Burkina Faso: at the Sankara trial, the noose tightens around the alleged sponsors of the assassination

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General Gilbert Diendéré, one of the main defendants at the opening of the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the assassination of Thomas Sankara in Ouagadougou, on October 11, 2021.

A month after the opening of the trial of the alleged sponsors of the former “revolutionary” president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, 34 years ago, the room held its breath on Tuesday, November 9. At the Ouagadougou military court, the hearing of Gilbert Diendéré, one of the main army chiefs at the time and considered the ” Black Box “ of the regime of Blaise Compaoré, which seized power after the coup d’état of 1987.

The accused, who is already serving a twenty-year prison sentence for an attempted coup in 2015, is being prosecuted for “Attack on state security”, “Complicity in assassination”, “Corpse suspicions” and “Witness tampering”. “I plead not guilty”, declared Mr. Diendéré, 63, wearing a khaki fatigues and wearing a red kepi.

Read also Burkina Faso: at the Sankara trial, a member of the commando tells the details of the assassination

So where was it “Black Thursday” of October 15, 1987, when Captain Thomas Sankara and twelve of his companions were killed by a military commando? Standing in front of the jurors, Gilbert Diendéré, deputy chief of staff of the National Commando Training Center of Po and responsible for the security of the Council of the Entente (the seat of revolutionary power at the time), delivered his version of the facts.

After going ” at Sportsfield “ toward « 15 h 30 », near the National Revolutionary Council (CNR, in power), he “Heard gunshots inside”. He then decides to do “Turn around” to get to the office of the Council.

“Inconsistent statements”

In front of the building, he sees « corps » lying on the ground. “I recognized Sankara in his sports outfit”, said the accused, who says he identified two of the members of the commando, the officers “Ouédraogo Azouma said Otis” and «Nabié N’Soni» [décédés]. ” What did you do ? “, he would have asked the latter. “He told me that Sankara wanted to arrest their leader Blaise Compaoré, so they took the lead”, reported Gilbert Diendéré.

Why did he not retaliate or arrest the attackers, who were under his command? “I was alone, unarmed. (…) I didn’t know who was with whom. The slightest misstep and I would have become the fourteenth victim ”, he defended himself, claiming to have been ” surprised “ by the coup d’etat and preferred rather to give an account of what he “Seen and heard” to the Commander-in-Chief Jean-Baptiste Lingani, one of the fathers of the revolution.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré, to life and death

The civil party pointed out “Inconsistent statements”. “Why would he have ventured towards the shots, his bare hands, without taking any precautions?” It is more likely that he knew who was shooting “, retorted the lawyer Prosper Farama, for whom Diendéré was “The direct supervisor of operations”.

On October 26, the hearing of the former driver of Blaise Compaoré, Yamba Elysée Ilboudo, the only defendant to have recognized his participation in the coup, further tainted the defense of Gilbert Diendéré and his former boss. , Blaise Compaoré, who now lives in exile in Côte d’Ivoire and is largely absent from this trial.

Rumors of conspiracies

Mr. Ilboudo, who was driving one of the two vehicles carrying the men of the commando and “Heavy weapons” in the trunk, claimed to have left “Home of Blaise Compaoré” and having seen Gilbert Diendéré at the scene of the crime.

According to documents from the investigation file, revealed by the Burkinabé investigative newspaper Confidential mail, “The action of the commando was prepared days in advance”. Several witnesses confirm, in extracts from the hearings, that “Thomas Sankara’s death was scheduled” and that some people have even tried to prevent it, but this one “Refused to admit and take sanctions against his friend”, Blaise Compaoré.

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Also listen Thomas Sankara, an emblematic president with a tragic fate

At the time, there were many rumors of conspiracies between the Sankara and Compaoré clans. In a confidential note dated November 5, 1987, declassified by the French Ministry of Defense and published by Confidential mail, Blaise Compaoré recognizes that, faced with the threat, his men have “Decided to act”, headed by one of his “Principal assistants, a lieutenant”.

“They entered the Cartel Council around 4 pm with the intention of arresting Sankara. His bodyguards opened fire and my men responded. He was killed at 4:20 p.m. It was at my home that the men informed me that the case is settled», he wrote, specifying that he did not “Wanted his death”, only “His resignation”.

What did Gilbert Diendéré, lieutenant at the time of the facts, say to his men during the meeting organized a few hours before the assassination of the leader of the revolution? “Don’t listen to the rumors and be wary of the garbage that was circulating outside.”, answers the accused. “You are giving us a great lesson in the coup d’etat! “, mocked the military prosecutor.

The noose is tightening around the fourteen accused. From a source close to the case, “Many elements and testimonies to charge” must be revealed during this historic trial. If the first statements did not surprise many people in Burkina Faso, where the unfolding of the assassination of “African Che” has since been unveiled by some witnesses, they nevertheless come to overwhelm the “Brains” suspected of the 1987 putsch.

In total, about sixty people must still be heard, some by videoconference, including figures of French politics, such as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Roland Dumas or Jack Lang, then in culture.

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Burkina Faso: at the Sankara trial, the noose tightens around the alleged sponsors of the assassination

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