[i] Hello!

[r] Hello!

[i] Do you have an object that you feel strongly about introducing me?

[r] Thank you! I have an object that I feel very strongly about presenting to you.  It is a lamp.  You know, I come from Chad and the lamp is historical for me because it was used at the time when I was a student, a schoolboy to use it to learn, to study because I am in Chad in the capital and especially in a district like Bololo where I lived or grew up. We had electricity in the room, in the family house. So the whole family used the kerosene lamp to study and it really marked me until today.  Imagine today, it’s been almost thirty years since there was electricity in a number of neighbourhoods in N’djamena.  And that’s what led me to introduce it to you and it’s an object that is close to my heart.

[i] Thank you! Can you introduce yourself?

[r] My name is [name].  I was born on 31/12/1970 in Ndjamena, Chad.  I am currently a journalist and a political refugee in France

[i] So you’re from Chad?

[i] Yes!

[i] You were born there, weren’t you?

[r] I was born in Chad, especially in Ndjamena, even though my parents come from the South and my mother from central Chad

[i] All right! Under what circumstances were you born?

Look, I was born in the 1970s and that was the period when there was political stability because there was no war.  The Chadians lived in total symbiosis and without mutual rejection, so we enjoyed each other and people shared everything, they had a common culture.  It was a circumstance of peace and stability.  There was not in fact a conflict that we are witnessing today.

[i] Did you live there?

[r] I actually lived in N’djamena, especially in the Bololo district which was founded, I would say by my father, who himself was born in 1912 in the southern region of Chad in Moïssala.

[i] Do you still have family in Chad?

[r] In Chad, yes! Of course! Of course!  I have my sisters there.  Maternal and paternal uncles who stayed in Chad.

[i] Can you tell me a little about your family?

[r] Yes, I want to talk about her. We were a family as I told you, my father comes from a region called Moïssala, my mother comes from Mongo in the Guera. They had met in N’djamena.  Dad had stayed until the 1980 war.  He had died of a simple illness.  My mother also died in 2015 in N’djamena.  And so, since then, I have come from a family of 5 members, 2 boys and 3 girls. I’m practically the fourth.  I’m the only one who’s abroad.

[i] Are they all alive? Are they all in Chad?

[r] Both are dead and there are now three of us.

[i] All right!

[i] Two girls and a boy.

[i] How long did you live in Chad before you left?

Yes, I lived in Chad for a very long time.  I did my primary studies at Bololo school, my secondary studies at CEG N°2 and then at Lycée Technique commerciale. Before flying to Tunisia.

[i] And how was life in Chad at that time?

[r] Listen! Unfortunately, as I told you earlier in the 1970s and 1980s, we experienced a certain stability in Chad.  There had already been 80 to 90, they were military regimes, dictatorial regimes. And so, we have experienced vicissitudes, very painful situations.  So it was repression against citizens and arbitrary arrests. There was no security for Chadian citizens. And so, it went on until 1990. And from 90 to the present day. I have indeed lived in extremely difficult situations compared to the 1970s, even if I have not experienced everything.  In the 1970s, I was very young but I knew Chad from the 1980s to the 1990s, the situation has not changed at all.

[i] Can you tell me when in France?

[r] In France!

[i] Not France yet but tell me a little about your career?

[i] My career path is a special one, you know after my high school years, I had to fly away because you know in Chad, it is impossible to get a scholarship when you don’t have family members who can help you and support you in getting a scholarship.  It is in this capacity that I was able to go to Tunisia thanks to an enrolment, a support from a person I knew who was a student in Tunisia.  This person made my job easier by finding me a pre-registration in business administration in Tunis.  So I arrived in Tunisia in 1998 where I first studied business administration.  It was from Tunisia where I started writing critical and political articles between 2000 and 2005, notably in the weekly magazine Jeune Afrique.  As a result, I was expelled from Tunisia at the request of my country of origin, notably Chad.  I was deported to Senegal.  In Senegal, I tried to train there by taking a degree in journalism and communication.  AND I have been active in local organizations, particularly the African meeting for the defence of human rights, which is an NGO with an African dimension.  This is where I have acquired a lot of skills in activism, namely human rights, freedom and democracy, and effectively defending the cause of my people.  At the same time, I was successively the correspondent for the two Chadian news organizations.  One is Alwidha info who was in Paris and another is Ialtchad Press in Canada.  In the years I was in Dakar, from 2005 to 2013, I created my own blog, the Makaî blogs.  It’s a hyper-visited blog. In Chad and even in Africa.  In 2013, I was again expelled from Senegal at the request of the Chadian government.  This expulsion to Guinea has mobilized international and African opinion the most.  So it was in 2013 that I did two months in Conakry.  Thanks to the support of associations such as Reporter sans frontières in France, Amnesty International and members of parliament such as Noël Mamère, ministers Pascal Canfin and in Africa as well, Senegalese civil society organisations, who supported me so that France would grant me, just after two months of exile in Conakry, a visa that allowed me to arrive in France in 2013.  I arrived in France on 14 July 2013 where I am the guardian of a political refugee status.

[i] All right! Can you tell me about life in these different countries? Where you lived? Where you lived?

