34 years after he was assassinated, Thomas Sankara’s murderers have been sentenced to prison.
Yesterday, a Burkinabé military court sentenced former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, to life imprisonment for the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara. According to the ruling, Compaoré was found guilty of an attack on state security, complicity in murder and concealment of a corpse.
Sankara was killed on 15 October 1987 in a coup that brought Compaoré to power. The prosecution said Sankara was lured to his death at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council. He was shot in the chest at least seven times, according to ballistics experts who testified during the trial.
The six-month trial which began on 11 October 2021 saw 14 men tried for their involvement in Sankara’s assassination. Due to the defence lawyers needing more time, the trial was postponed.
The trial resumed on 25 October 2021. Yesterday, alongside Compaoré, Compaoré’s former chief of staff, Gilbert Diendéré, and his former security chief, Hyacinthe Kafando, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Eight others received sentences ranging from three to 20 years, while three people were acquitted.
Reacting to the verdict, Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, said at the courthouse: ‘I think Burkinabe know now who Thomas Sankara was… what he wanted and what those who assassinated him wanted too.’ Guy Herve Kam, a lawyer for Sankara’s family, also said: ‘Today I am very proud to see the culmination of a legal battle of almost 30 years, proud to have a country where justice works.’
Sankara was 33 and an army captain when he came to power in 1983 after a coup. Many Burkinabes consider Sankara a hero because of his advancement of women’s rights, rejection of foreign aid, and his changing the country’s name from Upper Volta, a legacy of the French colonial era, to Burkina Faso, which means ‘the land of honest men’.
After Sankara’s assassination, Compaoré ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years, before a popular uprising overthrew him in 2014 causing him to flee to neighbouring Ivory Coast. Compaoré and Kafando—who were sentenced in absentia—have always denied allegations that they were involved in Sankara’s murder.
Investigating Sankara’s murder was prohibited in Burkina Faso during Compaoré’s long reign as president. In 1997, Sankara’s wife, Mariam, filed a criminal complaint over the murder of her husband, but it took 15 years for the Supreme Court to rule that the investigation could continue⎈
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