Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore has been sentenced to life for complicity in the 1987 murder of his predecessor Thomas Sankara in a coup, a military tribunal ruled on Wednesday.
Sankara, a charismatic Marxist revolutionary, was assassinated at the age of 37 in the West African nation’s capital, Ouagadougou, four years after seizing power in a previous coup.
Compaore was charged in absentia, as was his former security chief, Hyacinthe Kafando, also sentenced to life in prison.
Both had previously denied any involvement in Sankara’s death, just like another 12 defendants charged in the plot, three of whom were found not guilty on Wednesday.
Compaore ruled for another 27 years before being deposed in a coup in 2014 and fleeing to Ivory Coast, where he is still believed to be living.
Sankara, dubbed “Africa’s Che Guevara,” came to power on a promise to combat corruption and post-colonial influences, rejecting foreign aid as a control mechanism.
He implemented mass polio vaccinations, outlawed female circumcision and polygamy, and was one of the first African leaders to publicly acknowledge the continent’s AIDS epidemic as a threat.
Sankara, a former fighter pilot, gained public support in the impoverished country by selling the government’s Mercedes fleet, lowering the pay of well-off public servants, and prohibiting first-class state travel.
He reduced his own pay, refused to work with air conditioning, and ran through Ouagadougou alone.
His critics claim that his reforms limited freedoms while doing little to benefit ordinary people. But admiration endures.
Over the weekend, students gathered around white flowers that marked the location where Sankara was killed.
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