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.
Nearly seven years after his fall, Compaoré’s shadow continues to hang over Burkinabe politics. His influential party, the Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès (CDP), returned to the forefront of the country’s political scene during the November 2020 elections and its new leader, Eddie Komboïgo, is now the head of the opposition.
Since his exile to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in 2014, the former president has also been at the heart of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré’s debate on national reconciliation. While his political family has made his return to Ouagadougou a condition sine qua non for these discussions, the country’s judiciary announced in mid-April that he would “soon” be tried for his involvement in Thomas Sankara’s assassination, which took place on 15 October 1987. After re-election as president, Kaboré put Zéphirin Diabré in charge of the case.
The former opposition leader, who is now minister of national reconciliation, traveled to Côte d’Ivoire for talks with ‘Blaise’ and the Ivorian authorities on 5 May.
Compaoré is very discreet in Abidjan. He often receives Burkinabe politicians and maintains good relations with Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara. In a rare video posted on social media during his 70th birthday on 3 February, the former president appeared thin. He was surrounded by his wife, Chantal Compaoré, and some close friends. Below is a list of people whom he consults with daily and are members of his inner circle.
René Émile Kaboré took part in the meeting between Compaoré and Diabré on 5 May in Abidjan. The former sports minister is one of Compaoré’s close associates. Kaboré, who is president of the Rassemblement pour un Sursaut Patriotique (RSR), has also lived in exile in Abidjan since 2015.
Tried in absentia and sentenced to 30 years in prison at the failed putsch trial in 2015, Kaboré is very critical of the president’s leadership. In December 2019, he published a book titled Burkina Faso: et si Enfin se Disait la Vérité, in which he discusses the popular uprising of 30 and 31 October 2014.
The former president’s younger brother is his confidant. He is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the Burkinabe authorities, who want to hear about his involvement in the 1998 murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo and his companions.
His lawyers have appealed to the Council of State after a French court decision gave the green light for his extradition.
Salif Lamoussa Kaboré, who is friends with François Compaoré, was imprisoned in Ouagadougou after the fall of the regime and later released. He is very close to Blaise Compaoré. Due to his loyalty, the latter recommended him to the Central African presidency as a consultant on mining and energy issues. Kaboré lives in Abidjan and conducts occasional missions to Bangui.
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The former minister of mines, quarries and energy, who is also former director-general of the Société Nationale d’Electricité du Burkina Faso (Sonabel) is also regularly called upon by Blaise Compaoré to tackle economic issues.
The former CDP boss, who was also Blaise Compaoré’s chief of staff, continues to play this role in an unofficial capacity from his own exile in Côte d’Ivoire. In 2019, he told us that he was writing books on Burkina Faso’s recent political history, Islam in West Africa and secularism in his country.
The former president also consults him on religious issues. According to this trained historian, reconciliation cannot be achieved without Compaoré.
Sanné Mohamed Topan had already held several ministerial and diplomatic posts before he was appointed as Blaise Compaoré’s cabinet director in 2014, taking over from Kouanda. He was Burkina Faso’s ambassador to Mali, Guinea and Niger, and lived in Bamako from 2002 to 2013.
This CDP heavyweight was the party’s national campaign director for the November 2020 presidential and legislative elections. Topan was entrusted with Blaise Compaoré’s letter, in which he expressed his support for Komboïgo’s presidential run.
The current president of the CDP regularly updates the honorary president on the party’s major events. Even though Komboïgo would like to replace some of the party’s leaders, Compaoré still has a lot of faith in him. Komboïgo met with Compaoré in Abidjan in mid-May to discuss the conditions of his return.
This former minister, alongside Kouanda, continues to defend Blaise Compaoré. Koutaba, who is also a consultant, is related to the former president.
After Compaoré’s fall in 2014, Koutaba volunteered to remain in Abidjan, even after completing his mission there as ambassador. This was despite the fact that he was not subject to legal proceedings in Ouagadougou.
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