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Soldier testifies of role in assassination of Thomas Sankara

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Thirty-four years after the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, a former army private has admitted that he had helped transport the hit squad which committed the crime.

Testifying at a trial on Tuesday, the former private, Yamba Elise Ilboudo, 62, admitted a charge of complicity in endangering state security.

However, he said his actions were unpremeditated, noting that he had not taken part in any meeting to plan the assassination, nor had he taken part in the shooting.

He said that on the day of the October 15, 1987, coup, he was “at Blaise Compaore’s home” with other men. “We were under the orders of Hyacinthe Kafando, as head of security,” Ilboudo said.

Kafando, who is on the run, became a chief warrant officer in Compaore’s presidential guard after the coup and is alleged to have been in charge of the hit squad.

Ilboudo testified that he was told by Kafando to drive to the meeting which Sankara had attended, noting that when they arrived, Kafando and another individual called Maiga, “who had been driving Blaise Compaore’s car, got out and opened fire.

READ ALSO: Burkina Faso begins trial of alleged killers of ex-leader, Thomas Sankara

“Kafando then ordered the men in the two cars to get out. Some went to the rear of the building where President Sankara was,” Ilboudo said.

He explained that he remained in the car during what happened next, and did not open fire.

The trial unfolding at a military court in Ouagadougou is being closely followed by the Burkinabe public, many of whom hope it will shed light on one of their country’s darkest chapters.

Fourteen people are on trial for the 1987 assassination in which Sankara and 12 others were cut down in a hail of bullets at a top government meeting.

The accused include Sankara’s friend and former comrade-in-arms, Blaise Compaore, who came to power after the bloodbath.

Compaore has always denied suspicions that he engineered the assassination and likewise is being tried in absentia.

Compaore ruled for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014 and fleeing to the neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Another prominent defendant is Compaore’s former right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere, who once headed the elite Presidential Security Regiment.

Compaore and Diendere face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses.

Diendere is already serving a 20-year sentence for masterminding a plot in 2015 against the transitional government that followed Compaore’s ouster.

Burkina Faso has long been burdened by silence over Sankara’s assassination and many are angry that the killers have gone unpunished.

Sankara, a Marxist-Leninist, was an army captain when he came to power in a coup in 1983, at the age of 33.

A charismatic leader who railed against capitalism, he threw out the country’s name of Upper Volta, a legacy of the French colonial era, and renamed it Burkina Faso, which means “the land of honest men”.

He pushed ahead with a socialist agenda of nationalisations and banned female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.

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