Norbert Zongo

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

On December 13, 1998, Zongo, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper L’Indepéndent, was found dead in his car, along with his brother, his chauffeur, and a fourth, unidentified person. The inside of the vehicle was burnt and the bodies were charred, although the exterior of the car was not burnt. A rear door was riddled with what appeared to be gunshots. The private newsweekly had recently published articles accusing François Compaore, the brother of then President Blaise Compaore, of complicity in the death of François’s chauffeur. 

In early August 2000, three members of Blaise Compaore’s Guard Regiment (RSP) went on trial for the murder of chauffeur David Ouedraogo. The three guards were found guilty of killing David Ouedraogo and sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in jail. The court also awarded the victim’s family 200 million francs (US$227,000) in damages. But it would be another six months before authorities acknowledged any link between the death of Ouedraogo and the murder of Norbert Zongo and his friends.

In early January 2001, one of the jailed guardsmen was found dead in his prison cell "after a long disease," according to a government press release. A month later, the jailed RSP guardsman Marcel Kafando was indicted for murdering Zongo. Kafando, already serving a 20-year sentence for Ouedraogo’s murder, is the first person to be formally accused of killing Norbert Zongo and his companions. The state prosecutor said that the indictment resulted from "contradictions noted in [Kafando’s] alibi for December 12 and 13 of 1998." 

Blaise Compaore resigned in October 2014 amid widespread protests and fled to Ivory Coast, according to multiple news reports.

On October 29, 2017, French police detained François Compaore at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on an international arrest warrant issued in May 2017 by Burkinabe authorities in connection with an October 2014 investigation into Zongo’s death, according to reports by the Ghana-based press freedom group Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and France’s Le Monde newspaper. François Compaoré was released the next day pending France’s decision regarding extradition, according to the same MFWA report and a Le Monde report from the day of the release.

On December 5, 2018, a French court of appeal in Paris approved the extradition of François Compaore, but his representation indicated they would appeal and the extradition still requires a French government decree, according to French government-funded news outlet Radio France Internationale and Le Monde.