Burkina Faso charges failed coup leader with Sankara murder

Burkina Faso charges former failed coup leader General Gilbert Diendere with 1987 assassination of former President Thomas Sankara

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

General Gilbert Diendere

Updated Dec 13, 2015

Burkina Faso authorities have charged General Gilbert Diendere, who led a failed coup in September, with the 1987 assassination of former President Thomas Sankara, senior security sources have told Reuters news agency.

"General Gilbert Diendere is formally charged in the Thomas Sankara case," a senior security source said and added he already have been charged with 10 others from elite presidential guards.

It follows a pledge by the transitional government to probe into the assassination of Sankara which is one of the most high-profile killings in the post-independence history of Africa.

Diendere was the intelligence chief and right-hand man of Compaore. In September, he managed the presidential guard in a coup, which was short-lived, in which soldiers took transitional President Michel Kafando and the prime minister hostage. 

After the anti-coup protests in where many people were killed and at least 250 were injured, the coup failed and the elite presidential guard was immediately disbanded. Although Diendere sought refuge at the Vatican Embassy, he was arrested and charged with murder and threatening state security. He remains in detention.

President Thomas Sankara

‘African idol’

Thomas Sankara who was a Marxist-idealistic army captain and pan-Africanist, came into power with an army coup in 1982 and became an idol across Africa by rejecting the policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, nationalising mineral resources.

He decided to wipe off the effects of colonisation by changing the name of the former French colony from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning "the land of upright men", and by ordering to replace luxurious ministerial vehicle Mercedeses with less expensive Renault 5s.

During his four years in presidency, Burkina Faso doubled the number of children in schools, redistributed the farm lands by taking from feudal landlords to give to poor families.

Despite all of this, 37-year-old Thomas Sankara, was murdered in a coup organised by his former colleague Blaise Compaore in October 1987.

Since then, Burkina Faso was ruled for 27 years by Blaise Compaore. Last year he was forced to resign because of a massive nationwide uprising which took place when he sought to change the constitution in order to stay in power for a longer period of time.

After the uprising succeeded, the transitional government led by interim President Michel Kafando was in the position to organise free democratic elections for the first time in decades.

Roch Marc Kabore was elected president of Burkina Faso last month, according to a statement issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission. 

TRTWorld and agencies