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Six years after journalist Norbert Zongo's murder, investigation remains stalled and impunity prevails

(RSF/IFEX) - Six years have passed since newspaper editor Norbert Zongo and three of his companions were found dead in their car on a southern Burkina Faso road, on 13 December 1998. The investigation remains stalled and one of the leading suspects in the case, François Compaoré, President Blaise Compaoré's brother, has never been detained or charged.

On 28 November 2004, an RSF representative questioned President Blaise Compaoré about the case during the closing press conference of the summit of French-speaking countries, held this year in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

"Total impunity appears to be the rule in Burkina Faso," RSF's representative said. "The judge is free to interrogate whoever he wants. It is not the president's role to meddle in judicial proceedings," President Blaise Compaoré replied.

"You are right, Mr. President, it is not your role," RSF's representative said. "If Burkina Faso's most senior officials had not meddled in this investigation, it could have made some progress. However, with the public assurances you have just given in the presence of French President Jacques Chirac and the heads of state of other French-speaking countries, investigating judge Wenceslas Ilboudo should finally be able to work effectively on the case," RSF's representative added.

Until now, the investigation has been marked by repeated irregularities. Impunity prevails and paralysis has taken hold.

In August 2000, three Presidential Guard soldiers, including Warrant Officer Marcel Kafando, were convicted of kidnapping David Ouedraogo, a presidential office employee, and torturing him to death. Ouedraogo had been suspected of stealing money from François Compaoré, for whom he worked as a driver. He died under torture a few days after being arrested by the Presidential Guard. The president's brother is also one of Blaise Compaoré's advisers.

Zongo was investigating this case when he was murdered. In February 2001, the state prosecutor charged Kafando with murder and arson in connection with the Zongo case. Despite this serious charge and his being sentenced to 20 years in prison in the Ouedraogo case, Kafando continues to live peacefully at home.

François Compaoré has never been charged in the Ouedraogo murder, although he personally phoned Kafando and ordered him to arrest Ouedraogo. The president's brother was only questioned once, in 2001, in connection with the Zongo case.

RSF's representative tried unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting with Judge Ilboudo during his November 2004 visit to Burkina Faso. A meeting was arranged but the judge did not turn up, and he could not be reached by phone thereafter.

RSF is marking the sixth anniversary of Zongo's murder by placing announcements in the African press parodying an advertisement for a film about an "unpunished crime in the French-speaking world," starring Blaise Compaoré as the cover-up's author and François Compaoré as its beneficiary. The ad has been sent to the main African newspapers and a poster version was distributed in Ouagadougou during the summit.

RSF has also written to African Union Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, asking him to intercede in an attempt to revive the investigation. "We call on you to use all your influence so that justice may be rendered to Norbert Zongo's family and to all the people of Burkina Faso, for whom his death was a major blow to their own freedom," RSF said.

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