[r] Yes, I in Tunisia, it was a student’s life.  I was just a student so it was a little difficult. This is North Africa, there are certainly language barriers.  Good, cultural too! The Maghreb is different from Black Africa. I certainly lived without scholarships, but thanks to this integration into Tunisian society, I did not have any particular difficulties.  Certainly, there are racisms against Africans etc…  But the factors that allowed me to pass perhaps, I would say unnoticed, is that I also spoke Tunisian dialectal Arabic, which is also not far from Chadian Arabic. This is 1. 2, I was able to do internships in the Tunisian administration after 5-6 years. I also acquired a lot of training but it was a hard life when you didn’t have a scholarship.  After the most difficult period, it was when I lived in Senegal from 2005 to 2013. In Senegal I was deprived of my Chadian passport. Chad, which was my country of origin, refused to give me the passport on the pretext that I was a discordant, protesting voice.  Music] Life was much more difficult because I didn’t have political refugee status in Senegal either.  So I had practically become a stateless person because my country of origin does not recognize me for refusing to give me my passport.  Senegal, which welcomes me, also refuses to give me my status. So it’s a very difficult life. I was certainly a journalist, but you know the life of a journalist on the African continent, especially in most African countries, is that journalists are also precarious. There is no, there is no adequate salary for the work that newspapers do, and so it didn’t help me at all.  For five, six years I couldn’t travel from Senegal, I was really, I would say blocked on the spot.  Well, it’s true, we lived thanks to the support of friends, Senegalese friends and also thanks to interventions, to the organization of press conferences towards international NGOs like the FIDH that came to Dakar. I supported them in organizing press conferences by mobilizing the press for meetings or seminars.  Which allowed me to live. I also lived with the recipes from my own blogs.  You know when you keep a blog, the blog generates a little income. And it is thanks to these incomes that I was able to pay my rent, I was able to pay the water and electricity bill.  In any case, I went through some very painful moments during my exile in Senegal until this expulsion in 2013, which may have made up for the injustice I suffered.  I was the victim of injustice because your country of origin gave you your passport, which is a recognized right.  With a passport, a citizen cannot be deprived of his passport, his right, his identity card.  So the fact that I was put in this situation, it still weakened and made my living conditions precarious.  But, these expulsions, in some way misfortune is good, I got a refugee status, I was able to get a visa first for France for a long time and I would say that it still rationally changed my situation.

[i] These expulsions are due to what?

[r] They are necessarily due to my commitments, to my political commitment, whether on the issue of human rights, on issues of freedom, or on issues of social justice in my country of origin.  You know, this is practically the case from 1990 to today, because we came out of the Hissène Habré regime, which is an abominable dictatorship, which was rejected by all Chadians.  We have fallen back into a period of regime that we hoped would only be a democratic regime, except that Idriss Deby’s regime practices, I would say the same facts that Hissein Habré was accused of at the time.  I was one of the modest voices of Chadians abroad who question national and international opinion about what is wrong with my country. You know that the management of oil resources is managed in the most opaque way, in the general exclusion of certain populations. And so I thought it wasn’t normal. That is 1 and 2, the elections that took place in Chad are not free and transparent elections, which were systematically won by the regime in power, especially the one of the present Idriss Deby.  The violations of human rights, the restriction of the space of public and individual freedoms in Chad, have led me personally to rise up against them, to oppose myself in the most peaceful way through writings that have been published in the international press, through my positions in the international media such as RFI, TV5, France24 etc….  So I have a bit of an activist background and also a voice that denounced social injustice in my country. What we are calling for is more social justice, more balance among Chadians, democracy in a sustainable way and free and transparent elections.  Except that we have never been heard and listened to by the ruling power or those who are leading Chad today. So it led us to be permanently in dispute, in total opposition to the regime in place.

[i] All right! Every time you are expelled from one country, how did you find yourself in another? So is it the country that welcomes you or did you… I don’t know how you got into those countries?

[r] That’s a very good question. To the first question, we must come back to Tunisia’s question. In 2005, I was on the street like that in Tunis, I was walking around, I received a call from the launch service, especially from the Tunisian Investigation Department.  They asked me to report to the police. So I introduce myself to the police, they make me understand that I was wanted and that they wanted to hear me on a number of subjects. When I arrived, they made me understand that it was related to my political activities.  I had the reflex before they took my laptop, I sent a text message to a French friend who was doing her thesis in Tunis. Her name was Anne Picard.  To this French friend, I made it clear that I am currently at the Ministry of the Interior and that this is not necessarily linked to my activities as a freelance journalist on the situation in my country of origin.  She already knew I was… she was reading my publications in Jeune Afrique.  So Anne, as a French woman, presented herself at the police station of the Ministry of the Interior.  She told them that she wanted to know why I was arrested.  And the Tunisians made her understand that they could not, that they could not report to her because I, I am Chadian and she is French.  So it’s a case that didn’t concern her. She managed to alert a Tunisian lawyer who had come to the site.  The Tunisian lawyer was fired by the Tunisian police who, listen: you have nothing to do with it here.  So Anne had the courage, the reflex to alert her older sister who was called Bénédicte Picaard who is in Lyon.  Bénédicte has referred the matter to the French League for Human Rights. It is this human rights league that in turn refers the matter to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Tunisia to make them understand that we are aware that you have arrested a Chadian student. We are aware that he was the author of several articles in Jeune Afrique.  So we ask Tunisia not to extradite him to Chad.  It can hurt his life.  His life could be in danger, you really have to give him time to organize himself to leave Tunisia if you don’t want to keep him on your territory.  That’s how, thanks to Anne who mobilized, I was able to… Despite all this, I was able to spend three days in detention in Tunis and this is the fourth day I was able to obtain a visa for Senegal. And so it was thanks to the mobilization of this French woman that I was able to obtain a visa for Senegal. I arrived in Senegal, I remember very well, on May 10, 2005.  So, I would say thanks to individual support, that of Anne, an associative support, that of the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the League for Human Rights in general, which had been mobilized from France. So I arrive in Dakar. In Dakar I was welcomed by a Chadian whom I knew at the time in Tunis.  This Chadian was a former student who welcomed me for one – two – three months. May he rest in peace, today he is dead.  I was able to live for almost a month and a half, after which I applied for political asylum in Senegal, which refused me in 2005.  In 2006, in 2008, Senegal successively refused me.  So I was able to get out of the first step. I thought I was going to be brought back to Senegal except that Senegal too had deteriorated. It deteriorated, that is when the government officially asked through its Minister of Justice, I think it was Jean-Bernard Padaré who had come to Dakar in the framework of a judicial partnership with Senegal and my problem was raised.  Raised by Chad, which asked Senegal to extradite me to N’djamena when I was only keeping a blog, I had never taken up arms. I am a peaceful man, I fought for my ideas and therefore I do not understand the reason why the Chadian government is asking for my extradition.  This is what angered the Senegalese at first. The Senegalese people could not understand how Chad could afford to come and look for someone who lived in Senegal peacefully, peacefully. And so it provoked a reaction already in Dakar, and outrage had become internationalized with African and European support.  As a result, it is thanks to this, I would say, this combination of efforts of Senegalese, African and French militants that I was able to get by for a second time because this time, it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.  There was a lot of frustration and indignation of anger, so France was forced to grant me a visa.  It was still… it was still unexpected.  You know very well that I come from Chad and Chad is very close to France.  France shares political and diplomatic relations with the Idriss Deby regime. So the French and African supporters asked that a country could receive me because I could not be expelled in ten years from two countries, Tunisia and Senegal.  My supporters have found it useless for me to stay in Africa, especially in Guinea where my safety is not guaranteed.  So they had to put pressure on them, particularly I think of Amnesty International, I think of Roporters sans frontières, I also think of Noël Mamère and ministers like Pascal Canfin and Laurent Fabius who put pressure on them, I do not have the impression that they made a normal process. Democrat men who asked France to give me at least protection that can still allow me to be safe from the ten years of hardship I have been through, especially in Africa where I cannot return to my country of origin. Nor can I stay in Tunisia, nor can I, Senegal, which is a democracy, expelled me. I found myself in a very complicated situation, but when you have a strong conviction of what you are doing, I think you often win.  And it is thanks to these associative supports, strong personalities, researchers, academics, people who are very attached to the issues of freedom of expression that have helped me and I have been able to come to France.

