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Burkina Faso3 June 2002

Chronology of Events


-  In December 1997, David Ouédraogo and two other people were handed over, by François Compaoré, to members of the Conseil de l’entente at their premises, a military barracks. The President’s brother accused his chauffeur and the two other people of stealing money from him.

-  On 13 January 1998, Norbert Zongo wrote in his diary: "We are not trying to determine whether there was theft; that is not our problem. (...) What worries us is that the suspects are being held at the Conseil (...) we are supposed to be in a constitutional state. Until proven otherwise, the Conseil is not a gendarmerie brigade, nor a police force nor a police station. Who in this place is investigating this theft? How are they doing it? Where are the suspects being held?"

-  On 18 January 1998, David Ouédraogo died in the presidential infirmary, probably from torture caused by members of the president’s security corps who were investigating a case of money stolen from the wife of François Compaoré. Compaoré claims that he told both the gendarmerie and sergeant major Marcel Kafando, assistant head of the president’s security corps. Marcel Kafando confirmed this, saying, "François Compaore asked me to look into this theft, the very day it occurred."

-  On 13 December 1998, journalist Norbert Zongo and three others were found dead in a burning car about 100 km south of Ouagadougou. He had been investigating the death of the president’s brother’s chauffeur, who died after being tortured by members of the president’s security corps.

-  In the following days, thousands of people demonstrated in the country’s main cities to call for justice. Symbols of power, such as the headquarters of the former single party, were sacked.

-  On 18 December 1998, a decree created an "Independent Committee of Inquiry" to investigate the death of the founder of L’Indépendant. It had the necessary resources and investigative authority. Reporters sans frontières (Reporters without Borders, RSF) was the only international organization on this committee.

-  After three months of investigation and testimony from more than 200 witnesses, the report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry, published on 7 May 1999, said the following:
-  Norbert Zongo was indeed murdered, he was "ambushed".
-  the motives for this murder undoubtedly lie in "the investigations carried out over the years by Zongo, and, especially, his recent investigations into the death of David Ouedraogo, the chauffeur of François Compaoré, a presidential advisor" and the president’s brother.
-  there is no "formal evidence" allowing the committee to designate who committed the crime, but that there are, nevertheless, "contradictions and inconsistencies in the testimony of some of the suspects concerning their alibis for 13 December 1998." It also mentions six members of the presidential security corps, and concludes, "This does not make them guilty, but they are serious suspects."

-  As soon as the report was published, le Collectif, which includes several human rights organizations and opposition parties, called for "conservatory measures" against the members of the military suspected of killing Norbert Zongo. Skirmishes broke out in Ouagadougou between police and students, who called for "the suspects’ arrest." Several political leaders were arrested, and a curfew was imposed in Koudougou, an opposition stronghold.

-  A special cabinet meeting was held on 10 May, but the government only decided to "immediately pass on" the committee’s report to judicial authorities.

-  On 9 May, the Minister of Security put the RSF representative under house arrest before expelling him. He was accused of calling members of the presidential security corps who tortured and killed David Ouedraogo "thugs" on local radio stations.

-  In early June, the president created a "council of elders" responsible for "working to achieve the reconciliation and the consolidation of social peace."

-  On 17 June, the council of elders called for "the arrest of those persons whose responsibility in the David Ouedraogo case has been clearly established." On 20 June, soldier Yaro Ousseini, sergeant Edmond Koama and sergeant major Marcel Kafando were arrested and placed in Ouagadougou prison (MACO).

-  On 2 July, the Minister of Security, Djibrill Bassolé, asked Reporters sans frontières to put off its planned voyage to Burkina Faso; RSF was planning to "examine the latest progress in the investigation of the murder of Norbert Zongo, on 13 December 1998".

-  On 9 July, the French Minister of Cooperation declared that France had "a positive opinion on the way Blaise Compaoré is handling this case, and hopes that the investigation will be completed, and that the perpetrators be sanctioned."

-  On 2 August, the council of elders presented its report to the authorities. They asked for the designation of a "government of national union and broad openness". They also called for the implementation of a "truth and justice committee for reconciliation"

-  On 17 September, two RSF representatives were expelled from Burkina Faso. When the RSF general secretary and the head of the Africa desk arrived at the Ouagadougou airport, police arrested them. With no explanation, nor any written orders, the RSF delegation was forcibly put on an airplane.

