My TEDxBrussels Interview

I had recently the opportunity to be interviewed by TEDxBrussels for their new initiative “the daily interview”: 7 small questions for 7 short answers. Here is a transcript. I could talk about engineering but I chose to focus on the humanist side this time. Anyway, they are not incompatible.

1/ My most important side-project for the moment is:
Gathering people through ResearchTalks conferences, thanks to a great team. The goal is to engage the interest of the audience by bringing the expertise of different specialists around a theme with 1 rule: 20 images in 12 minutes each talk. ResearchTalks has seen economists, researchers, legal experts, and other speakers talk on subject as varied as nanotechnologies, the economic crisis, the nuclear energy, agriculture and agroecology or smart objects.

2/ The person, the creation, the project that has inspired me lately is :
Pierre Rabhi and his “Oasis en tous lieux”, Oasis in any place, by which he advocates a society that respects the population, involves people and that produces food in a way to preserve natural resources. His work is impressive, and without earning any university degree about agriculture or sociology, Pierre Rabhi learned about Nature just by observing it. With his hands and intelligence, he gave Life in the desert from the Ardeche to the Sahel by putting back together the chain of life that we continuously break.

To me, his influence is important in the way that he invites us to think on all the threats that overshadow the future of humankind and to make us conscious and responsible of our actions. We are all depending of one another, from North to South, West to East of the planet.

Lola ya bonobo

3/ The 3 factors I believe crucial for an idea/project/business to spread are:

1- education. Educate to touch the soul and reach the minds.
2- time. Either time itself or being there at the right time.
3- chance. It’s a matter of opportunity to make a project work.

4/ My favorite place in the world is:
Any organic kitchen garden!

5/ Before I die I want to:
To me, every day is an achievement, and I’m happy of what I do every single day.

6/ Are you coming to TEDxBrussels this year?
Probably at the end of the day!

7/ Why?
It is after all the one year event to attend! I have been to TEDxBrussels since the very first edition in the European Parliament in 2009, and I was directly hooked. Everybody you meet at TEDxBrussels is bringing you something new, and meeting new people at TEDx always ends up in interesting discussions.


Retour sur les lieux du crime de la tentative d’assassinat du Dr Denis Mukwege

Le Jeudi 25 octobre 2012, le docteur Denis Mukwege, gynécologue à l’hôpital de Panzi, échappait à une tentative d’assassinat à son domicile de Bukavu, capitale de la province du Sud Kivu en RD Congo. Le Dr Mukwege est détenteur de nombreuses distinctions internationales pour son action en faveur des femmes du Kivu victimes de violences sexuelles: Prix Olof Palme, prix des droits de l’homme des nations unies, prix de la Fondation Roi Baudouin, prix Jean Rey, …, il a été élu « Africain de l’année » en 2009 par le journal nigérian « Daily Trust  ». Temoignage du Dr. Denis Mukwege après son agression, il s’adresse à la presse suédoise.

Comment cela a pu arriver dans un quartier considéré comme le plus sécurisé de Bukavu? Je reviens de ma lune de miel au Kivu, où j’ai séjourné à Goma et Bukavu… Je propose un retour sur les lieux du crime. Je ne comprends toujours pas comment les agresseurs du Dr Denis Mukwege n’ont pas pu être identifiés ou poursuivis. Que faisait l’ONU, les so-called « gardiens de la paix » ? De la position de leurs miradors, les agents de l’ONU ont vue sur la maison du gynécologue. L’ONU et autres ONG sont les voisins du Dr Mukwege. Comme je le témoignais ici, le quartier de Muhumba est le quartier général de la MONUSCO et de toutes les ONG présentes à Bukavu ( et des ONG, il y en un paquet à Bukavu!). C’est donc par définition, LE quartier le plus sécurisé de Bukavu.

Il semblerait que le Dr Mukwege habite à la porte noire (photo de gauche). A la diagonale, le mur avec un carré blanc et bleu, c’est le siège de UN OCHA (vue agrandie sur la photo de droite). 3-4 maisons plus loin, ce sont les quartiers généraux de l’ONU (voir image ci-dessous, MONUSCO HQ). A 300m de cette porte noire en direction du centre Amani, j’aurai compté rapidement 3 miradors avec des agents postés dans chacun d’entre eux. La photo suivante illustre le passage régulier des 4×4 des ONG dans le quartier. Ici, les voitures du CICR – Comité International Génève, les dinosaures du coin avec une présence de près de 20 ans dans la région. Il y a eu un coup de feu et un homme tué mais l’ONU n’a pas bougé!

