Written By John Mutiso 📝
Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore was sentenced to life imprisonment for the assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara in 1987, a military tribunal ruled Wednesday after a trial that started on October 11, 2021.
The charismatic Marxist revolutionary Sankara was gunned down in the West African nation’s capital Ouagadougou at the age of 37, four years after he took power in a previous putsch.
Two of Compaore’s former top associates, Hyacinthe Kafando and Gilbert Diendere, were also sentenced to life imprisonment.
All three have previously denied involvement in Sankara’s death along with eleven other defendants accused of involvement in the plot. Three of the eleven were declared innocent and the rest received prison terms of between three and 20 years.
Compaore was found guilty of an attack on state security, complicity in murder and concealment of a corpse, the tribunal said in its ruling.
He went on to rule for 27 years before being ousted in another coup in 2014 and fleeing to Ivory Coast, where he is still believed to live.
Wednesday’s sentencing was an important development in the case which has been followed keenly by Sankara’s followers within and outside Burkina Faso.
Even after his death 35 years ago, Sankara was wildly popular across West Africa for his sweeping socialist reforms and speeches. Today, he is still known by some as the “African Che Guevara”, referring to the Marxist revolutionary and one of the icons of the Cuban Revolution.
During his time as president, he also notably changed the name of the former French colony from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of the upright”.
Critics say his reforms curtailed freedoms and did little to enrich ordinary people. But admiration remains and justice has been long-awaited by Sankara’s family and supporters.
“I think Burkinabe know now who Thomas Sankara was … what he wanted and what those who assassinated him wanted too,” said Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, speaking at the courthouse.
A procession and gathering are planned later in the day at the spot Sankara was shot, where a statue of him now stands.
“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,” said Guy Herve Kam, a lawyer for Sankara’s family.
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