Burkina Faso- Sankara trial pleads not guilty

Hauwa Mustapha

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General Gilbert Diendere, a key defendant in a trial over the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, has  pleaded not guilty at the landmark proceedings.

The trial, unfolding in a military court in the capital Ouagadougou, is being avidly followed in a country where Sankara’s brutal death 34 years ago casts a long shadow.

Recounting his conversation with the two soldiers, Diendere said: “I asked (them) if Blaise was aware of what they did — they replied negatively.”

He said Compaore arrived on the scene in the late afternoon, three hours after the bloodbath.

Prosper Farama, a lawyer for the Sankara family said there was plenty of evidence showing that Diendere’s version of events “didn’t hold water”.

“We don’t believe he pulled the trigger, but he was the direct supervisor of all these operations, the men who acted were under his command and the place where the drama took place was under his responsibility,” the lawyer said.

Diendere, 61, has been separately handed a 20-year term for his part in a 2015 plot to overthrow the post-Compaore transitional government.

Sankara was an army captain aged just 33 when he came to power in a coup in 1983.

A fiery Marxist-Leninist, he railed against imperialism and colonialism, often angering Western leaders but gaining followers across Africa and beyond.

Sankara tossed out the country’s name of Upper Volta, a legacy of the French colonial era, and renamed it Burkina Faso, which means “the land of honest men”.

He pushed ahead with a socialist agenda of nationalizations and banned female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.

His killing was a taboo subject in Burkina Faso throughout the Compaore era, and many of his followers remain angry his assassins have gone unpunished.

Fourteen men, including Compaore, are on trial in the proceedings, which began on 1st October.