Burkina Faso charges three soldiers with murder of journalist

By Nadoun Coulibaly

By Nadoun Coulibaly

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Authorities in Burkina Faso have charged three soldiers over the murder in 1998 of journalist Norbert Zongo, whose killing became a symbol of repression during veteran President Blaise Compaore's rule.

The charges come a week after a general was charged over the murder in 1987 of President Thomas Sankara and provide further evidence of the transitional government's determination to pursue high-profile cases associated with the Compaore era.

They also show the political opening that has followed Compaore's overthrow in October 2014 by protesters who opposed his bid to change the constitution so that he could extend his 27-year rule.

Burkina Faso's democratic transition is seen as an example for other African states. Former Prime Minister Roch Marc Kabore was elected president last month and once sworn in, will be the country's first new leader in decades.

Zongo published Burkina Faso's Independent newspaper and at the time of his death was investigating the murder of a driver who worked for Compaore's brother. Zongo's burned body was found south of the capital. No one has been convicted of the killing.

His death triggered a national crisis and violent protests. An independent commission said the killing could only have been political and proposed reforms including the dissolution of the presidential guard.

The charged soldiers, who are in jail, had belonged to the presidential guard, a lawyer for Zongo's family, Stanislas Bénéwendé Sankara, told Reuters, adding that further arrests were possible.

"We want the people of Burkina Faso that we are on the road to justice for Norbert Zongo," said transitional prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida. He was speaking at a ceremony on Saturday to open a road in Ouagadougou named after Zongo.

The presidential guard was dissolved in September after staging a failed coup led by General Gilbert Diendere in which interim President Michel Kafando was briefly held hostage.

Diendere, a former intelligence chief for Compaore, was charged by military prosecutors over the killing of Sankara, whose murder is one of the most high-profile political killings in Africa's post-independence history.

(Additional reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Roche)