Cameroon: Suspected Mastermind of Journalist’s Murder Arrested
Cameroon’s controversial media mogul Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, suspected of masterminding the recent brutal murder of journalist and government critic Martinez Zogo, was arrested after a unit of 50 gendarmes encircled his villa.
“The arrest came as a surprise to many, as Belinga had been seen as untouchable,” said R. Maxwell Bone, an expert on Cameroon’s political economy, who spoke to the OCCRP on Wednesday.
Belinga had been known to be closely connected to several top figures in the Cameroonian government.
The arrest was confirmed in a statement by Belinga-owned newspaper l’Anecdote.
The director of Belinga’s TV station Vision 4, Bruno Bidjang, and the head of his personal security, Thomas Raymond Etoundi Nsoé, were also detained, but their connection to Zogo’s murder remains unclear.
Zogo was abducted on January 17 and found dead five days later, bearing the signs of torture.
Not long before his abduction, Zogo talked on air about suspicious leaks of tens of millions of dollars from the Cameroonian Treasury, claiming to have evidence showing that Belinga was the main beneficiary of the scheme.
Last week, more than 20 members of the Cameroonian counterintelligence service were arrested for their alleged role in Zogo’s murder, including its head, Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, and the director of operations, Justin Danwe.
Danwe, in his testimony seen by Reporters Without Borders, alleged that Belinga personally beat Zogo in the basement of one of his buildings and then, after receiving instructions from justice minister Laurent Esso, let Danwe “finish the job.”
Bone said that Belinga had been falling out of line with the Cameroonian government in recent years and his arrest could have been motivated by an attempt to deflect blame on those who made the corruption exposed by Zogo possible.
Cameroon, which has since 1982 been run by strongman Paul Biya who will be celebrating his 90th birthday on February 13, is one of the most authoritarian countries in Africa with a notoriously repressive media environment.
On February 3, another journalist, Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe, was found dead in the capital of Yaoundé. Bebe worked with Zogo and also criticized government corruption.
“A real measurement of how serious the Cameroonian government is about addressing the killings of journalists is how they respond to killings of those such as Bebe who lack the international profile of figures like Zogo,” said Bone.