Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for complicity in the 1987 murder of his predecessor Thomas Sankara in a coup, a military tribunal ruled on Wednesday.
How was he sentenced in absentia?
Compaore was found guilty of an attack on state security, complicity in murder and concealment of a corpse, the tribunal said in its ruling. Campaore went on to rule for 27 years before being ousted in a widespread revolt in 2014 and fleeing to Ivory Coast, where he is still believed to live.
Complicity! How many of them were involved?
Two of Compaore’s former top associates, Hyacinthe Kafando and Gilbert Diendere, were also sentenced to life imprisonment. All three, along with eleven other defendants accused of involvement in the plot, have previously denied involvement in Sankara’s death. Three of the eleven were declared innocent and the rest received prison terms of between 3 and 20 years.
Didn’t Sankara get to power through a coup, too?
Yes, he did, but he gained wide acceptance after taking power on a promise to thwart corruption and post-colonial influences, denouncing foreign aid as a control mechanism. He rolled out mass vaccination against polio, banned female circumcision and polygamy, and was one of the first African leaders to publicly recognise the growing AIDS epidemic as a threat to the continent.
A former fighter pilot, Sankara won public support in the impoverished nation by selling a government fleet of Mercedes, lowering the pay of well-off public servants and forbidding first-class state travel. He cut his own salary, refused to work with air conditioning and jogged through Ouagadougou unaccompanied.