A Trial in Burkina Faso Puts Sankara’s Legacy Back in the Spotlight

A Trial in Burkina Faso Puts Sankara’s Legacy Back in the Spotlight
A soldier walks past a poster of Thomas Sankara outside a bar that was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

OUAGADOUDOU, Burkina Faso—Dressed in green leopard-patterned fatigues, Gen. Gilbert Diendere was ready for battle in early November as he stood in the witness dock of a converted court room in Ouagadougou. Lawyers fired questions from all directions about his involvement in the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary president, Capt. Thomas Sankara, as well as eight of his bodyguards and four civilians on Oct. 15, 1987. 

Diendere, who has been accused of complicity in the killings, seemed to have an answer for all of them. He heard gunshots and saw Sankara’s dead body, he claimed, but didn’t see the shooter, echoing similar testimony from those among the 14 other men who now stand accused of participating in the assassination. 

Last week, Diendere also denied the testimony of a retired soldier named Abdrahamane Zetiyenga, who claims Diendere told him of plans to arrest Sankara on the day of his assassination and sent one of the other soldiers who has been charged with witness tampering to convince Zetiyenga to recant his testimony prior to the trial. 

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