[i] The choice to come to Guinea, did it come from you or were you directed to this country?

[r] No! No! No! I was called, I remember well, it was on May 6, 2013, I was called as in Tunisia.  This is history repeating itself, I received a call from a police commissioner, the DST, the direction of the survival of the territory in Senegal who calls me Mr. [name], could you come to our post?  And I say why? He tells me it’s for a case that concerns you. I say okay at what time?  He told me at 3:00. At 3 p.m., he postponed the next day the summons.  It is at this moment, I was able to organize myself because I really had a margin to call my support in Paris and London. In London, I called a researcher named Christian Mokossa.  I called Paris, I called the Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders who was stationed in Paris. I made it clear to him that here I received a suspicious call from a DST Commissioner and RSF and Amnesty International officials advised me not to go alone to the summons.  That’s how I was accompanied to the DST by an Amnesty International activist based in Dakar.  And when we came to the place with him, it looks like what happened in Tunisia. It’s because I came, we came to the Commissioner’s office. And the Commissioner made me understand: why you were accompanied by a human rights defender. I said yes, it’s normal because I’m committed to human rights issues. So that’s quite normal. They asked the gentleman to leave this office.  On this square, they recovered all my mobile phones.  I was automatically arrested. They mentioned me for five hours of the time. The hearing was held directly with the Senegalese Presidency and the Ministry of the Interior.  I started to fall apart because I couldn’t admit that I was being subjected to all this.  In the hearing, it concerns the exchange of emails with journalists such as Avenir de La Tchiré, Eric Topona, who were arrested in N’djamena. So what I was accused of, I was accused of exchanging emails with opponents like Ngarledji Yorongar, Saleh Kebzabo, people who fight inside peacefully.  So I tell them that my fight is part of this dynamic. I am a journalist and Chadian journalists who cannot express themselves in the Chadian press give me information.  The Chadian opposition, in particular Ngraledji Yorongar, Saleh Kebzabo and many others send me press releases, it is completely normal, it is part of my efforts.  I did not call on the Chadian people to raise their voices. They also blamed me for my interventions in the Senegalese media because I had a little bit at the time in 2013, there was North Mali which was invaded by terrorist groups and I was the guest of a Senegalese radio station called Sud FM and in this station I was asked what you think of the Chadian army that operates in Mali.  I was very clear with the Sud FM journalists.  I make them understand that they cannot understand that Mali or France relies on an army, and like that of Idriss Deby, which represses its population. In Chad, there is no space for freedom and demonstrations and all the opposition is confined to conference rooms.  I think that to liberate a people like Mali’s, you have to rely on an army with a continental dimension.  We must hope that Africa can have an army with a continental dimension, that it cannot hope on an army that is as clan-based as that of Idriss Deby. So this interview was raised.  They also accused me of an article written by a Senegalese journalist friend who entitled an article: “Thirsty for freedom of expression, [name] still persecuted.” This article was hyper hyper broadcast in Dakar.  They told me: listen….  Not only did they refuse me political refugee status, but they also made it clear that I was bound by an obligation of reserve. Senegal has not given me any document justifying that I am bound by an obligation of reserve, or not to pronounce on the political life of my country of origin.  I have never seen, I was in Senegal from 2005 until 2013 and suddenly in the hearing revealed things that did not seem strange to me.  At one point, I couldn’t stand this harassment, I would say audition, police interrogation. I said listen: we have to stop the audition. Do what you want.  That’s where they stopped the audition. They drove me home, home.  They went through my things, they took my fixed computer, there’s nothing on it.  They took some dictaphones from me and the camera.  Then I took my bag to an intelligence service.  They incarcerated me for, I think, 3:00 to 8:30.  It was at 8:30 p. m. that got me out of where I was, out of the cell.  Direction Dakar airport. This is not possible! I was handcuffed and taken to Dakar airport. I was there, fortunately next door, I still had… something bad is good, I knew in Dakar a police inspector named Aimé, someone who is very good that I knew in Dakar. And this gentleman when he saw me in a police station at Dakar airport, he was amazed, he asked the police but I know him, this guy what did he do? We make him understand that they don’t know.  So it was at midnight that they asked this gentleman, a police inspector, to tell him that you were taking him on the plane. So it was thanks to him that when we were going out, he asked us to remove the handcuffs.  So, they took off the handcuffs and drove me with my backpack to the plane, Senegalese company: Air Sénégal. I get on the plane, the inspector gets on the plane with me and so it’s at this moment he asked me what’s wrong?  I say but I don’t know. It’s related to my political activities. It was Chad that asked for my extradition, I think Senegal obeyed. And so I get on the plane, I didn’t pay for the plane ticket.  They’re the ones who paid for my plane ticket.  They’re deporting me directly to Guinea. This is by no means my request. I made them understand that they really shouldn’t extradite me to Chad, they have to give me time, I organize myself to leave Senegal.  And so they didn’t give me that time.  In one day that we explained to you from a country and Guinea, I had no family ties.  So it was on the plane that I met a mother who is Guinean, who is about 75 years old today.  She is close to the Ahmed Sékou Touré family, who were former president of Guinea.  She considers a very generous mother. I made him understand that I didn’t know anyone in Guinea and who I am a journalist, that I have a blog on Chad. Senegal has agreed to expel me. And so when she tells me we’ll see when we get there.  The poor girl who was also surprised when she saw a policeman get on the plane with someone. The passengers were amazed and also surprised because of what was happening.  When I arrived in Conakry, at the airport I didn’t know anyone. It was thanks to this mother that I was able to pass through the police counter.  So she took me to her house. I spent almost two months at her house.  It was at her house that I practically organized everything. I did a first interview with BBC Africa, 2nd interview with Jeune Afrique.  And then it was the international media that relayed my story in a loop for almost two months of unceasing mobilization. But I would say that it is at the level of Nairobi, whether it is at the level of Brussels, the United Nations, the European Union, in any case the institutional voices were outraged by what was happening because people did not understand.  Chad has a formidable weapon, Idriss Deby is very powerful at the sub-regional level but how can we explain that we are expelling a blogger who only has his blog to fight, it is still….  Something is not right. It’s because of that, that my fight has brought something.  I know that my objective has almost been achieved. It was to ensure that the Chadian question was known at the international level, and to this day we continue to be opposed in the most peaceful and peaceful way.

