realised that the language of Shakespeare and Harry potter as being a ‘necessary working language’. He told reporters Gabon is in need to develop and want to give itself the best opportunities; “When you leave a French-speaking space, if you don’t know English you are almost handicapped.” He added “It’s a question of diversifying our partnerships, ensuring that the people of Gabon are armed and better armed.”   

Being myself a Francophone…well until five years ago, I can confirm to you that, the sentiment of breaking way completely from the French language or axing it is growing rapidly among Francophones, primarily in diaspora, and specifically to those in English-speaking countries with many saying a record of former British colonies either in the continent or outside are thriving economically, have a better political stability and democracy at least exists. In contrast to French-speaking, where they say dictatorship reign, reproach their respective governments for lack of vision and way too irrelevant or disconnected to today’s fast developing world. But others just simply find English-speaking folks liberal life style as the way to live.  

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary [October 15] of the death of who’s known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, Marxist leader and pan-Africanist, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso [former French colony], South African-based Congolese activist, prof Pascal Kilolo of University of Johannesburg commented saying: “Françafrique [the infamous France’s relationship with French-speaking Africa] is a clear indication of neo-colonialism which benefit only France and eternal head of states not the people. France has to re-think it policy toward Africa, specifically to its ‘backyards.’” He said “It’s pretty obvious that for years France has supported let alone helped put in power dictators throughout its former colonies in Africa… look around, you will notice in more than five French-speaking countries [In Africa] presidents have been occupying office for at least more than ten years with no plan whatsoever of implementing a true democracy.” the tutor concluded  

Gabon is one of France’s closest allies in the region and important channel  for French influence in the continent, the country is home of millions of Euro from French investment companies though it vows to keep alive the language of Molière but analysts believe English will likely overshadow it and subsequently eradicate and finally replace it completely in years to come. Since he came to power in 2009 after the death of his father, yet parallel to his ideology, Ali Bongo has been advocating strongly for the idea to adopt the English language however the move to English, according to president is all about opening up new prospects for Gabon and its people, he said of his meeting with Rwandan counterpart Paul kagame:
“I am keen on understanding how Rwanda has fast-tracked Vision 2020 targets, how it has managed to develop successful village settlement program and adopted agricultural practices like animal farming that are beneficial to the poor.”  but many argue that Rwanda’s fast growing economy is result of wars it’s helping wage in eastern DR Congo since the current regime came in power eighteen years ago.

Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, joined the commonwealth, an association chiefly composed of former British colonies in 2009.
                                                                                                                       Further report by Daily mail