AuthoritiesinBurkina Faso have charged a general who led a failed coup in September with complicity in the 1987 assassination of the late president Thomas Sankara, according to senior security sources.
Sankara’s murder was one of the most high-profile killings in Africa’s post-independence history and the charge against Gen. Gilbert Diendere appears to represent a breakthrough in a case that has haunted the West African country for decades.
Sankara was a left-wing radical described as “Africa’s Che Guevara” and was considered to be a hero by many Africans.
It follows a pledge by the transitional government of Burkina Faso to investigate the murder and a decision in May to exhume the remains of a body believed to be Sankara’s, which was buried at a cemetery on the outskirts of the capital Ouagadougou.
“Gen. Gilbert Diendere is formally charged in the Thomas Sankara case,” said a senior security source with direct knowledge of the case.
Diendere was charged last month with complicity in assassination and attack, the source said.
Diendere’s lawyer, Mathieu Some, told Reuters on Sunday that his client had been charged over Sankara’s death and he would prepare his legal defence. The charges have not been publicly announced thus far.
At least 10 others, less senior officers than Diendere, have already been charged. The senior security official said that most were soldiers in the elite presidential guard of former President Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in October 2014.
Diendere was Compaore’s intelligence chief and right-hand man. In September, he led the presidential guard in a short-lived coup in which soldiers took transitional President Michel Kafando and the prime minister hostage.
The coup failed and in its aftermath, the presidential guard was disbanded and Diendere sought refuge at the Vatican embassy.
He was then arrested and charged with murder and threatening state security. He is still in detention.