Sign up for weekly updates

Three years of impunity for journalist Norbert Zongo's killers; RSF holds the authorities responsible for the fate of Marcel Kafando, the only person jailed in connection with the case

(RSF/IFEX) - Three years ago, on 13 December 1998, Norbert Zongo, director of the weekly newspaper "L'Indépendant", was murdered on a road in southern Burkina Faso. RSF is stunned that the investigation is not progressing. The people behind the murder have not been troubled, thereby reinforcing the feeling that the justice system in Burkina Faso is seriously flawed. Impunity still reigns in the "land of honest men", despite the authorities' declarations to the contrary. François Compaoré, the president's brother, who has been deeply implicated in the affair, has only been questioned once by the investigating magistrate. This was in January 2001, more than two years after the journalist's assassination.

Moreover, RSF is very concerned about the health of warrant officer Marcel Kafando, the only person to be arrested in connection with the case to date. He is being held at the Ouadadougou Detention and Correction Centre. This non-commissioned officer in the Presidential Security Regiment (Régiment de la sécurité présidentielle, RSP) is a key individual in the current investigation. Were Marcel Kafando to die today, the investigating magistrate would have to close the case for lack of sufficient evidence to trace the order of responsibility in the journalist's killing. Should this happen, RSF would hold Burkina Faso's authorities responsible for the total impunity that has characterised the affair.

RSF has written to the lead magistrate in the investigation, Wenceslas Ilboudo, asking for permission to visit Kafando and have him examined by an independent doctor selected by the organisation. On several occasions, the judge has stated that his work has been slowed by the soldier's poor health. In February, the warrant officer was arrested for "murder" and "willful arson" by General Prosecutor Abdoulaye Barry, in the context of the Zongo case.

Furthermore, the organisation has asked the authorities to disclose the preliminary conclusions of the investigation into the death of Michel Congo, a journalist from the daily "24 Heures". Congo was killed at his home on 21 October. Several theories have been put forth. The journalist's death has been described as everything from a vulgar crime to a political assassination. The local press and local human rights organisations have called for the creation of an independent commission of inquiry. The authorities must quickly demonstrate their true determination to shed light on this new case.

Background Information

Zongo was the director of the weekly "L'Indépendant". He and three companions were found burned to death in his car on 13 December 1998. This date proved to be the starting point for a wave of protests throughout the country. Since then, several dozen demonstrations have taken place in Ouagadougou and the country's other main cities. On 7 May 1999, an independent commission of inquiry responsible for "determining the causes of [Zongo's] death" submitted its report to the country's prime minister. The commission, which was set up by the authorities, questioned over two hundred people. It concluded that, "concerning the motive for this quadruple murder..., the investigations carried out for years by the journalist must be examined closely, in particular his recent investigation of the death of David Ouedraogo, the chauffeur of presidential advisor François Compaoré" and the head of state's brother. The report also listed the names of six "serious suspects" in the affair, who are all members of the Presidential Security Regiment.

Latest Tweet:

Malaysia: A proposed media council which is open, accountable and transparent "can help to build confidence in the…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.