After a six-month trial, Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaoré has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara. Sankara, who was not one of those African leaders to be told what to do by western nations, was murdered after four years in power in a coup led by his former friend Compaoré.
Compaoré succeeded him and ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years before being removed from power in a 2014 uprising following his decision to extend his tenure. He fled to Ivory Coast, where he has since been in exile. The ex-leader has denied involvement in Sankara’s murder.
On Wednesday, a Burkinabe court tried Compaoré in absentia. Hyacinthe Kafando, Compaoré’s former security chief who is accused of leading the hit squad, was also found guilty. He was also tried in absentia and also received a life sentence.
Compaoré’s former right-hand man and military general, Gilbert Diendere, who was charged with several crimes related to Sankara’s killing, was also sentenced to life. Diendere has been in prison in Burkina Faso serving a 20-year sentence after a failed coup in 2015 against the country’s transitional government.
The military tribunal which presided over the case also handed jail terms ranging from three to 20 years to eight other suspects, according to Aljazeera. Three other defendants were acquitted. BBC reports that there is “little prospect” that Compaoré will serve his sentence any time soon considering he is living in exile in Ivory Coast.
In 2015, Burkina Faso issued an arrest warrant for Compaoré, but Ivory Coast has refused to hand him over. Sankara became president in 1983 after participating in a coup that removed Col. Saye Zerbo from the presidency and subduing Maj. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, who was also struggling to take the nation’s top position. While president, Sankara quickly became known as Africa’s Che Guevara. In addition to implementing left-wing and anti-imperialist policies, he was a staunch opponent of corruption.
Sankara’s life was however cut short on October 15, 1987, when he was murdered along with 12 soldiers and buried in an unmarked grave by military men. He was only 37 years old.