[i] And in Guinea you need a visa to enter or how did you get in?

No, it’s the miracle! It’s thanks to this mother who came, an imposing woman, I told you, she’s from the Ahmed Sékou Touré family so it’s a family in Guinea, a super hierarchical society.  At the airport, she is an imposing woman when I arrived, the policeman asked me where you’re going? I said I come from Dakar and the mother, she intervenes to make me look like her nephew. She reads that it was my nephew who came to spend his holidays.  I’m also African, I’m Black, apparently I look like the Guineans, so I was able to pass.  I didn’t have a visa but it was after that things got complicated at Conakry airport to get out.  It’s because people didn’t understand how I got back to conakry, how I came out on a French visa with a French pass. That is where the French ambassador had to intervene.  This is where I thank France for restoring my dignity.  Imagine, I am an African and I am being expelled from two African countries: Tunisia and Senegal.  France is a European country that welcomes an African.  This raises the question, questions about the free movement of people in Africa. It is that the African must settle where he wants.  Hora, today the question of settling in one country or another is based on criteria that are not objective.  So I entered without a visa and it was when I was leaving Conakry airport that the police officers did not understand. I was Chadian, on the French laissez-passer, it says: Chadian nationality, the visa is a visa issued by France and that I leave, how did I get in?  That’s where France had intervened, the French embassy sent someone, a policeman who had come to the airport, who did all the formalities for the departure.  I would also like to thank the Guinean authorities, in particular President Alpha Condé. I would also like to thank his Minister Diaby Gassama, who is Minister for Human Rights and Freedom and who really played an important role in my departure from their country to France. Because Mr Diaby, who was a teacher in Toulouse, a lawyer very attached to human rights issues, had come to Paris to meet the French officials and Laurent Fabius.  He made them understand that Guinea has done its duty to grant me asylum or leave me on its territory for months and that they cannot for real political relations between Guinea and Chad, it was a question of France taking its responsibilities. So I think that the role played by the Guinean authorities, in particular the President of Africa Alpha Condé and Diaby Gassama as well as the French parliamentarians, led France to grant visas and political exile from its embassy.

[i] How long were you in Guinea?

[r] I did almost two months.

[i] Undocumented still?

[r] Not without papers. In fact, my question was particular because I had no papers but I was identified by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I was received by the representative of the European Union and the representative of the United Nations who were in turn received by the Minister for Human Rights Mr Diaby Gassama. The Guinean authorities have reassured the international institutions that nothing will happen and that I could have a peaceful stay and that these international personalities should not worry about my stay in Guinea.  So I think I was fine but I was identified by the UNHCR, so I had a receipt issued by the UNHCR which was also taking steps to settle in another country. So there was the possibility of setting up in Canada, Sweden or another country.  I would say that there was an international interest in his fight and my cause. There are many countries, even Spain wanted to grant me political asylum. There was a Spanish senator who had come all the way to Madrid. A Spanish senator from the Canary Islands who arrived in Madrid, who met with the Spanish Minister, at the request of Spanish civil society, who was also very attached to my struggle and who also learned of my struggle and expulsion, who wished that Spain could grant me political Asia.  I did two months in Guinea anyway.

[i] Tell me a little bit about your arrival in France?

[r] Precisely when I arrived in France, it was on July 14.  It coincided with the July 14th celebration here.  And so, I arrived first, I was welcomed by Chadian friends. I am thinking of [name], I am also thinking of [name] who came to pick me up at Paris airport. Finally I spent two or three days at [name], and then I was welcomed by France Terre d’Asile, then I was welcomed at the journalists’ house in Paris.  It is a house that has been and is the work of two French journalists who have reflected on the difficulty faced by the first arrivals in France, especially journalists.  When they come from a foreign country and who were… I am also thinking of Ibangolo Abel Maina who accompanied me to the Journalists’ House, since it was he who helped me locate the journalists’ house.  So we arrived there and then at the Journalists’ House, given my history, given the French pass, all this really made it easier for me to get accommodation.  Thanks to this house, I was housed for nine months. I was supported administratively, socially. During this stay, there was a contract that was signed.   You can do six months, and beyond six months, nine months.  So during this time, you work in high schools. As a journalist, you go to testify before the French students on your journey, what is the origin of your exile?  You make French students aware of the issues related to freedom of expression and human rights in your country and the issues also that freedom of expression is here in France is an achievement except that it is an achievement in other countries that is violated, transgressed. So it was a very rewarding experience from my point of view. It has allowed me personally to get to know France in its depths, to discover high schools, to transmit my message, to make my country of origin, where I come from, Chad, known as it is, known and to know my struggle with what is happening. That’s it, it wasn’t easy when we came to France without family ties except that we are welcomed in a country of human rights. We were accompanied for six, seven months by the journalists’ house.  After nine months I had left the journalists’ house to be accommodated in a accommodation centre at the Porte des Lilas.  So, I struggled from 2014, 2015, 2016 and not it was at the end of 2014 I was able to obtain thanks to people’s support, accommodation in Saint-Ouen the world in the Paris region in the 95, accommodation where I am.  And since then, during this period from 2013 to 2014 until 2015, I continue to do odd jobs, in particular I did a six-day job with Espace, it was an association that was involved in ecological issues.  After that I continue with the interventions in the high schools that were paid: one hour you are paid in hour. It still allowed me to join the two standing up until I could take another online journalism course in Paris at IFICOM. That’s it, it’s a life that… it’s a new stage.  You are called to rebuild your life because you were starting from scratch. You start from scratch when the exile… We are used to defining exile at the home of journalists as also a repression. It’s that you come, morally you’re down in another form. There are many journalists who have fallen in love, many exiles who have also fallen in love.  So we were endured by these vicissitudes.  I was able to get through this stage, thank God, today I live, I would not say in better conditions but I was still able to work in a Saint-ouenaise town hall in Saint-ouen le Monde.  At the same time, I continued to lead my life as an independent journalist, an activist, to participate in press conferences, demonstrations related to Chad, Africa, democracy, the challenges that await us, i.e. the challenges of political change and alternation in our countries.

