Kieffer, one of the few foreign investigative reporters still based in Ivory Coast, was last seen on April 16, according to local and international press reports. In the weeks prior to his disappearance, Kieffer received death threats, according to his family and friends, who fear that he has been killed. The journalist has both French and Canadian citizenship.
Since then his cell phone has been switched off, and his family has not heard from him. Unconfirmed reports in the opposition press have suggested that members of the security forces abducted and killed Kieffer. Reports that the tortured corpse of a white man was seen in Azaguié, near Abidjan, also remain unconfirmed.
The missing journalist is also a commodities consultant who specializes in the Ivory Coast’s lucrative cocoa and coffee sectors for a company that had contracts with the government. He had conducted numerous investigations in these sectors, including exposing corruption. His freelance work included contributions to the Paris-based African business newsletter Lettre du Continent.
On May 25, Michel Legré, a brother-in-law of Ivory Coast’s first lady, was detained in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and formally charged as an accessory in the kidnapping, confinement, and murder of Kieffer, according to international news reports. According to local press reports, Kieffer, was on his way to meet Legré when he disappeared.
A French judicial inquiry has been under way since May 3, after Kieffer’s wife filed a complaint in a Paris court. France and Ivory Coast have a bilateral treaty on judicial cooperation dating back to Ivorian independence in 1960.
In the days before he was detained, Legré testified for 10 hours before a French investigating judge and blamed people close to the Ivorian government for Kieffer’s disappearance, according to local and international press reports. On May 21, the French judge, Patrick Ramael, complained to the Ivorian state prosecutor that he has been unable to question the government officials that Legré implicated and asked the prosecutor to intervene.
While the government has charged Legré with being an accessory to murder, Kieffer’s body has not been recovered, and the government has yet to present evidence that he was killed.