9 July 1999
Government official rejects RSF mission on journalist's death
(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an RSF letter to Burkina Faso Security Minister Djibrill Bassolé, further to his refusal to allow an RSF follow-up mission of inquiry into circumstances surrounding the December 1998 death of journalist Norbert Zongo:
Mr. Djibrill Bassolé
Minister responsible for security
Ministry of Territorial Administration and Security
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Paris, 9 July 1999
On 2 July 1999, I wrote you a letter informing you of our wish to visit Burkina Faso in order to ascertain the progress made in the inquiry into the death of Norbert Zongo. Today, I am acknowledging receipt of your letter, numbered 99-0104, in which you express the view that our proposed visit is "ill-timed," that our presence in Ouagadougou might "compromise the tranquillity" of the country, and that consequently "it would be preferable to postpone [our] mission to a more appropriate time, which would not hamper the investigation of the Norbert Zongo case."
I am surprised by your reaction for a number of reasons:
The Commission of Independent Inquiry appointed by the authorities in December 1998 is still active. I remind you that I am a member of this commission and, as such, carry a card signed by the prime minister which urges "civilian and military authorities to allow Mr. Robert Ménard to enter and freely move around, and to facilitate his mission."
In addition, during a press conference held on 10 May 1999, you stated that I had not been "expelled" from the country but simply "escorted to the border" on 9 May. You even added that I could "return to Burkina Faso."
In your letter, you also note that the statements I made "in Burkina or elsewhere did not fail to unleash passions." I believe that with regard to the Norbert Zongo case, Burkina Faso citizens did not wait for the reactions of international organisations such as Reporters sans frontières to demand that justice be served. Also, it is unfair to place the responsibility for events currently underway in Burkina Faso on our organisation.
Finally, if the measures which were promised by the authorities a day after the submission of the report have indeed been implemented, I cannot see how a Reporters sans frontières mission could stop "the political, administrative and judicial institutions from gathering results in accordance with the head of state's commitment and the legitimate desires of Burkina Faso citizens."
In addition, we regret your decision which, to recall your expression, will certainly not aid in "creating conditions for a calm and serene justice." The act of banning the visit of a non-governmental organisation will not improve Burkina Faso's image, which has already suffered considerably since the beginning of the "Norbert Zongo affair".
Reporters sans frontières was hoping for a constructive visit to Ouagadougou. Our organisation has always underlined the efforts which have been made since the submission of the commission's report, notably the arrest of three presidential guard soldiers. Your current attitude may not help in facilitating a quick and effective settlement of this case.
In the hope of reassuring you, and to preserve a dialogue with your country's authorities, we have decided to postpone this visit. But we hope, in the name of "the consideration for transparency" which you mention in your letter, that you will guarantee us the possibility of an unobstructed visit to Burkina Faso in the coming weeks.
In the hope of a positive response, please accept my best regards.