Prosecutors of the recently installed military regime in Burkina Faso have accused former president Blaise Compaoré of complicity in the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, demanding a thirty-year jail term for him.
Compaoré who ruled Burkina Faso for twenty-seven years was ousted by a popular uprising in 2014. He was close friends with Sankara, whose assassination in 1987 paved the way for Compaoré to ascend to the helm of power in the West African country.
Thomas Sankara was a revolutionary army captain who became president in 1983 at the age of 33. He changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso which translates as “Land of the honest man.” He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalizations, public housing, and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy, and forced marriages. Along with 12 of his colleagues, he was executed by a hit squad on October 15, 1987.
Mr. Sankara was known as ‘the Che Guevara of Africa’ for his fight against colonialism and imperialism which brought him at odds with many Western leaders and his radical reforms in favor of the poor.
A trial into their killings was finally launched in 2021 after French authorities agreed to release documents detailing the circumstances surrounding the incident. The prosecutors’ request to the military court, where Compaoré is supposed to stand trial, includes that he be found guilty in absentia of an “attack on state security”, “concealment of a corpse” and “complicity in a murder”, accusing him of being the main sponsor behind the killing of Sankara and 12 of his colleagues.
Prosecutors are equally seeking a 30-year jail term for Hyacinth Kafando, suspected of having led the commando that murdered Sankara and his companions, and 20 years in jail for Dienderé Gilbert- the main defendant present at the trial and one of the army commanders during the 1987 coup.
Dienderé is already serving a 20-year sentence over an attempted military coup in 2015.
Former president, Blaise Compaoré who is currently in exile in neighboring Ivory Coast denies any role in the assassination of his predecessor. Days before the trial opened, his lawyers made clear he would not attend a “political trial” flawed by irregularities and insisted he enjoyed immunity as a former head of state.