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Burkina coup general charged over 1987 murder of ex-leader


Gilbert Diendere

Gilbert Diendere

General Gilbert Diendere, who tried to seize power in Burkina Faso in September, has been charged with murder in a probe into the death of the country’s revered former leader, an official at the military prosecutor’s office said Monday.

The investigation centres on the mysterious death in 1987 of Thomas Sankara, a revolutionary figure who is still a hero to many in west Africa. He was killed during a coup that brought his former military comrade Blaise Compaore to power.

Diendere “was charged on November 12 in the Sankara case”, an investigation that opened in March this year, about five months after Compaore was overthrown in a popular uprising, the source said.

The general was charged with “carrying out attacks, murder and concealing a body,” the official said, without elaborating.

Diendere, Compaore’s former chief of staff, mounted a putsch on September 17, using crack troops from a presidential guard loyal to the ousted head of state.

The coup was thwarted by street protestors and by support from the army, which attacked the plotters’ barracks. At least 11 people were killed and 271 were injured in the demonstrations.

The fate of Sankara — dubbed “Africa’s Che Guevara” by admirers — was a taboo in Burkina Faso for 27 years until Compaore’s overthrow.

His death certificate stated that the 37-year-old former army captain died of “natural causes”.

But an autopsy, carried out after his remains were exhumed from a cemetery in the capital Ouagadougou in May, showed he had been “riddled with bullets,” his lawyers said in October.

The failure of the September putsch enabled Burkina Faso to push ahead with presidential and parliamentary elections, deemed vital for stabilising the poor landlocked Sahel state.

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