Burkina orders Compaore to pay damages over Sankara killings

Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore Sankara

Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore. 

Photo credit: Issouf Sanogo | AFP

A court in Burkina Faso on Tuesday ordered ex-president Blaise Compaore and nine others to pay more than a million dollars in damages to relatives of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara and aides who were assassinated in 1987.

The order comes after a trial last month that sentenced the group to long jail terms, ending a case that afflicted the Sahel state for 34 years.

A former comrade-in-arms of Sankara, Compaore took power during a putsch on the day of the assassination, ruling until 2014, when he was toppled by mass protests and fled abroad.

Judge Urbain Meda, presiding over a military court in the capital Ouagadougou, ordered payment of 807.5 million CFA francs $1.3 million  to relatives of the 12 people who were gunned down alongside Sankara.

The Sankara family was awarded a symbolic one franc.

The award is indicative of "the moral and economic harm" the families suffered, Meda said.

Those liable are Compaore; Hyacinthe Kafando, his former presidential guard commander; Gilbert Diendere, the ex-army chief in 1987; and seven other defendants.

On April 6, Compaore, Kafando and Diendere were handed life terms for orchestrating the assassination, while the others were jailed for three to 20 years.

Compaore, who lives in neighbouring Ivory Coast, was sentenced in absentia while Kafando has been on the run since 2016.

Under the court decision, the Burkina state must compensate the heirs of the victims if the convicted are unable to pay.

But the court rejected a request to return Sankara's property to his family.

Benewende Stanislas Sankara, a lawyer for the Sankaras, expressed regret for the property ruling and said the family was considering whether to appeal.

A fiery Marxist-Leninist who blasted the West for neo-colonialism and hypocrisy, Sankara was shot dead on October 15 1987, little more than four years after coming to power as an army captain aged just 33.

He and 12 colleagues were killed by a hit squad at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.

Discussing the leftwing icon's death was taboo throughout Compaore's 27-year reign.


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