Reporters Without Borders today deplored the failure to solve the murder of Norbert Zongo, publisher of the weekly paper L’Indépendant, who was shot dead on a road in southern Burkina Faso on 13 December 1998. It accused the government of doing everything it could to avoid a trial.
It said Burkina legal officials were doing nothing. The judge assigned to the case was not conducting any investigations and many people who had relevant evidence had not still been interviewed. Impunity was still the rule in Burkina Faso, it said.
The press freedom organisation asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, to visit the country as soon as possible and urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, to take up the case and demand that the Burkina authorities organise a speedy trial.
The people of Burkina no longer believe official assurances that things are "moving forward" in the case. Their scepticism extends to President Blaise Campaore’s remark to a local monthly in June this year that he too was keen for the investigation to make progress. He insisted the country’s judiciary was independent and said he had no power over the investigation or any professional relationship with the judges.
The president’s brother, François Campaore, who is deeply involved in the affair, has only been questioned once, in January 2001, more than two years after the killing.
Reporters Without Borders said it was also very worried about the state of health of a key figure, presidential guard officer Marcel Kafando, the only person who has been charged in the case. He was formally accused in February 2001 of murder and arson by prosecutor-general Abdoulaye Barry.
If Kafando dies, the investigating judge will no longer able to get enough evidence to point to the brains behind the murder. The authorities appear to be waiting for him to die so they can close the case for good.
To mark the fourth anniversary of Zongo’s death, Reporters Without Borders is launching a media campaign in about 60 newspapers and on 40 or so radio stations throughout Africa. The message going out is that justice has been stifled for four years and that all Burkina citizens are suffering as a result.
Zongo was found dead in his burnt-out car along with three friends at Sapouy, about 100 kms south of Ouagadougou, on 13 December 1998. He had been shot. The murder set off dozens of demonstrations throughout the country, both in the capital and major provincial towns.
On 7 May 1999, an independent commission appointed by the government to look into the killing handed in its report to the prime minister after questioning more than 200 people. It said the motives for the crime were linked with the journalist’s investigations over the years, especially those into the death of David Ouedraogo, the driver of François Campaore, the president’s brother and advisor. The report named six "serious suspects," all of them members of the presidential guard.