Burkina Faso former President Gets Life Sentence for Thomas Sankara Murder
The ruling marks the first time anyone has been convicted for the murder of Sankara at the age of 37.
Burkina Faso’s exiled former president, Blaise Compaore, was convicted of the murder of Thomas Sankara, the iconic African leader killed in a coup more than three decades ago.
A military tribunal found Compaore, who ruled the West African nation for 27 years until his ouster in a popular uprising in 2014, guilty of complicity in the killing of Sankara and threatening state security. It sentenced him to life in prison, according to a judgment delivered by Urbain Meda, president of the first chamber of the tribunal, on Wednesday in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Compaore, 71, lives in exile in Ivory Coast and was sentenced in absentia.
The ruling marks the first time anyone has been convicted for the murder of Sankara at the age of 37. It may pave the way for a criminal probe into the killing of Norbert Zongo, a Burkinabe journalist who exposed corruption and impunity under Compaore’s rule.
Compaore, who denied any involvement in the death of his one-time comrade, blocked attempts to investigate the 1987 killing of Sankara and introduced legislation that prevented him from being prosecuted. After his ouster in 2014, the transitional authorities reversed the legislation and began an inquiry.
Other African leaders facing similar charges of abuse of office, including Gambia’s exiled former President Yahya Jammeh, have evaded justice for years. In 2002, Chad’s government allowed a trial against its former authoritarian leader Hissene Habre by waiving his immunity from prosecution abroad. It still took more than a decade before Habre was convicted in 2016 of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment.
An army captain who took power in a 1983 coup, Sankara set an ambitious social and economic program that sought to fight corruption, improve health-care and education, and promote women’s rights, inspiring leaders across the continent. His critics, including rights group Amnesty International, argued Sankara’s National Revolutionary Council abused military rule by imprisoning labor-union and student leaders and forced opponents into exile during his four years in power.
Two other defendants — Compaore’s former right-hand man General Gilbert Diendere and his ex-head of security Hyacinthe Kafando — were also given life sentences, while 11 co-accused were given varying prison sentences.