Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Burkinabe court on Wednesday. He was found guilty of the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, in a coup.
The trial in the case opened last October, 34 years after the death of Sankara. However, the proceedings were suspended in late January after the military seized power in Burkina Faso. A military tribunal gave the final verdict on Wednesday.
Compaore‘s former top associates, Hyacinthe Kafando and Gilbert Diendere, were also sentenced to life imprisonment. Sankara’s widow, Mariam, was also present in the courtroom.
Earlier, eleven other defendants accused were declared innocent. Reportedly, Compaore was found guilty of an attack on state security, complicity in murder, and concealment of a corpse.
Compaore and Kafando were not present in the courthouse. Eight others including former soldiers received sentences of between three and 20 years. However, Mariam wished that “the main suspects” in the case were also present.
Sankara was assassinated at the age of 37, during a coup led by his friend and comrade-in-arms Compaore on October 15, 1987, at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council. Subsequently, Compaore came to power. Compaore ruled for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014. Subsequently, he fled from the country.
Even after his death 35 years ago, Sankara was popular across West Africa for his socialist reforms and speeches. He became one of the youngest presidents in modern African history in 1983. He rolled out mass vaccination against polio. He also banned female circumcision and polygamy. However, his rule ended violently in October 1987.
Burkina Faso has been battling armed groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida for years. Reports of extrajudicial killings by Burkinabe forces have also increased in the country. The humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso deteriorated further in 2021.