Ex-soldier admits role in Sankara assassination




President of Burkina Faso, Captain Thomas Sankara (L) wearing a paratrooper's uniform, poses with France's President Francois Mitterrand in 1983. File picture: Jean-Claude Delmas/AFP

Ouagadougou. –  A former army private admitted at a trial on Tuesday that he had helped transport a hit squad to assassinate Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, 34 years ago.

The trial unfolding at a military court in Ouagadougou is being closely followed by the Burkinabe public, many of whom hope it will shed light on one of their country’s darkest chapters. Fourteen people are on trial for the 1987 assassination in which Sankara and 12 others were cut down in a hail of bullets at a top government meeting.

The accused include Sankara’s friend and former comrade-in-arms, Blaise Compaore, who came to power after the bloodbath.

In testimony to the court, former private Yamba Elise Ilboudo, 62, admitted a charge of complicity in endangering state security.

But he said his actions were unpremeditated – he had not taken part in any meeting to plan the assassination, nor had he taken part in the shooting.

He said that on the day of the October 15 1987 coup, he was “at Blaise Compaore’s home” with other men.

“We were under the orders of Hyacinthe Kafando, as head of security,” Ilboudo said.

Kafando, who became chief warrant officer in Compaore’s presidential guard after the coup, is alleged to have been in charge of the hit squad. He is on the run.

Compaore has always denied suspicions that he engineered the assassination and likewise is being tried in absentia. He ruled for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Another prominent defendant is Compaore’s former right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere, who once headed the elite Presidential Security Regiment.

Compaore and Diendere face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses. – AFP