Burkina Faso Ex-leader, Compaore, Sentenced over Sankara’s Murder

Thomas Sankara's murder trial began behind closed doors in October 2021, and it was heard by a military tribunal. Following a six-month trial and years of campaigning for justice by his family and supporters, the verdict on April 06, 2022 was met with acclaimation in the courtroom. 

During the coup d’état that brought Blaise Compaoré to power in 1987, Sankara, 37 years at the time, and 12 others were assassinated. Both Sankara & Compaore were close associates who took power together in 1983.

The former president, Compaoré, after 35 years has now been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killing of his charismatic predecessor, Sankara – a move reverberating an expected accountability in the African political arena.

Because of his anti-imperialist attitude and austere lifestyle, Sankara was considered a hero by many in Africa. The Marxist revolutionary, dubbed “Africa’s Che Guevara” by some, seized power at the age of 33 and battled against corruption while overseeing massive increases in education and health spending.

Remembering Thomas Sankara | eNCA

Sankara was allegedly lured to his death at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council, as stated in the prosecution. According to ballistics experts who testified during the trial, he was shot in the chest at least seven times.

Mariam Sankara, Sankara’s widow, who was present during the trial, said the verdict represented “justice and truth” after a 35-year wait.

“Our goal was for the political violence we have in Burkina Faso to come to end. This verdict will give many people cause for thought,” she said.

Burkina Faso: Sankara’s widow reacts to court’s life sentencing of Compaoré | AfricaNews

However, Compaoré, according to speculations, is unlikely to serve his term any time soon. He has lived in exile in Ivory Coast since being dismissed from power in 2014 after 27 years, as a result of large protests, and has adopted Ivorian citizenship.

He earlier called the military court proceedings a political charade. Ten other people were also found guilty, including Haycinthe Kafando, Compaoré’s security commander, who was accused of commanding the hit team that killed Sankara.

He’s been on the run for a long time and was also tried in his absence. He, too, was sentenced to life in prison. Both of them had disputed the allegations.

Gilbert Diendéré, one of the army’s commanders during the coup in 1987 and the only defendant who was present during the trial, was also given a life sentence. He already has a 20-year sentence for attempting a coup in 2015.

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His counsel called the punishment “excessive,” claiming that, unlike individuals who were tried in absentia, he should have received credit for testifying at the trial. Three suspects were acquitted, while eight others received terms ranging from three to twenty years.

Sankara renamed his country Burkina Faso, which means “Land of Honest People,” from its colonial name, Upper Volta.

He slashed his own pay, as well as the pay of top civil workers, and sold off a collection of high-end automobiles.

He championed pan-Africanism, self-sufficiency, true independence from erstwhile colonial power France, objected unfavourable policies from International Monetary Fund & World Bank, and promoted gender equality by outlawing female circumcision and polygamy during his four years in power.

Activists in a number of African countries continue to pay tribute to him, pledging to carry on his legacy.

In 2019, a six-metre (16-foot) statue of him was erected in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Source: Aljazeera | BBC | eNCA | AfricaNews

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