- The state prosecutor of Burkina Faso has been provided with new evidence in the unresolved 1998 murder of editor Nortbert Zongo. New documents found by press freedom organisations go further than before in implicating the President's brother, François Compaoré, and businessman Oumarou Kanazoé in the murder case.
The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today revaled that it had asked Burkina Faso's state prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the murder of Mr Zongo and three other persons, after providing him with new evidence implicating prominent Burkinabe politicians and businessmen.
As a member of the Independent Commission of Enquiry that was set up after the murder, RSF 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 representatives had "refused to sign the report until certain passages were removed," according to Mr Ménard. Those passages had implicated the President's brother and Mr Kanazoé by highlighting the alleged lies the two had told the commission.
In a letter accompanying the original draft - which was dated 26 April 1999 - Mr Ménard stressed the "important differences" between it and the version that was handed to Burkina Faso's Prime Minister on 7 May the same year. Passages detailing the contradictions in François Compaoré's statement and Mr Kanazoé's attempts to silence editor Zongo prior to his murder had been "completely eliminated," RSF said.
The conclusions of the original report had also been "much more decisive and detailed, specifically identifying 'six main suspects', all members of the presidential guard," according to Mr Ménard.
On 16 August this year, the Ouagadougou Upper Court confirmed Judge Wenceslas Ilboudo's decision to dismiss the case against warrant officer Marcel Kafando, head of the presidential guard and the only person ever charged in the Zongo murder case. 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."
The murder of Mr Zongo has ridden Burkina Faso as a nightmare since the famous investigative journalist and editor of the weekly 'L'Indépendant' was found dead 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.
Mr Kafando and two other presidential guard members were convicted in August 2000 of kidnapping Mr Ouédraogo and torturing him to death. In February 2001, the public prosecutor charged him with murder and arson in connection to Mr Zongo's death. Despite the gravity of the charges, Mr Kafando was allowed to continue living at his home.
Judge Ilboudo ruled on 19 July of this year that the investigation against Mr Kafondo and any other person for the murder of Mr Zongo should be abandoned after a prosecution witness withdrew the statement he had made eight years earlier. Confirmation of this decision on appeal meant that no further attempts would be made to find out who murdered Burkina Faso's most famous journalist.
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