Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaoré has been condemned to life behind bars for the murder of his predecessor and African foremost freedom fighter, Thomas Sankara, following a six-month trial. Sankara was assassinated in a coup organized by his erstwhile comrade Compaoré after four years in office. He was not one of those African presidents who were instructed what to do by western powers.
Compaoré took his place and ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years before being deposed in a 2014 rebellion over his desire to extend his term. He went to the Ivory Coast, where he has lived in exile ever since. Sankara’s assassination was denied by the ex-leader.
Compaoré was tried in his absence in a Burkinabe court on Wednesday. Hyacinthe Kafando, Compaoré’s former security chief, was also convicted guilty of leading the hit squad. He was likewise tried in his absence and sentenced to life in prison.
Gilbert Diendere, Compaoré’s former right-hand man and military officer, who was charged with many offenses relating to Sankara’s murder, was also sentenced to life in prison. Diendere has been serving a 20-year sentence in Burkina Faso since a failed coup against the country’s transitional government in 2015.
According to Aljazeera, the military tribunal that ruled over the case sentenced eight other accused to prison terms ranging from three to twenty years. Three other defendants were found not guilty. Compaoré is currently living in exile on Ivory Coast, according to the BBC, and there is “little chance” that he will complete his sentence anytime soon.
Burkina Faso issued a warrant for Compaoré’s arrest in 2015, but the Ivory Coast has refused to send him up. Sankara was elected president in 1983 after taking part in a coup that deposed Col. Saye Zerbo and defeated Maj. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo was also vying for the country’s top office. Sankara became known as Africa’s Che Guevara during his presidency. He was a vigorous opponent of corruption in addition to promoting left-wing and anti-imperialist programs.
Sankara’s life, however, was cut short on October 15, 1987, when he and 12 other soldiers were assassinated by military forces and buried in an unmarked grave. He was only 37 years old at the time.