Writing in The Conversation in April 2021, I look at the decision of a court in Burkina Faso’s capital to indict former President Blaise Compaoré.

Earlier this month a court in Burkina Faso’s capital indicted former President Blaise Compaoré for his role in the murder of his comrade, Thomas Sankara, on 15 October 1987.

The military court detailed Compaoré’s “complicity in the assassination”, the first time a court in the country has made such an accusation. Compaoré ruled the country until 2014, when he was forced to flee for neighbouring Cote D’Ivoire during a mass uprising.

The decision to try the former leader has been called a landmark moment. Sankara’s family has pursued justice for almost 34 years but while Compaoré was in power there was no possibility of bringing his murderers to justice.

The political history of Burkina Faso is one I have studied and written about extensively, with a particular focus on the circumstances leading to Sankara’s assassination.

It is important to unravel this event and its significance if a trial of Compaoré is to be understood (or to take place).

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