Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo’s murder was a state crime, official confesses

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that many Cameroonian intelligence officers have been arrested in connection with journalist Martinez Zogo’s murder, and that a suspect who has confessed to participating in the murder has even said that it was Cameroon's justice minister who ordered it.

More than 20 members of Cameroon’s General Directorate for External Investigations (DGRE) have been arrested in the capital in the past few days in connection with the murder of Martinez Zogo, whose mutilated body was found on 22 January. The shocking statements they have made to investigators have coincided with a political battle to succeed President Paul Biya, who will be 90 in a few days, and even attempts to destabilise the government.

Yesterday evening, DGRE boss Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, who is among those who have been arrested, was still denying that he was aware of the plan to silence Zogo, who was Radio Amplitude FM’s presenter. 

But his deputy, special operations director Justin Danwe, has provided a shocking statement. In confessions that he hand-wrote during his interrogation, and which RSF has seen, he provides a detailed account of the gruesome operation to silence Zogo and he emerges as the head of the unit that carried it out. Lt. Col. Danwe recognises his involvement and says he told his superior. His account shows that Zogo’s murder was a state crime.

He provides a detailed description of how Zogo was followed for a week, in order to establish the pattern of his movements, until his abduction on the evening of 17 January by DRGE members including Danwe, who was the one in charge. Zogo was reportedly taken to a building under construction that belongs to Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, a powerful businessman who Zogo had accused of embezzlement. 

According to Danwe’s confession, Belinga himself then beat Zogo in the basement of his building and telephoned justice minister Laurent Esso, to whom he is close, to ask him what Zogo’s fate should be. Esso, who is one of the most powerful members of the government, allegedly responded that Belinga should “finish the job” to avoid a repetition of the case of Paul Chouta, a journalist who was beaten last year by a mysterious group of assailants who were never unidentified. They left Chouta for dead at the roadside but he ended up surviving.

According to Danwe’s statement, Belinga was not present when “the job was finished,” a task that Danwe acknowledges having carried out himself together with his men. According to the information that RSF has obtained from a medical source, Zogo’s body was badly mutilated. Fingers were cut off, his arms and legs were broken in several places, and a steel rod was rammed into his anus.

The investigation, which is being led by a mixed commission of gendarmes and police officers and is being carried out on President Biya’s orders, has clearly made extraordinary progress in the past few days. How much further will it go? RSF has been told that other important persons, including several other ministers close to Belinga, could have been informed in advance of the plan to kill Zogo and could even have been involved.

The outcome of the investigations remains very uncertain as the affair’s ramifications reach up to the highest level of the state while the political environment is described by several local sources as verging on insurrectionary.

For a while last night, it was being reported that Belinga had been arrested, but he finally made an appearance at one of his companies this morning, displaying an extraordinary degree of calm given the accusations being made against him.

RSF has tried several times to reach the justice minister, without success.

Cameroon is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

130/ 180
Score : 44.95
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