Burkina Faso's military prosecutor has announced the opening of a trial of the alleged killers of former President Thomas Sankara and his companions in October 1987. Among the accused is another former president, Blaise Compaoré, who is currently in exile in Côte d’Ivoire - where he has been since his ousting.
Compaoré has been exiled in Côte d’Ivoire since his fall from power in 2014.
“We hope to see the extradition of Blaise Compaoré,” Prospère Farama, a lawyer for the Sankara family, told a press briefing on Monday on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s death. “It would be good for everyone, for the collective conscience of Burkina Faso [and] for Blaise Compaoré himself, and even his supporters, if he could come to Burkina Faso and be heard by the courts, if he could defend himself and give his side,” he insisted.
- Sankara was killed by a commando on 15 October 1987 at the age of 37 when his comrade-in-arms, Blaise Compaoré, came to power.
- The death of Sankara, who became a pan-African figure, was a taboo subject during Compaoré’s 27 years in power. Compaoré was overthrown by a popular insurrection in October 2014.
- The case was relaunched during the transition and an arrest warrant was issued against him by a Burkinabe court on 7 March 2016.
Compaoré obtained Ivorian nationality thanks to his wife and as such cannot be extradited.
He has long been a strong supporter of the current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara. “If he refuses to come to defend himself voluntarily I hope that the mandate that has been issued will be executed because Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso are states of law, and the rule of law respects the principles of law,” Farama said.
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“Resistance and perseverance”
According to Stanislas Sankara, another lawyer from the Sankara family: “the case is complicated. But in the face of reluctance there is resistance and perseverance from families and lawyers. The questioning on the merits is done, there are confrontations taking place, there are new charges being brought every day and we are asking the judge to do everything possible to execute the various warrants that have been issued,” the lawyer said.
- In 2017, during a visit to Burkina Faso, French President Emmanuel Macron promised that all French documents concerning Sankara’s murder would be “declassified”.
Sankara, who has acquired a legendary status among his admirers similar to that of Che Guevara in Cuba, came to power in a coup d’état in 1983. His uncompromising choices caused him increasing challenges in his country, while his denunciation of imperialism and his links with the leaders of Libya and Ghana earned him strong enmities in his lifetime.
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.
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