The trial is coming up thirty-four years after the assassination of the Burkinabe ex-leader.
A military court in Burkina Faso has indicted former President Blaise Compaore in connection to the 1987 murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara. A statement issued by the court on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 cited "complicity in assassination" and an "attack on state security" by Compaore. The former leader ruled the country until 2014, when he was forced to resign in the face of mass demonstrations against an attempt to extend his 27-year rule.
Thirteen others including Gilbert Diendere, Compaore's right hand man, and Hyacinthe Kafando, his security chief were also indicted on charges ranging from "assassination" to "concealment of corpses." Benewende Stanislas Sankara, a lawyer representing the relatives of the slain former president, described the indictment as "a victory and a step in the right direction. It's a sigh of relief, the family can now go ahead with all the guarantees that surround Burkinabe justice," he told Al Jazeera.
While Burkina Faso's government through its Communications Minister, Eddie Komboigo has said it will issue a statement in the hours ahead, the leader of Compaore-founded Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party, has declined to comment on the court's announcement. Compaore, who has been in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast since 2014, has always denied involvement in Sankara's assassination.
Sankara took power in 1983, but was killed aged 37 along with 12 other government officials during a coup led by Compaore on October 15, 1987. Many Burkinabes regard Sankara as a national hero. A prominent pan-Africanist, he is sometimes also referred to as the continent's "Che Guevera", in reference to the Argentinian Marxist revolutionary who led a number of armed struggles, including in Cuba. In 2015, authorities exhumed what are thought to be Sankara's remains from a grave in Dagnoen, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. Sankara's widow said an autopsy revealed his body was "riddled with more than a dozen bullets".
After his re-election last year, President Roch Kabore appointed a minister for national reconciliation, Zephirin Diabre, who pledged to address the issue of justice for Sankara. In 2015, Burkinabe courts issued an international arrest for Compaore, but Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara blocked his extradition to Burkina Faso despite an extradition treaty between the two countries. Though it is unclear when the trial will take place, Tuesday's indictment may put further pressure on Ivory Coast to implement the extradition treaty.