-  On 23 September, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs called on Burkina Faso for "the fullest transparency", after the expulsion of RSF’s representatives.

-  On 14 October, a new government was named, which contained no members of the opposition party, the Groupe du 14 February. Only two moderate opposition groups were part of this government.

-  On 13 December, on the first anniversary of Norbert Zongo’s death, RSF published a report about the Norbert Zongo case and its ongoing investigation by authorities in Burkina Faso. "The fact that none of the six suspects mentioned by the independent committee of inquiry have been charged, and that the president’s brother, François Compaoré, has not even been questioned by magistrates, shows that the regime, in spite of its declarations, has still not decided to fully examine this case." RSF also carried out a press campaign in 20 newspapers in 7 West African countries, who provided free space and printed pictures of Norbert Zongo’s burned car with the legend: "Mr. President of Burkina Faso, you made promises about Norbert Zongo’s murderers. Will they go up in smoke as he did?" According to AFP, 30,000 people demonstrated in Ouagadougou on 13 December 1999 calling for justice.

-  On 8 February 2000, Alpha Blondy released a single entitled "Journalistes en danger". This song is an homage to Norbert Zongo.

-  On 17 August, five members of the presidential security corps, accused of "torturing to death" the chauffeur of the president’s brother, appeared before a military tribunal.

-  On 19 August, sergeant major Marcel Kafando and sergeant Edmond Koama were sentenced to 20 years in jail, and soldier Ousséni Yaro to 10 years. Two other soldiers, Christophe Kombasséré and Marcel Kabré, were acquitted. Reporters sans frontières called on Burkina Faso authorities to put an end to the impunity of those who ordered the murder of David Ouedraogo, the chauffeur of François Compaoré, the president’s brother, and try and convict all those responsible for the death of journalist Norbert Zongo.

-  On 14 December, police prevented the first international festival for freedom of expression and press in West Africa from taking place. According to the organizers, the police occupied the meeting hall where a colloquium was to take place. A delegation of more than 60 people from neighboring Ghana, led by professor Kwamé Karikari, of the journalism department of the University of Legon, and executive director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, was prevented from entering Burkina Faso.

-  On 17 January 2001, François Compaoré, the younger brother of president Blaise Compaoré, was questioned by the magistrate investigating the murder of Norbert Zongo, according to the AFP in Ouagadougou and the Minister of Justice Boureïma Badini. François Compaoré was questioned on 17 January by magistrate Wenceslas Ilboudo, said Baldini.

-  On 2 February, sergeant major Marcel Kafando was charged with "murder" and "arson", in the Zongo case, by the attorney general Abdoulaye Barry. Marcel Kafando was one of the six "serious suspects", all members of the RSP, mentioned by the independent committee of inquiry set up by the Burkina Faso government.

-  On 11 October 2001, at the time of his official visit to France, RSF filed a suit against the president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré. RSF asked French courts to open an investigation of the president of Burkina Faso. Represented by their council, Sophie Coupry, RSF hopes that French courts will examine Blaise Compaoré’s responsibility in acts of torture committed by members of the presidential guard, that is under his responsibility. Since French legislation has integrated the 1984 convention against torture in its internal laws, French courts have the competence to judge those responsible for acts of torture, even if these acts did not occur on its territory or to one of its citizens.



In this country
15 December - Burkina Faso
Police summon heads of ‘collective against impunity’ two days after march on 10th anniversary of journalist’s murder
13 December - Burkina Faso
Protesters rename Ouagadougou avenue after slain journalist on 10th anniversary of murder
12 December - Burkina Faso
Government still trying to cover up truth nine years after newspaper editor’s murder
2 October - Burkina Faso
Arson attack on radio host’s car marks escalation in intimidation campaign
23 January - Burkina Faso
“Total solidarity” with newspaper publisher and editor convicted of libelling president’s brother

in the annual report
Burkina Faso - Annual Report 2007
Burkina Faso - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives
archives

reports
18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election
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Eritrea
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists