Skip to Content
LIVE
News
Burkina Faso opens trial on 1987 Sankara assassination
Ex-president among 14 who face charges in killing of former leader Thomas Sankara 34 years ago.
Captain Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso, gives a press conference in 1986 [Eric Congo/AFP]
11 Oct 2021
Updated: 11 Oct 202105:33 PM (GMT)
The trial of 14 men, including a former president, has begun in Burkina Faso over the assassination of the country’s revered revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara 34 years ago.
Former President Blaise Compaore and 13 others face an array of charges in the death of Sankara, described by his followers as the African Che Guevara.
The killing of Sankara, an icon of pan-Africanism, has for years cast a dark shadow over the Sahel state.
Sankara and 12 others were riddled with bullets by a hit squad in October 1987 during a putsch that brought his friend and comrade-in-arms Compaore to power.
Compaore, the chief accused, announced through his lawyers last week that he would boycott the trial.
Compaore will be tried in absentia by the military court in the capital, Ouagadougou [Lucas Jackson/Reuters]
Compaore ruled the country for the next 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising and fleeing to neighbouring Ivory Coast, which granted him citizenship.
He and his former right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere, who once headed the elite Presidential Security Regiment, face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses.
On Monday, after several hours, proceedings were adjourned until October 25 after defence lawyers said they were confronted with 20,000 documents and had had little time to prepare their case.
They requested a one-month postponement but were granted a stay of two weeks by judge Urbain Meda.
In absentia
Compaore, who has always rejected allegations that he orchestrated the killing, will be tried in absentia by the military court in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Days before the trial opened on Monday, his lawyers announced he would not be attending a “political trial” flawed by irregularities, and insisted he enjoyed immunity as a former head of state.
Diendere, 61, is already serving a 20-year sentence for masterminding a plot in 2015 against the transitional government that followed Compaore’s removal.
Another prominent figure among the accused is Hyacinthe Kafando, a former chief warrant officer in Compaore’s presidential guard, who is accused of leading the hit squad. He is on the run.
Diendere is among the 14 defendants in the Sankara murder trial [File: Theo Renaut/AP]
A young army captain and Marxist-Leninist, Sankara came to power in a coup in 1983 aged just 33.
He changed the country’s name from Upper Volta, a legacy of the French colonial era, to Burkina Faso, which means “the land of honest men”.
He pushed ahead with a socialist agenda of nationalisations and banned female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.
Like Ghana’s former leader Jerry Rawlings, he became an idol in left-wing circles in Africa, lauded for his radical policies and defiance of the big powers.
Burkina Faso has long been burdened by silence over the assassination – during Compaore’s long time in office, the subject was taboo – and many are angry that the killers have gone unpunished.
“The trial will mark the end to all the lying – we will get a form of truth. But the trial will not be able to restore our dream,” Halouna Traore, a comrade of Sankara and survivor of the putsch, said in a TV interview.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2022 Al Jazeera Media Network
 
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless. You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen.To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.