[i] Can you tell me on which visa you arrived in France?  Or was it with a pass and how could you normalize your situation in France?

Yes, because I am lucky enough to come with a D face and the D visa is one of the visas granted to some prestigious people. You can be football stars, political celebrities, activists of international celebrities. On this occasion, I think that France has played its role as a host country.  She issued me a D visa, which gave me… It was a long-term visa and types of visas D, it is visas granted to people of a certain social standing and I, it is that I simply kept a blog but it is a consideration that France granted me, except that I did not have a passport from Chad.  I couldn’t come to France and ask for a residence permit. So necessarily when I came here, I was destined to seek political asylum.  So I came, I came. Immediately, I went to the prefecture, which initiated the procedure for my formalities.  I did an interview with OFPRA: Office français pour la protection des réfugiés et des apatrides.  So, it’s quite normal, everything went well for me, I didn’t have any administrative complications. So I was able to regularize my situation thanks to this visa D which was granted on a pass on which we wrote French republic etc. and then the signature of the French ambassador to Guinea.  So it’s really a prestige, a consideration for me, so I’m just a modest freelance journalist. I was a blogger, not a celebrity, not a politician. In my home country, I was just a student, I could just go abroad.  I found myself stuck in permanent exile because I was in exile. I found myself a student, then expelled and exiled in Senegal and then expelled from Senegal.  Practically, today I have been in exile for more than 18 years.  So a continuous exile, we don’t know the next day. I think that the objective has not been achieved, it is to see sooner or later to get rid of… that the fight I am fighting can bear fruit.

[i] How long have you been in France?

[r] I arrived, today I did five years and then I arrived in 2013, almost five, six years.

[i] And you easily got your refugee status?

Yes! I’ll say yes because I, as I told you, have a D visa. And that made my job easier.  I obtained this status in two weeks.  Thereafter, it was the 10-year residence permit and then the administrative formalities.  It is after the status of political refugee that there is another fight. It is the housing battle, the employment battle.  These are the real difficulties and the difficulties of training too, this is another step that begins.  You have the ten-year card except that it doesn’t guarantee everything. It doesn’t open all the doors for you. We still have to fight on the spot even if we do not have a cultural and lingustic barrier with France. But the fact remains that we can get stuck on housing issues. I was stuck on housing issues for almost a year despite the fact that I came legally in the most official way possible.

[i] Can you tell me a little about your stay in France?

[r] Currently, it is a stay that is certainly going very well.  My life has some difficulties despite working in a public structure but the stay is punctuated by political and associative meetings, outings, conferences with students in French high schools, conferences with foundations like the Gabriel Péri Foundation, meetings with associations like Survie, with Chadian colleagues too. So it’s a life that is indeed marked by these somewhat difficult rhythms. The shuttle between Paris and Saint-Ouen le monde is on the trains all the time. I’m not a vehicle. So you have to come to Paris for meetings and come home a little late and then it’s not easy but good, we’ll deal with it.

[i] In which of the environments do you live in France and especially in which district?

[r] I am in Ile de France, in fact I am practically in the 95 so in Saint-Ouen the world. It’s in Ile de France, I’m 35 minutes from Paris.  I have to come to Paris to take the train. That’s 35 minutes by train.  Unfortunately, I work part-time. So I absolutely have to spend half a day doing all my administrative work in Paris. And to avoid not arriving at work late. I have to get to work at 2:00. I start at 2:00.  So I only have Mondays and Saturdays where I dedicate myself to family visits, friendly meetings, community or activist meetings. It’s a bit like that, so it’s a life divided between activism and professional life.  And family life too.  My wife who has arrived, I have a baby so it’s really a political life, a professional and associative life and a family life on top of that it’s too much anyway.  You have to know how to handle all this.  And when everything is centralized in Paris where my activities take place. I have to come to Paris to meet people, be involved with journalists, participate in debates on Chad or Africa. Everything happens in Paris but I regret a little that it is 35 minutes from Paris.

[i] But where were you before? Before you go…

[r] Before I was in the 15th grade at Balard. I was also at Lilac Gate.  So it’s a bit like Paris, everything was happening by metro except that now it’s the distance between the suburbs and the frequency of trains that caused me a little problem to get off regularly in Paris.

[i] Can you tell me about these neighbourhoods? The Three Balards…

Yes, it’s in the 15th, 15th century it’s a prestigious district of Paris.  So it’s a great neighbourhood, a little expensive anyway, because everything you can buy in Barbès is different from what you buy in Balard. Balard is the 15th, from 9pm, there are no small shops, no small restaurants where you can buy pizzas for 5 or 6 euros.  It is a very expensive neighbourhood, a little bourgeois, I would say.  It’s not just anyone who lives in Balard.  It’s in the 15th floor. After Balard I did nine months again, certainly, I didn’t pay the rent because I…

[i] And how did you get here?

