A verdict in Thomas Sankara’s, Burkina Faso’s first president (1983-1987), assassination trial is expected today in Burkina Faso.
Fourteen defendants will receive a decision from an Ouagadougou military court for Sankara’s murder. While twelve of the accused are present, coup leader and former President Blaise Compaore (1987-2014) remains in exile in the Ivory Coast since his ouster in a 2014 popular uprising.
Beginning in October, the trial was delayed by the January coup that saw the Burkinabe military depose and detain President Roch Kabore. Nonetheless, expect jail sentences for most of the defendants, including a likely thirty-year term for Compaore. The sentence will be unenforceable, however, as Compaore is now an Ivorian national, and the junta will want to avoid drawing the ire of ECOWAS members.
In the short-term, Burkina Faso’s junta stands to benefit domestically and regionally from carrying out the trial – the assassinated president’s anti-imperial and pan-Africanist legacy remains popular at home and in many neighboring countries. Separate from the trial, the junta is investigating potential French and Ivorian roles in Sankara’s assassination, which could further derail already crumbling Franco-Burkinabe relations and test the Ivory Coast’s commitment to Compaore’s presidentially-appointed status as a citizen.
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Scott is an Analyst at Foreign Brief and works in International Development in Washington DC. His specific interests are geopolitics, regional conflict and governance, and political and economic development, and his geographic focus is Sub-Saharan Africa.