Proximité maison Dr Denis Mukwege et bureau UN OCHA à Muhumba Proximité maison Dr Denis Mukwege et bureau UN OCHA à Muhumba








Proximité maison Dr Denis Mukwege et bureau UN OCHA à Muhumba, Bukavu

Malgré le risque, le Dr Mukwege rentre demain à Bukavu, il retourne auprès de ses patientes après 2.5 mois d’absence. Cette fois j’espère que la MONUSCO ou autre jeteraient de temps en temps un coup d’oeil à sa maison. Cela ne necessite pas beaucoup d’effort puisque de là haut des miradors, la maison du gynécologue est dans le champ de vision des agents de l’ONU équipés de dernières technologies militaires.



Saga of the African Great Lakes Region

I’ve noticed they have been talking about Paul a lot recently (and not positively). It seems like the « Mafiafrique* » doesn’t want him anymore. What was whispered 15 years ago in the streets in Bukavu has started to be revealed to the international public opinion. We are close to know the names of the big guys?

By the way, Congolese Tutsi or Hutu tribes don’t exist in the Eastern Congo. Several years ago, Mobutu was so kind to open Zaïre borders to welcome Rwandan refugees (twice) while the other neighbors closed their borders.

*Referring to françafrique

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
Rwanda president Paul Kagame’s regime has intensified its crackdown on its critics by arresting and intimidating opposition politicians and journalists. Photograph: Uwe Anspach/EPA

When democratic governments choose to ignore human rights abuses committed by an autocrat they support, it is normally in the name of national security or shared economic interests. But in the case of Rwanda’s authoritarian president, Paul Kagame, the overwhelming rationale is guilt.

The world stood by in 1994 as factions of Rwanda’s then army, their allied militia and Hutu civilians shot or hacked to death an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. While the UN dithered, Kagame – commander of a Tutsi-led rebel army – accelerated his military campaign and crushed the murderous regime and militia, some of whom fled into eastern Congo. In 2000, he took office as president, vowing to rebuild Rwanda.

Since then, his government has won international praise for its effective use of development aid, while the man himself has drawn endorsements from the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Even with a third of government revenues still accounted for by aid money, donor governments have been quick to describe Rwanda as an economic miracle.

Nobody can deny that it has made significant progress on state reconstruction. But donors have until now routinely played down Rwanda’s backing for Congolese Tutsi rebels who have committed serious human rights abuses in eastern Congo over the last 15 years and who are a major destabilising force in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Rwanda’s friends argue that its intervention in Congo is partly justified as it needs to defend itself from the FDLR, the Congo-based Hutu rebel group that is partly made up of those who committed the Rwanda genocide and now commits regular abuses against Congolese civilians. However, Rwanda’s interests in eastern Congo run deeper than this, notably guaranteeing Tutsi businessmen and military figures access to valuable Congolese grazing land and mineral production, large quantities of which have been smuggled through Rwanda to the outside world.

In June UN investigators on Congo published a note to the UN security council providing detailed evidence of Rwandan military support to Congolese Tutsi rebels who mutinied from Congo’s army earlier this year. Kagame’s government has hotly denied the findings. In the past few days Britain, the US and a number of European governments have frozen symbolic amounts of aid as diplomatic patience wears thin.

This is not the first time Rwanda’s behaviour in Congo has come under the spotlight. A 2002 UN investigation into the illegal exploitation of Congolese resources fingered Rwanda for its role in looting minerals during the civil war. In 2008 a UN investigation team I was a part of unearthed evidence of Rwandan support to Congolese rebels who were responsible for gross human rights violations and led by the Tutsi warlord Laurent Nkunda. After the 2008 report some donors cut aid but relations normalised after Rwanda arrested Nkunda and instructed his deputy, Bosco Ntaganda – who is wanted by the international criminal court — to integrate rebel forces into the Congolese army.

That peace deal was billed as a success by diplomats at the security council. At the time, I warned that it represented nothing more than “a period of incubation for a renewed crisis to come”. Indeed, the integration of Ntaganda’s men proved disastrous as they used the cover of military operations against the FDLR to set up lucrative taxation rackets and seize valuable mineral-rich territory. In so doing they entrenched themselves as a private army for Tutsi business interests while committing numerous human rights abuses in Congolese military uniform. Ntaganda’s mutiny in April removed any remaining justification Rwanda could have for supporting his troops.

The latest UN findings call into question Rwanda’s bid to win a seat at the security council later this year. But even leaving aside these findings, human rights groups have been steadily sounding the alarm on the increasing levels of authoritarianism developing under Kagame’s presidency, as the regime has intensified its crackdown on its critics by arresting and intimidating opposition politicians and journalists. Bellicose statements by high-ranking regime defectors, meanwhile, underline just how fragile Rwanda’s political system is, in spite of notions that Kagame has united the country.

