By John Ikani
Burkina Faso’s former President, Blaise Compaore, the main defendant in a long-awaited trial on the 1987 assassination of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, will boycott the upcoming proceedings, according to his lawyers.
“President Blaise Compaore will not be attending the political trial that is being staged against him at the military court of Ouagadougou, nor will we,” Compaore’s Burkinabe and French attorneys said.
In the trial opening on Monday, Compaore and 13 others face an array of charges in the death of Sankara, a charismatic revolutionary followers describe as the African Che Guevara.
Sankara took power in the Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men”.
He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.
But he was killed on October 15, 1987, aged 37, during a putsch led by Compaore, a former friend.
In 2015, authorities exhumed what are thought to be Sankara’s remains from a grave in Dagnoen, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. Sankara’s widow said an autopsy revealed his body was “riddled with more than a dozen bullets”.
To this day, graffiti calling for “Justice for Sankara” is a common sight throughout the capital.
Compaore was himself ousted in 2014 by a popular uprising after 27 years in power and fled to Ivory Coast, where he has obtained Ivorian nationality.
He has always denied accusations that he ordered Sankara’s killing.
Many in Burkina Faso hope the trial will shed light on one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s volatile history.