Reporters Without Borders marked the 10th anniversary of journalist Norbert Zongo’s murder today by organising a protest in which stickers were used to rename one of the capital’s avenues after Zongo. The editor of the weekly L’Indépendant, Zongo and three companions were murdered in the southern town of Sapouy on 13 December 1998.
In the course of a march through the streets of Ouagadougou organised by the Collective againt Impunity in Burkina Faso, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard and head of information Léonard Vincent put up large stickers with the words “Avenue Norbert Zongo” in the form a Ouagadougou street-name sign.
They distributed stickers to demonstrators and urged them to affix them everywhere in the capital as a tribute to the slain journalist and his three fellow victims.
“Ten years after the multiple murder in Sapouy, the people of Burkina Faso are still in the dark although suspicion and evidence have pointed to the president’s brother and the presidential guard,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Not only have the authorities done everything to prevent justice being done in this case but - compounding scandal with contempt - they have done nothing to ensure that Burkina Faso honours one of its finest sons,” the press freedom organisation add. “At least that injustice has been partially redressed today.”
Zongo (picture) was an investigative journalist and editor of the weekly L’Indépendant. His charred body was found along with the charred bodies of his three companions in their car in the southern town of Sapouy on 13 December 1998. At the time of his death he had been looking into how 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.
Following street protests, President Compaoré created an Independent Commission of Enquiry (CEI) to look into the multiple murder of Zongo and his companions. A few months later, the commission named “six leading suspects.”
Sgt. Marcel Kafando and two other presidential guard members were convicted in August 2000 of kidnapping Ouédraogo and torturing him to death. In February 2001, the public prosecutor went on to charge Kafando 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 in Ouagadougou all these years.
Investigating judge Wenceslas Ilboudo finally ruled on 19 July 2006 that the investigation against “Marcel Kafando and any other unidentified person” for the murder of Zongo should be abandoned on the grounds that a prosecution witness had withdrawn a statement he had made eight years before. The ruling was confirmed on appeal, meaning that no further attempt would be made to find out who murdered Zongo.
At that stage, the investigation could only be reopened if “new evidence” was produced. This is what Reporters Without Borders did on 20 October 2006, when it gave the Burkina Faso state prosecutor a copy of the original draft of the CEI’s report, before it was toned down on the insistence of two of the commission’s members, who represented the government.
Passages about the contradictions in François Compaoré’s statement and the attempts by businessman Oumarou Kanazoé to silence Zongo prior to his murder were completely eliminated from the final version of the report. The conclusions of the original report were also much more positive and detailed, and much more specific when identifying the “six leading suspects,” all members of the presidential guard.