Rwanda is a traumatised society. It needs real help, not blind aid. Donors should consider how they spend their money, or they may end up feeling guilty again.

via, Dino Mahtani, Wednesday 1 August 2012 21.30 BST

Coltan, tantale: mon macintosh à quel prix?

Entre 60 et 80%* de la production mondiale de coltan est utilisée dans l’électronique et principalement dans la fabrication des condensateurs que l’on retrouve dans les gadgets électroniques (ordinateurs, téléphones, consoles vidéo, n’importe quel PCB). 

Blood in the mobile est à voir! C’est de loin le documentaire le plus interpellant sur la question. Frank Poulsen a fait le voyage jusqu’en RDC (ex-Zaïre) dans les galeries des mines à Bisie/Walikale dans le Kivu. Un documentaire poignant! A méditer…

Dans la même série mais dans un tout autre registre, un extrait de Ne dites pas à ma mère …que je suis en République Démocratique du Congo (de Diego Bunuel). Le reportage complet était disponible sur le site de la RTBF. L’histoire du Congo/Zaïre et ce qui s’y passe encore aujourd’hui fait un peu penser à un festin d’éléphants inépuisable où chacun se sert un peu comme il veut et il y a à manger pour tout le monde. En plus des autres puissances historiques, la Chine s’y est mise aussi. La Chine est devenue 2è producteur mondial de Cobalt sans présence de mine dans son territoire et elle est entrain d’acheter l’Afrique centrale contre des cacahuètes.


* Avec le traffic parallèle, qui sait combien de tonnes de coltan sont réellement produites?

TEDx Experiment

Copy of the statement I made for TEDxBrussels

Second time I volunteered at TEDxBrussels. It’s through a combination of circumstances I found myself involved in the TEDx crew. Already fond of TED talks, I signed up for the first event at the parliament in 2009 and few days before the event, I heard that the organizers were looking actively for volunteers.

At that time, it was sold out to 500 attendees with 500 more still on the waiting list. I made my choice, gave up my seat and certainly made the day to somebody unknown, and went into this exciting experience.

This earned me a guaranteed free seat for the next event. So, last summer I received a reminder saying that I can book a free spot and part of the audience as promised. And once again I gave that seat but this time to my friend and rather chose to volunteer again, with no regret !

I was appointed for the Twitter Wall and Bibi Russel’s fashion show. I had the chance to meet and know more about Bibi Russel, an astounding woman who is doing a remarkable job. I ironed more than 20 marvelous silk outfit pieces for the catwalk. Although small my contribution was, I still feel I contributed in my own way to support the works done by over 2000 women and that means a lot. Next step, take the Thalys to Paris to get that beautiful handmade blue silk outfit 😉

 Bibi Russel @ TEDx

Bibi Russel

TEDx experience is all about meeting other peers, other people who believe in and want to change the world. It gives us an opportunity to contribute to something that we care so much about and naturally making new friends in the process.

A terrific, amazing experience and can’t wait till the next one!!

Les filles, les maths, les sciences, l’ingénierie… le début d’une longue histoire d’amour

C’est une belle histoire, celle d’une romance d’aujourd’hui…


Un événement Greenlight for girls qui se tiendra pour la première fois en Belgique le samedi 20 novembre 2010 (dans les locaux de l’International School of Brussels situés à Boitsfort/Bruxelles). Une journée entièrement dédiée aux sciences et à l’ingénierie; au programme activités et ateliers pratiques pour les filles âgées de 11 à 15 ans. 

Le but de l’événement est d’éveiller et d’intéresser les jeunes filles à poursuivre une carrière dans les sciences et technologies en rendant ces matières amusantes au travers des workshops et labos didactiques (multimedia, électronique, robotique, créativité..). Les ateliers sont donnés dans les 3 langues au choix: Français, Anglais et Néerlandais. La participation à l’événement est totalement gratuite pour les adolescentes. Allez hop, on s’inscrit? A ce jour, on approches les 200 inscriptions et on attend 300 filles max.

J’organise et anime un atelier sur la robotique “program your robot”. A l’issue de la journée, celles qui auront été sélectionnées auront le privilège d’aller visiter dans les jours à venir le studio d’ ASIMO, le célèbre humanoïde.

Grâce aux moyens et “gadgets” que nous disposons à l’heure actuelle, on peut réellement prendre son pied avec les sciences et les rendre amusantes. 

“Math can be fun”! Une des chouettes présentations TEDxBrussels 2009.