[r] I had been there, it was the journalists’ house with Balard as its headquarters. We would meet there.  Then I found myself in a door-to-door shelter in Lilac.  Porte de Lilas, it is a not very popular district but it is a modest district, certainly average but less expensive than Balard. Porte de Lilas, it’s a Paris, I could easily find myself.  And so it’s neighborhoods that are..  I lived there as you say, the 15th and then after a middle district like Porte de Lilas. It wasn’t that bad so it’s life on the bus, in the subway etc….

[i] And where are you now?

[r] Now I’m in the 95, it’s the Paris region.  To reach the North Station and the North Station you had to take the train and except that if you miss a train, you have a 25-minute wait.  It’s a little hot in terms of transport. I wish it had been faster.  Sometimes I come home at midnight from home.  Conferences start at 7pm and end at 10pm-11pm, you go home, you’re broken at midnight so all of a sudden, really, it’s not hot

[r] All right! Have you resumed your studies in France?

Yes, that’s right! I didn’t do long cycles but I did a training in online journalism.  It is a training adapted to online journalistic practices, that’s all that’s in vogue now.  Everything is being digitized, the paper press is tending towards disappearance, we had to think about adapting to the context. And I, especially since at the time when I was in Senegal, I was hosting a radio show. And at the same time I was running my blog.  It was necessary to improve your knowledge of online journalism issues. And so, I was able to get training in online journalism at EFICOM and then it’s my personal life. At the same time I am not in journalism, I do something else at the town hall of Saint-Ouen the world.  It is a bit of mediation associated with administrative support, the city’s policy in the city’s privative districts. So I am a bit of a supporter of the French government’s mission.

[i] So the work you’re doing now is not related to the training you did?

Unfortunately no, my initial training is journalism, human rights issues, but I found myself in a situation called social mediation?

[i] What is social mediation?

[r] You have people from priority neighbourhoods in particular, it’s the language that’s being adopted now. They are people who cannot read or write and who come from African or Asian countries and who do not have a level, who have difficulty understanding letters, who also have difficulty understanding… reading letters, how the French administration is becoming dematerialized. Everything happens on the Internet, you had to go with them. I receive them in my office, I listen to them.  I make them read, I make them understand the letters.  I write letters to them. Sometimes I use my phone to call the administration.  For example, Caf services, retirement services, employment centre.  Dponc is a bit of administrative support.  I also attend from time to time what are called homework helpers, you assist primary school students, accompany them, guide them. It has nothing to do with journalism, but it’s a pretty invasive experience.  It allowed me to improve my level in French, I would say, but also to understand the French administration.  In every respect, today, I know how to write administrative letters to the prefecture, to government partners such as the caf, employment centre, health insurance, it’s full of forms. In any case, it taught me a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot in terms of experience. I don’t regret it at all.

[i] How long have you been doing this work?

[r] I had been doing it since the end of 2016 until now.  I was recruited for one year, they renewed it, they renewed me for two years.  So so, the prospect of seeing how to stay in the same services or change.  But in any case with what is currently happening in France, it is quite possible that in the meantime the journalists’ house will be associated with the great national debate, and to see how the journalists welcomed in France can also be useful for global reflections in France.  Journalists from African and foreign experiences can also be associated in French media. We hope that our complaints will be heard by the elysée, by the French authorities, so that African journalists, Maghreb journalists and those from elsewhere can have their full place in the French media space.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit about your activities outside of work?

[r] My cultural activities…

[i] Cultural, sports and theatre activities…

[r] That’s it! Yes, I actually like cultural activities more, it’s my participation in meetings of friends from Djibouti, Chadian friends too. So these activities that tend to participate, to see what others are doing in fact, to discover other nationalities, what they are doing at home, so assist, help them. And other activities include accompanying Chadian, Sudanese and African asylum seekers who have difficulty in effectively understanding their case, assisting them in drafting their case, making asylum applications, and also providing them with appeals to the CNDA and reviewing their case with Ofpra. In any case, it’s a life that’s just as rhythmic and committed.  Apart from professional activities, we also have Saturdays and Sundays: it is a life without rest. Also, I would say the fact of monotonies and profusions of information on Chad you have to be on google from time to time, check what is happening in Chad, follow the news and meet Chadian compatriots in hostels to discuss what is happening in my country. Sometimes, going to a library, reading a few books… that’s a bit like that.

[i] Do you also go to the movies? Do you go to a music concert?

[r] Unfortunately, you know… I often attend concerts of foreign cultures, especially from Mali. I have been to several concerts of Oumou Sangaré who is the African diva who often comes to Paris.  These are concerts I was invited to. I even have tickets for myself. Yes, it’s a bit like that!

[i] But how many associations are you a member of today in France?

[r] Ben! For the moment, I am just a member of a Chadian association that is created, to which we naturally belong because it is something that brings together Chadians, we are there and I am also a member of the Union de la presse francophone.

[i] Can you tell me about these two associations?

The other is exclusively Chadian, with Chadian members reflecting on the question of the future of the countries. We organize meetings, demonstrations etc…  But the union of the French-speaking press is the association of exciles which effectively brings together French-speaking journalists. It has an international dimension.  It allows us to have a press card and the French-language journalism card allows us to attend conferences and general assemblies.  The meeting of exiles is a meeting with journalists in exile.  It allows us to find ourselves in a framework of expression on the processing of information in African countries.  For the moment, I am officially members of two associations: a Chadian association and the Union de la presse francophone, the house of journalists to which I belong.

[i] can you tell us about your relationships with your entourage, your neighbours, your community?

[r] My French entourage, I have always lived peacefully, whether in Paris or today in Saint-Ouen le monde.  I have lived from 2014 to today, I have lived in peace forever.  I just moved out.  I have very good relations of peace, a truly human relationship with my neighbours without history, French people, office colleagues too.  Today I share a peaceful life without any trouble with my neighbours.  I’m not a conflicted man.  My Chadian entourage is also an entourage in which I find myself when it comes to dealing with the questions of meeting us to reflect on the situation in our country.  So necessarily, we have to reach a consensus. You know, everyone comes from a culture, a country, an entity, a family.  And we find ourselves on a national issue, we must absolutely reach a consensus so that things can get better, without that we must certainly go through difficult moments, tensions between us, it is regrettable but we must think about remedying this if we want to become true messengers of our people.

