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Burkina Faso21 August 2000

Three soldiers from the presidential guard condemned in the David Ouedraogo’s case
Reporters sans frontières frowns at total immunity of the head of state and his brother

Reporters sans frontieres has called on the Burkinabe authorities to put an end to the impunity and silence accorded to the actual people behind the murder of David Ouedraogo, the former driver of Francois Compaore, the brother of the president of the republic. It also wants the Burkinabe government to bring to justice all persons responsible for the death of the journalist, Norbert Zongo. The organisation argued that only three presidential guards, who were merely carrying out orders, were on 19 August 2000 found guilty of "illegally detaining and torturing" David Ouedraogo to death. Adjutant Marcel Kafando and sergent Edmond Koama were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, while another soldier, Ousseni Yaro got 10 years. Two others, Christophe Kombassere and Marcel Kabre were acquited.

Reporters sans frontieres maintained that it is not satisfied with the type of justice that seeks to punish those sent to carry out an order while those behind the murder itself continue to rule the country. It is unacceptable that Francois Compaore, a presidential adviser was not charged to court in the David Ouedraogo’s case whereas he personally telephoned adjutant Kafando inviting him to come and seize the driver. Francois Compaore was till now, not brought before the magistrate handling Norbert Zongo’s case file. The journalist was assassinated in December 1998 while he was investigating David Ouedraogo’s death. This speedy justice must be seen to conform with the statement of the head of state in May 1999, when he affirmed that ’’the government would see to it that all those implicated in the case, without exception, must be brought to book’’.

Sure, the imprisonment of the three soldiers is a first step towards the eradication of the reign of impunity which has been the order of the day in Burkina Faso for some years now. But we maintain that only the executioners have been dealt with, while neither the head of state nor his brother who were directly implicated in this case have been brought before the justice. Francois Compaore testified during the trial but he refused to accept responsibility of the death of his driver and denied ever knowing that he was detained at the premises of the presidential guard. This was in total contradiction with the statement of the chief of staff at the presidency, lieutenant-colonel Gilbert Diendere who, in 1999 told the independent commission of inquiry on the death of Norbert Zongo: ’’I was not notified the day David Ouedraogo and his colleagues were arrested. I only heard about it two or three days later. I was the one who told the head of state about the presence of David Ouedraogo and his colleagues in the barracks. I think that the news about the death of David must have reached the head of state before me since it was his aide de camp that told me about it as I was out of Ouagadougou’’. Still, Larba Yarga, the then minister of Justice told the same commission: ’’I requested that a copy of the statement of the gendarmerie on the case of theft of money and security against the state involving David Ouedraogo be communicated to the head of state and I personally delivered the copy to the head of state’’. Why then, under such circumstances, was the head of state not called to testify during the trial? It is impossible to imagine that the head of state did not inform his brother, a presidential adviser, of the detention for some weeks, of his driver at the premises of the presidential guard and of his subsequent death at the health clinic of the presidency? These questions and many others make us, once more, to doubt the independence of the Burkinabe judicial system.

Marcel Kafando, Edmond Koama, Ousseni Yaro et Christophe Kombassere were classified as ’’serious suspects’’ in the report of the independent commission of inquiry on the death of Norbert Zongo. He was investigating the death of David Ouedraogo when he was killed in December 1998. He had already arrived at the conclusion that Francois Compaore was involved in the death of his driver. The commission stated that "it would be necessary to unearth the motive behind the murder of Norbert Zongo from the investigations the journalist had been carrying out especially his recent investigations on the death of David Ouedraogo, the driver of Francois Compaore, a presidential adviser".



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