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Burkina Faso20 October 2006

Reporters Without Borders provides new evidence in Zongo murder case

Reporters Without Borders today asked the Burkina Faso state prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the 1998 murder of journalist Norbert Zongo and three other persons, providing him with new evidence implicating the president’s brother, François Compaoré, and businessman Oumarou Kanazoé.

As a member of the Independent Commission of Enquiry that was set up after the murder, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard was able to provide the judicial authorities with the complete version of the report drafted by the commission, before it was toned down on the insistence of two of its members, who represented the government.

The two government representative refused to sign the report until certain passages were removed. Those passages implicated the president’s brother and Kanazoé by highlighting the lies they told the commission.

In a letter accompanying the original draft (which was dated 26 April 1999), Ménard stressed the “important differences” between it and the version that was handed to the prime minister on 7 May of that year. Passages about the contradictions in François Compaoré’s statement and Kanazoé’s attempts to silence Zongo prior to his murder were completely eliminated.

The conclusions of the original report were also much more positive and detailed, and much more specific when identifying “six main suspects,” all members of the presidential guard.

On 16 August, the Ouagadougou upper court confirmed judge Wenceslas Ilboudo’s decision to dismiss the case against warrant officer Marcel Kafando, the head of the presidential guard and the only person ever charged. According to the code of criminal procedure, the case can only be reopened if there are “new accusations” liable to “strengthen the accusations that have already proved too weak” or to “contribute new developments useful in establishing the truth.”

Zongo was an investigative journalist and editor of the weekly L’Indépendant. His charred body was found in his car on 13 December 1998. At the time of his death he had been investigating the circumstances in which David Ouédraogo, the chauffeur of President Blaise Compaoré’s brother François, died at the hands of presidential guard members after being arrested on suspicion of stealing from his employer.

Kafando and two other presidential guard members were convicted in August 2000 of kidnapping Ouédraogo and torturing him to death. The public prosecutor charged him in February 2001 with murder and arson in connection Zongo’s death. But despite the gravity of the charges, Kafando was allowed to continue living at his home.

Judge Ilboudo ruled on 19 July of this year that the investigation against Kafondo and any other person for the murder of Zongo should be abandoned after a prosecution witness withdrew the statement he had made eight years before. The confirmation of this decision on appeal meant that no further attempt would be made to find out who murdered Zongo.



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