[i] Are you very involved in the life of your city?  Outside of work?

[r] Precisely, necessarily because it is the city of Saint Ouen. My mission was city politics.  I am called upon to be very involved, to support the associations. I’m part of what’s called the party committee.  This is a committee that has been set up and in which, as the social mediator, I participate and report. I participate in neighbourhood festivals so it is also an automatic and professional involvement at the same time, it allows to know the associations that are active in the city of Saint-Ouen the world. And then it’s a little bit like that, but I’m also thinking, individually, I’m thinking about how to have a media in the city of Saint-Ouen le monde to help young people who are of immigrant background, who know nothing about Africa, we have to give them the place and the voice.  They need to learn about African issues through the African media.  If there is something going on in Mali, we must invite Malians from the suburbs to come and comment.  As it will allow them to have a look here and elsewhere.

[i] Can you tell me what are the key moments, the major events in your life in France, in Paris or in your city?

[r] In Paris, the key elements were when I was received in 2014 at the National Assembly by the deputies who were sensitive, very affected by my situation and who wanted to help me.  I went to complain to the National Assembly to find a solution for my housing, my accommodation.  So it was meetings with women MPs who were sensitive and who brought my voice to the Paris City Hall. These are very important moments for me.  And then in Saint Ouen the world, it is when I was supported in the process, when I would like my wife to come to the process by the mayor of the city itself because I behaved responsibly.  He himself made a commitment to refer the matter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ask him that France could give a visa to my wife who is in Chad. So, these are moments that still make a difference, that are strong enough for me.

[i] And in the European Parliament?

[r] In the European Parliament, that’s when I was auditioned by the Development Committee.  These are historic moments, I was supported by Eva Joly, who was a member of Parliament for Europe Ecologie les verts and who decided that I should be heard by the European Parliament on official development assistance.  Europe certainly helps African countries through donations and financial resources, but we have made them understand that you cannot continue to give official development assistance to Africa without a right of scrutiny.  Public aid to our countries must be subject to scrutiny both here and there. That is, we as journalists or members of society have a right of scrutiny over this aid. Where does official development assistance go? And I proposed at the time that the European Union should direct this aid not only to the State but also to free media and civil society.  For me, free media plays an important role in the transformation of our society. If journalists are made more precarious, it means that they cannot carry out investigations. It is also better to help civil society. By helping civil society, we could eventually create full citizenship, that is, people will know their civil and political rights.  However, this development aid lands directly in the hands of our African leaders, except that this money is still being diverted once again by these political decision-makers, but it is not going to the benefit of the people. This official development assistance is the money of the French, Belgian, Italian and other taxpayers. So I insisted for 45 minutes of hearing in parliament.  I have rightly asked that official development assistance to Africa must be revised, and this will necessarily involve aid geared towards civil society and free media, because free media must play their part.  There are two types of media: free media and public media. The public media is based on the apology of the system in place. However, free media are committed media.  We must support them in their fight so that they really do a great job and in raising public awareness. We believe that the European Union has an interest in changing this and it must have a right of scrutiny over what it gives to our countries.  Without it we can’t get away with it.

[i] And for other business as well or only…?

And other business, I also think of Zoura. Another highlight is when we accompany him. She is a Chadian girl who was raped by the children of the regime’s dignitaries.  And Zoura was thanks to my network of friends and people who knew me that we were able to reach. We were able to reach an MEP named Marie-Chhristine Vergiat, she was a member of the left front who welcomed us, I think in Brussels and you were among us.  We were in Brussels with Zoura, the young girl who was only 16 years old and who was mistreated, and this is a very serious violation, it is violence against women.  And we, as human rights defenders, denounce this.  And thanks to this hearing, we could not carry the voice of zoura and beyond Zoura, that of all Chadian and African women. I think these are moments that have marked me and that have marked me and that will mark me for as long as possible and I would indeed tell my children about them.

[i] Can you tell me how you perceive France, Paris, your city?

[r] France, I certainly have a positive perception because it is one of the countries with a history.  France is a great country, a country of human rights, a country of peace and stability.  I think that another view I have of France is also the fact that it is a society that makes people frustrated, excluded from society. Especially when you take the bus or train from Saint Denis, you have the impression that you are dealing with people who are blacks and Arabs. I had the chance to hate in the 15th, just as I have the chance to live in the Paris suburbs.  So I think we have a France fragmented in two. A France where in the 15th rarely you find people from migration because it is between us. And here that we came from the northern stations, you have only identifiable heads. I have a bit of a problem with that. It is absolutely essential that France change. And then in the city where I am, I think it’s a city I like because it’s the only city where you practically have people of African origin, Maghrebians and native French and there’s never been a conflict in Saint-Oeun le monde. a, I let the mayor of the city know that it’s a symbolic city, a city of integration in France. And here I think I am grateful for the welcome of these cities, for the civil peace we are living in.  You know well since 2015 with the Charlie Hebdo attacks, all the suburbs are agitated.  People live in fear, but we were able to overcome this kind of inter-community tensions between people in the streets of Saint-Ouent in the Paris suburbs.

[i] Can you still tell me how you see social and health issues in France in a fairly general way?

[r] And here, you know, two situations arise.  There is what is called the disease relationship, which is a state structure of France.  After three months you have, if you stay in France for three months, you are entitled to what is called state medical assistance, which will allow you to stay free of charge for a certain time.  What I see is the abuse there are some people in bad faith who wanted to take advantage of the system.  There are people who deserve that.  And that is to be deplored. The system so far I say to myself, we have to thank France, unlike other countries such as the United States where we pay for health and care.  In Fance after 3 months if you stay perfectly regular you have the right to health. Really the social and sanitary conditions…  The social aspect too, the fact that France gives what is called the APL (housing subsidies), which is not easy elsewhere. In Belgium we let you deliver to yourself.  France, I think for me, is also a country of solidarity, a country that is marked by human solidarity towards those it welcomes, but on condition that you come to stay in a truly regular way, adminstrably speaking.  That’s why you’re entitled to this help.  I am thinking of the SDFi who do not have one, but that is not France’s fault. Even there too, we have what is called 115, which can accommodate them, but only people who do not want to be socially integrated.  They don’t want to socialize, people who always want to stay on the margins and so that’s the limits of the state.  The state has shown its limitations on these issues.  It touches me, I am very affected when I see people on the street in winter but there are positive things. As I told you, state medical assistance, universal health coverage, administrative support.  It is a country where you have to fight regularly. If you don’t fight, you can’t get out of it. So to guarantee these rights, it is absolutely necessary to stand up from morning to night.

