A year ago, who could have imagined that Léopold Maxime Eko Eko could be put behind bars? The man who reigned over the General Directorate of External Research (DGRE) since 2010 was renowned as one of Cameroon’s untouchables, at the head of an opaque service, with a supposedly unlimited budget and which reports directly to President Paul Biya . Since February 2023, he has been incarcerated and considered one of the main suspects in the assassination of journalist Martinez Zogo, just like his former number two, the director of operations of the DGRE, lieutenant-colonel of the gendarmerie Justin Danwe, and businessman Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga.

The affair has shaken Cameroon since January 22, 2023, when the body of the host of the daily show “Emboteillage”, on Amplitude FM, during which cases of corruption were cited, was found on a wasteland in the suburbs of Yaoundé. Martinez Zogo had disappeared five days earlier and, according to the first elements of the investigation, had been kidnapped and tortured. An operation carried out “to silence the journalist”, according to elements collected by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and which, according to the investigation, was ordered by Mr. Amougou Belinga and carried out under the supervision of Mr. Danwe – which implicated his boss, Mr. Eko Eko.

While many gray areas persist around this crime, the powerful DGRE appears permanently weakened. Putting this key service of the country back in working order is now the task of the new boss of the secret services, appointed only a month ago. On December 19, two decrees signed by Paul Biya and read on the 8 p.m. news announced that Jean Pierre Robins Ghoumo was appointed to replace Mr. Eko Eko, and that his deputy would be gendarmerie colonel Mesmin Magloire Aristide Eloundou.

A civilian at the head of intelligence

Trained between 2000 and 2003 at the Institute of International Relations of Cameroon (IRIC), the factory of Cameroonian diplomats, Mr. Robins Ghoumo is a civilian, which constitutes a first for the DGRE, a service traditionally headed either by a police commissioner , or by a senior gendarmerie officer. But the man is used to intelligence. After having been stationed at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, he worked at the General Secretariat of the Presidency, where he was notably responsible for analyzing intelligence notes, but also daily bulletins from all the services which make up the apparatus security of the country. Documentation then transmitted to Paul Biya.

Originally from the Menoua department, he is a Bamiléké from the West region, an ethnic group very little represented in high responsibilities within a security apparatus largely dominated by nationals from the Center, South and South regions. ballast.

Will his unique profile change the DGRE’s methods? Under the leadership of Mr. Eko Eko, a series of events had shone the spotlight on this service. As early as August 2011, the local press revealed that elements of the DGRE had been mobilized to investigate the theft of a baby from the Ngousso gyneco-obstetric hospital in Yaoundé, which seemed to be a task far from its remit. . Later, in 2012, the DGRE arrested the former Minister of the Economy Polycarpe Abah Abah in his simplest form, when he was suspected during a leave of not wanting to return to Kondengui prison, in Yaoundé, where he was imprisoned for embezzlement of public funds.

The case of Mbara Goulongo Guerandi revealed the means available to the secret services. In 2014, the DGRE carried out a clandestine operation to kidnap and execute this former army captain involved in the failed putsch of April 6, 1984 against Paul Biya and exiled to Burkina Faso. The Zogo affair is the latest case to have shed light on the actions of the DGRE, which the new leaders of the service now have the task of making people forget.