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An international arrest warrant has been issued for ousted president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, for his involvement in the death of former leader, Thomas Sankara. The charges, according to the lawyer for Sankara’s family, are murder and complicity in the assassination, among others.
Compaoré was forced from office in October 2014 after a popular uprising against the proposed constitutional extension of his 27-year reign in the West African country. Compaoré himself was a part of the military coup d’état in 1987 that saw his predecessor Sankara, along with 12 other officials, killed. Sankara was widely viewed as a charismatic revolutionary who helped bring Burkina Faso out of French imperial rule. He was the first president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to his death in 1987. Sankara, a Marxist, largely sought to abolish corruption, distancing Burkina Faso from imperialism and introducing progressive social reforms, such as improving the rights of women and funding literacy programs. His body was exhumed in May 2015 and found riddled with at least a dozen bullets from weapons used by the Burkinabe military. This was the first autopsy performed, given Compaoré’s refusal to allow the Sankara family to exhume the body for 27 years.
Compaoré has always denied any involvement in the assassination. Compaoré served as the Minister of State at the Presidency and the Minister for Justice under Sankara and were reportedly close friends. However, many have suspected involvement from Compaoré because of their conflicting ideas; for example, where Sankara was staunch in his nationalization policies, Compaoré reversed these once he assumed power. His role in the assassinations, nevertheless, has always been questioned by disputing claims. An investigation into the deaths was re-opened after Compaoré was deposed from office.
Another six people, mostly former soldiers, have been detained in connection to the death, and a warrant for the former head of the presidential guard, Hyacinthe Kafando–issued back in August–was made public last week. Also charged is General Gilbert Diendere, Compaoré’s former chief of staff, already incarcerated for his role in the failed military coup in September 2015.
It is unclear whether the Ivory Coast will agree to arrest Compaoré and extradite him. Compaoré has a close relationship with President Ouattara and was offered refuge in Yamoussoukro after his ousting. This issue is one of many faced by newly elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. The arrest warrant may complicate relations between neighbouring Ivorians and Burkinabe. Moreover, Compaoré is still viewed as a powerful figure in the region and still has a great deal of support in West Africa, which may provoke consequences.