Trial over killing of Burkina Faso's ex-leader Sankara opens

14 people accused of plotting former president's assassination in 1987

James Tasamba   | 11.10.2021
Trial over killing of Burkina Faso's ex-leader Sankara opens

KIGALI, Rwanda

The trial of 14 people accused of plotting the assassination of Burkina Faso's former President Thomas Sankara started on Monday at a packed military court in the capital Ouagadougou.

Sankara, who assumed power in 1983, was killed on Oct. 15, 1987, during a coup led by Blaise Compaore, a former ally, and main defendant in the case. He was 37.

The trial, coming 34 years after Sankara’s assassination began with the appointment and swearing-in of three court assessors who will assist the judge presiding over the hearing.

Two defendants absconded, including former President Compaore and Hyacinthe Kafondo, who was his security chief, and are being tried in absentia.

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment under Campaore was present, wearing a military uniform.

Campaore, 70, who was also deposed in 2014 through a popular uprising after 27 years in power, lives in exile in Ivory Coast. He is charged with complicity, undermining state security, and concealing bodies, according to the charge sheet.

He has denied allegations that he ordered Sankara’s killing.

Sankara's widow, Mariam Sankara, told reporters that Campaore's absence is “regrettable.” “This is unfortunate because he should have owned up to these charges,” she said.

Her hope is that the trial would also “shed light on the deaths of 12 other people on the day of the coup.”

“This trial is vital to stop the culture of impunity and violence that is still rampant in many African countries, despite the democratic facade,” she said.

Thomas Sankara was a military officer and socialist revolutionary who served as the president from his coup in 1983 until his assassination in 1987. He remains highly regarded among left-wing Africanists for his anti-imperialist stance.

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