A Burkinabe court has sentenced former President Blaise Compaoré to life imprisonment for the murder of his predecessor, the revered Thomas Sankara.
The long-awaited verdict on Wednesday brought to close a six-month trial about the murder of Sankara, who was assassinated during a coup led by his friend and comrade-in-arms Compaoré on October 15, 1987.
Military prosecutors in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, had requested a 30-year sentence for Compaoré, who was being tried alongside 13 others.
Two other main suspects were also handed life imprisonment sentences. They are Gilbert Diendéré, one of the leaders of the 1987 putsch and leader of the 2015 coup, as well as Hyacinthe Kafando, leader of Compaoré’s guards at the time.
Compaoré, who was unseated in a 2014 uprising, fled to neighbouring Ivory Coast where he was given citizenship. He was tried in absentia, alongside Kafando, unlike Diendéré who is in custody.
The military tribunal that presided over the case handed jail terms ranging from three to 20 years to eight other suspects while acquitted three other defendants.
A pan-Africanist leader who had taken power in 1983, Sankara was killed aged 37 along with 12 other government officials. Compaoré became his successor, ruling until his 2014 removal.
Wednesday’s sentencing was an important development in the case which has been followed keenly by Sankara’s followers within and outside Burkina Faso.
Even after his death 35 years ago, Sankara was wildly popular across West Africa for his sweeping socialist reforms and speeches. Today, he is still known by some as the “African Che Guevara”, referring to the Marxist revolutionary and one of the icons of the Cuban Revolution.
During his time as president, he also notably changed the name of the former French colony from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of the upright”.