Burkina ex-president Blaise Compaore to be tried for Thomas Sankara murder

Burkina Faso former President Blaise Compaore

A file picture taken on November 12, 2008 shows ex-Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore attending a high-level meeting at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) headquarters in Geneva.

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Compaore and 13 others were being charged with harming state security, complicity in murder and complicity in the concealment of corpses, lawyer Guy Herve Kam told AFP.

The exiled former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, is to be tried for the murder of the man he ousted in a 1987 coup, Thomas Sankara, lawyers told AFP on Tuesday.

The case was sent to the military tribunal in the capital Ouagadougou after the charges against Compaore and the other main alleged perpetrators were confirmed, 34 years after the death of the cult figure, often called the African Che Guevara.

Thomas Sankara

The then President of Burkina Faso Captain Thomas Sankara saluting upon his arrival for the eighth summit of non-aligned countries in Harare on August 31, 1986. He was killed in October 1987, in a coup d'etat.

Photo credit: AFP

Compaore and 13 others were being charged with harming state security, complicity in murder and complicity in the concealment of corpses, lawyer Guy Herve Kam told AFP.

"The time for justice has finally come. A trial can begin. It will be up to the military prosecutor to determine a date for the hearing," he said.

Among the accused is General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore's former right-hand man and a former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) at the time of the coup.

Currently serving a 20-year sentence in Burkina Faso for masterminding a plot in 2015 against the West African country's transitional government, Diendere, now 61, is believed to have headed the commando that killed Sankara.

Even more people had been accused, but "many of them have died since," Kam said.

No trial date yet

Diendere's lawyer, Mathieu Some, said that while a trial date had not yet been set, it "could happen soon".

The warrants "to bring defendants not yet detained" were issued early Tuesday, he said.

One of the lawyers for Sankara's family, Prosper Farama, said: "There are two possibilities for Compaore: either he appears freely and voluntarily, or an international arrest warrant will have to be issued.

"But what we hope is that he can appear voluntarily," he added.

Sankara took power in a coup in 1983, but was killed on October 15, 1987, when he was 37, in a putsch led by Compaore, who was himself ousted in 2014 by a popular uprising after 27 years in power.

Compaore has always denied ordering Sankara's murder.

But even mentioning Sankara's name was taboo in Burkina Faso under his rule.

However, the case was reopened in 2015 with the installation of a transitional government and a warrant was issued for Compaore's arrest in March 2016.

Now 70, he currently lives in Ivory Coast, where he fled after being ousted and where he has since taken citizenship.

Over the past six years, the authorities in Burkina Faso have conducted around 100 hearings and ordered Sankara's remains to be exhumed for DNA analysis.

Sankara's widow, Mariam, who moved to the south of France with her two children in 1990, told AFP in a rare interview in 2015: "I have not given up, I will not give up, until the truth comes out."

In a subsequent interview two years later, she expressed the hope that Compaore would "come and answer to justice", and that "the sponsors and perpetrators" of the assassination would finally be punished.

In February 2020, a first reconstruction of his assassination took place at the scene of the crime, at the headquarters of the National Revolutionary Council in Ouagadougou.


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