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Burkina Faso: Ex-leader Compaore faces 30 years for murder

February 8, 2022

Ex-leader Blaise Compaore is on trial for the 1987 murder of Thomas Sankara, a revered revolutionary leader. Sankara's death coincided with a coup that installed Campaore in power for 27 years.

Blaise Compaore
Former President Blaise Compaore is currently in exile in Ivory CoastImage: Francois Mori/AP Photo/picture alliance

Former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, faces a lengthy prison sentence if he is found guilty of the murder of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, after military prosecutors called for 30 years in prison for the crime.

Compaore's trial, which began in October, comes as the West African country reels from its latest military coup last month, brought on by protests and public anger over jihadist attacks in the country.

Prosecutors asked a court to find Compaore, who is currently in exile in Ivory Coast, guilty of an "attack on state security," "concealment of a corpse" and "complicity in a murder." They accuse the Compaore of being the mastermind of the killing.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara was gunned down during a meeting along with 12 associatesImage: AFP/dpa/picture-alliance

The 'Che Guevara of Africa'

Sankara has long been revered among African revolutionaries. He was a 33-year-old army captain, when he came to power in a coup in 1983.

A fiery Marxist-Leninist, he was a strong voice against imperialism and colonialism, often at odds with Western leaders at the time. Advocating for radical reforms to help the poor, he was known as the "Che Guevara of Africa." 

Sankara and 12 of his associates were gunned down by a hit squad on October 15, 1987, during a meeting.

Some 14 people stand accused in the trial, with 12 of them appearing in court. Prosecutors have requested 30 years in jail for the commander of Compaore's presidential guard, Hyacinth Kafando, who is accused of having led the hit squad.      

A 20-year sentence is also sought for Gilbert Diendere, one of the commanders of the army during the 1987 coup, who is already serving a 20-year sentence over a separate attempted military coup in 2015.

Killing led to Compaore's rise

The assassination coincided with a coup that brought Compaore, who was Sankara's former comrade-in-arms, to power.

Compaore went on to rule the country for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014 and subsequently going into exile.

Prosper Farama, the Sankara family lawyer said the trial's upcoming resolution was providing some relief to the families affected by the killing, but he bemoaned that "during this trial, no one confessed or repented. No one!"

"We ask the court to give the families justice," Farama said. "We don't want revenge, we're simply asking for justice," he added.

jcg/rs (AFP, epd)