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Burkina Faso: Trial of Pan-African hero Thomas Sankara set October 11 in Ouagadougou

The former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, has been charged with treason for his role in the 1987 coup that led to the death of his childhood friend and former President Thomas Sankara.

Trial of the pan-African hero, assassinated along with 12 others in a coup in 1987, will begin on October 11 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s military prosecutor said Tuesday.

Burkina Faso’s former President Thomas Sankara was murdered 34 years ago. A military court in Ouagadougou has accused his childhood friend and former President Blaise Compaoré of his murder and other crimes. The case was submitted to the court in mid-April, 34 years after Thomas’s death.

The prosecutor says that the trial of those accused in the case of the assassination of President Thomas Sankara will open on Monday, October 11, 2021, from 09:00 (GMT), and the trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

Blaise Compaoré, when asked 34 years ago why he assassinated his longtime friend Thomas Sankara his response was “He jeopardized foreign relationship.”

Compaoré will be prosecuted with other defendants for “attack on state security,” “complicity in killings,” and “complicity in receiving corpses.”

General Gilbert Diendéré, one of the key commanders of the army during the 1987 coup and subsequently Blaise Compaoré’s chief of staff, is among the accused, as are soldiers from the former presidential guard.

For his role in a failed coup attempt in 2015, General Diendéré is now serving a 20-year jail term in Burkina Faso.

Initally, a larger number of individuals were named as suspects, but according to the prosecution, “a significant number of defendants have died.”

Burkina Faso’s President Sankara was killed by a commando group on October 15, 1987, during a coup that brought his then comrade-in-arms, Blaise Compaoré, to power. The death of Sankara, who became a pan-African figure and was nicknamed the “African Che,” was a taboo subject during the 27 years of Compaore’s rule. However, the case was revived after the fall of the democratic transition regime and an arrest warrant had been issued against him in March 2016.

In February 2020, the first reenactment of Sankara’s murder was conducted at the site of the crime, the headquarters of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR) in Ouagadougou, where the assassination took place.

Blaise Compaoré now resides in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso’s neighboring country, where he fled following the collapse of his gov’t and acquired nationality.

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