Blaise Compaoré, the former president of Burkina Faso has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara. Compaoré was charged in a military tribunal in Ouagadougou in absentia along with his former head of security, Hyacinthe Kafando, who was also sentenced to life imprisonment.
Thomas Sankara, a former air force pilot, was close friends with Compaoré with whom he jointly seized power in 1983. Sankara still enjoys great admiration around the African continent, many years after his death, for his undaunted anti-imperialist stance.
Sankara who gained a reputation as Africa’s “Che Guevara”, took power on a promise to thwart corruption and post-colonial influences, denouncing foreign aid as a control mechanism. He rolled out mass vaccination against polio, banned female circumcision and polygamy, and was one of the first African leaders to publicly recognize the growing AIDS epidemic as a threat to the continent.
Both Compaoré and Kafando have previously denied any involvement in Sankara’s death along with 12 other defendants accused of involvement in the plot, three of whom were declared innocent on Wednesday. Gilbert Diendéré, one of the commanders of the army during the 1987 coup and the main defendant who was present at the trial, was also sentenced to life. He is already serving a 20-year sentence for a coup attempt in 2015.
Blaise Compaoré who ruled the West African nation for twenty-seven years after Sankara’s assassination in 1987, was ousted by popular riots in 2014. He fled to Cote d’Ivoire where he took up a new nationality and is believed to still reside there.
Compaoré previously denounced the trial as a political sham. The long-awaited verdict on Wednesday brought to close a six-month trial about the murder of Sankara, who was assassinated during a coup led by his friend and comrade-in-arms Compaoré on October 15, 1987.