CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE

Diplomatic passport trafficking in Congo-Brazzaville

 To benefit from the advantages of diplomatic immunity in Congo Brazzaville, you don’t have to be the ambassador, you just need to know the right people in the Ministry for Exterior Affairs. That is according to the journalist who uncovered the scandal, and the evidence he has to support his claim.

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Extract from a diplomatic passport form, filled in by a person who did not meet the right criteria, according to our Observer.

 

According to a 2008 presidential decree, diplomatic passports should be “administered under the sole responsibility of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs which will ensure their correct control and maintenance”. The same decree states that this passport can only be granted to Congolese diplomats, their spouses and their children whilst they remain minors. But according to an investigation published in La Glaive newspaper, some civil servants in the Ministry are instead giving passports away to people who do not fit this criteria.

 

As proof, the newspaper printed reproductions of the forms filled in by people obtaining a diplomatic passport, forms that FRANCE 24 has since obtained copies of. In the line marked ‘profession’, many of the forms contain the job description “chargé de mission” of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, a post which according to the newspaper, does not warrant a diplomatic passports being issued. Others say they are the son or daughter of the “chargé de mission” but are no longer minors which is even worse justification for eligibility. Some don’t even have Congolese nationality, and some are Congolese or foreign business people, or children of business people.

 

According to La Glaive, one of these passports could cost up to 4 million francs CFA, about 4,500 euros. This opens the door to them travelling freely around the world, without ever being searched in airports, and being able to enter Europe without a visa. Being able to enter France is particularly attractive, as it is often very difficult to obtain a visa on an ordinary Congolese passport.

 

The article in La Glaive led to a two month suspension of the newspaper by the Superior Council for the Freedom of Communication. In response to this scandal, on the 24th May the Ministry for Foreign Affairs gave an explanation via its information director. Instead of challenging the two employees who should have been punished, he drew attention to article 7 in the decree which gives the minister discretionary authority “to grant diplomatic passports to anyone for reasons of the State”. Opponents of Denis Sassou Nguesso’s regime still say that the traffic in diplomatic passports illustrates the cronyism and the abuses of power at the heart of the Congolese government.

 

"This scandal is an injustice against the Congolese people"

Guy Milex Mbondzi Is the journalist in Brazzaville who uncovered the scandal.

 

Some people working for the Ministry who were against the unjustified issuing of diplomatic passports handed over the electronic files which contained the completed forms for diplomatic passports. I didn’t publish anything immediately, I first of all met the cabinet and the minister himself.

 

Initially, the minister refused to believe me, instead insisting that passports were made outside of the Ministry. But I had enough proof to give him that in the end he admitted that these forms came from his services.

 

I was asked not to publish this, but I went ahead anyway. For now, I’m not worried about being personally pursued by the courts. I think that to preserve their image, the State wants to avoid this story getting out beyond its borders which could happen is I were convicted as a journalist.

 

The people who applied for diplomatic passports are friends, and children of friends, of senior civil servants working in the ministries, but also foreign business people close to those in power. The people who set up the system insist on this article of the decree which allows passports to be given to anyone at the discretion of the state. But why would the State give passports to industrialists or civil servants in the ministry?

 

This scandal is an injustice against the Congolese people: it is complicated for a Congolese citizen to obtain a visa, particularly for Europe and France. Congolese people regularly have their applications rejected. At the same time, the system hands out these laissez-passer documents to people who are not authorised to have them. Furthermore, the 4 million francs payment is the country’s money that is instead going directly into the pockets of a handful of schemers who are in power. It is unacceptable.