28 April 2017

Burkina Faso: Trial Delayed for Burkina Faso's Former President

A Burkina Faso court has postponed the start of the trial of ex-president Blaise Compaoré and his former Cabinet. The accused are being tried for their alleged role in the violent crackdown on the 2014 uprising that ultimately ended Compaoré’s nearly three decades in power.

The much-anticipated trial of former president Blaise Compaoré and almost his entire former Cabinet was supposed to start Thursday. But instead, it was adjourned before it even began.

According to sources within the Ministry of Justice, there was a scheduling conflict. The Lawyers' Association of Burkina Faso is holding its annual reunion. So the lawyers were at their official banquet, and not at the trial. A few showed up but only to request the hearing be adjourned. This was granted by the court’s president, Mathieu Ouédraogo.

The former government is on trial for allegedly authorizing the use of force against protesters in late October 2014. The popular uprising would cost Compaoré his presidency.

According to the official toll, 24 people lost their lives during those two days but the case before the court concerns the death of seven demonstrators, shot dead allegedly by security forces.

In all, 31 members of the former government are on trial. Compaoré is being tried in his capacity as minister for defense, a post he also held at the time of his ouster.

Much of Burkina Faso's civil society, which drove the uprising and has documented abuses that went on at the time, is turning its back on the proceedings.

A prominent civil society figure present at the court Thursday made an impromptu statement immediately after the adjournment.

Safiatou Lopez Zongo said that she held “no hope at all that justice would be served. This is a spectacle, on behalf of people who are guiding this from behind their desks,” though she declined to name exactly who those people might be.

Proponents of the trial say it sends a clear signal clear that nobody can escape justice, but critics dismiss it as political score settling.

According to Issaka Lingani, the editor in chief of L'Opinion, which is close to the former ruling party, the trial serves to clear up the remaining bits of the previous government. Justice, in his opinion, will never be served.

NGO's have pointed accusing fingers at the military, especially the now-disbanded special presidential guard. They are allegedly responsible for the deaths and injuries that occurred in October 2014. But no military personnel are on trial today. Why?

That question remains unanswered. The prosecutor was not available for an interview.

As for Compaoré, he remains in Ivory Coast where he fled after his ouster and has since taken citizenship.

The trial is now expected to begin May 4.

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