[i] What are your expectations when you come to France?

[r] Look, I would say my expectations, it was first of all a priority on the security issue and my personal protection.  I was thinking if I came to France, it was because I was persecuted in my country of origin and abroad and France granted me asylum to protect me. So what I can do for France is also to contribute to its social economic development, to its international influence.  What I am doing today is estimating the fact that I agreed to take the little girl from the city to a neighbourhood as popular as Saint-Ouen le monde. I did that in one year without training as a social mediator, I improved my skills.  Today I have adapted to French realities, I have also expressed myself perfectly in French, I understand the workings of the French administration and I can cope with the challenges of dematerialization.  I thought it was my contribution to help the French citizens.  Today I have helped all French socio-professional categories.  Whether they are native French, Maghrebians or Africans, I have helped everyone.  This is my most modest way of making my contribution to France and I thank her for what she has welcomed me like this.

[i] What are your intentions? Do you intend to go home one day? Or stay in France or naturalize yourself French?

[r] For the moment, the prospects for naturalization are not on the agenda.  I have been here for six years, so I still have my status as a political refugee even though I work in a public service and distribute in Chad, that is what we all want.  Because we think we came here for specific reasons, especially exile.  If the situation changes in my country, I would like to share everything I have capitalized here. To return to Chad and also to share my country of origin. I can’t continue to live abroad, I also have my family, I have a family connection in Chad.  I have my parents waiting for me and I am particularly the only man in the family. I really wanted to go back to stay close to my parents and help them in the most just way since at a distance you can help them as you should because there are many constraints. I really prefer to stand next to them and support them.

[r] Why didn’t you naturalize?  What are the reasons?

[i] You know in principle as a refugee, you don’t have much difficulty to be naturalized. After six months, only in principle, that’s what was written, except that now there’s a question that arises again, me who is in permanent contact with the prefecture.  It’s just that things have changed now.  At the time, you had the status of a refugee, you have two months to naturalize yourself except that now everything is dematerialized. You have to make an appointment at the prefecture and to have an appointment at the prefecture you have to get up at midnight.  At midnight, you have only three people applying online, and we open the prefecture website for 10 minutes. And during those 10 minutes if you’re not there, it’s over.  So it’s a way of keeping the demands a little bit physically and I, which is what I understand, what I felt, the fact that the request for naturalization is not being made in the right way.  What I recently made clear to a French authority, the fact that the appointment space is online for everyone, whether you are an ordinary migrant or a political refigured, a political refigured, it is someone who is under the protection of France, that France should automatically give him his rights. In particular, naturalization takes place in two to three months, and today we are in the same situation as ordinary migrants.  A migrant who comes, who has his card after one year, two years, is subject to the same conditions as a refugee who has to do the same thing and therefore it is really annoying. I have made requests several times to people but I personally have not yet done so but I have forwarded the information. The difficulties we are facing, I would like to pass them on to the French authorities, I think that the prefect will know the difficulties we are facing, since we are in the field.  I am one of the people who are on the ground who understand France in depth, its difficulties in depth.

[i] And you, why didn’t you do it?

[r] No, I had considered doing it. At some point, at one point, at the beginning you are told that you need to have the status of political refugees before you have the status of refugees, that is not enough.  We would have to look for work, so 2013-2014 2014-2015, I wasn’t working, it’s now that I started working. I work part-time, maybe there, given the criteria, maybe the job, the activity could be one of the criteria that could open the doors of French nationality to me.  I, one more nationality, is not bad. I think that obtaining French nationality is a good thing.  If I have it, I’ll take it.  If the procedures are not so complicated, I would have done it except that now for some time, I assure you that for a year everything has been dematerialized.  To make an appointment, you have to really struggle really hard! And then it takes an hour, two hours, get up at 2:00-3:00 to do it on the prefecture site, otherwise I would have done it.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit about your family in France?

[r] My family in France, I have Ivorian friends who are French and French.  I have Tunisian friends I frequent, as well as Algerian friends, girls from Chadian families I frequent here, so these are the ones who make up my family.

[i] But what about your own family?

[r] My own family today consists of my wife and son who is now six months old.

[i] What education do you intend to give him?

[r] For the moment, I live in France. I’m going to give him a French education.  He is lucky, I would say lucky that God made him born in France. Certainly, it belongs to the dual culture: Chadian culture and French culture.  Maintaining his own culture is the French culture since he lives in France. I necessarily think that he grows up under these conditions and that he actually benefits from training in France and that France opens all the doors to him. So that he can’t forget his country of origin.

[i] Have you always been in touch with your family at home? Your parents in the country

[r] Yes, of course I have to! You know when we’re in France, people think that France is Eldorado.  So we’re trying to do what we can do by supporting the family. We became practically a family support to relatives, to those who stayed a little further away in the village. We try to call them and cheer them up, but that’s what gives us the reason to live and the courage to live. We are in permanent contact with the family, the parents on my father’s side, or on my mother’s side, I am in permanent contact with them.

[i] Thanks to [name] , I don’t know if there’s anything you haven’t said yet that you wanted to come back to it before closing our interview.

[r] I think it is important that the research work on the migration issue and the profile of migrants can one day be used to promote our struggle, our cause and identify our path because there are people who do not know us. Who is [name] ? What are the difficulties he was confused about? I think that through what you are doing, maybe people will know the fight I am fighting, my journey of permanent exile, a life, an unlimited exile. I hope it’s encouraging, it’s to be supported, maybe it can help to lift the veil on us. We became invisible today. For another reason, no one knows us, but perhaps this can help the research you are doing. That this may shed more light on national and international opinion and change the way migrants’ lives are viewed in general.

[i] Thank you and see you soon.

[r] See you soon and thank you.