Burkina Faso has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted leader Blaise Compaore in connection with the murder of former president Thomas Sankara nearly 30 years ago, judicial sources told Reuters on Monday.
The popular leader’s 1987 murder is one of the most infamous assassinations of Africa’s turbulent post-independence period, and Burkina Faso’s interim government has pledged to solve it.
A body believed to be Sankara’s was exhumed earlier this year and an autopsy showed it was riddled with bullets, strengthening assertions that he was executed in the 1987 coup that brought Compaore to power.
Compaore himself was driven from power last October by crowds opposing his bid to change the West African country’s constitution and extend his 27-year rule. He fled to neighboring Ivory Coast, where he is now thought to be based.
“I confirm that an international arrest warrant was issued against (ex-)President Blaise Compaore by the investigating judge,” Prosper Farama, a lawyer for Sankara’s family, told Reuters. He said the charges were murder and complicity in the assassination, among others.
Two other judicial sources who requested anonymity confirmed the warrant, which they said was issued on Dec. 4. A Burkina government spokesman was not available for comment.
Bruno Kone, Ivory Coast’s government spokesman, said, “The government has not been notified. We have nothing official and no comment to make.”
The charges against Compaore mark a major step in the case as interim authorities prepare to hand over power to former prime minister Roch Marc Kabore, winner of a November presidential election.
Sankara took power in a coup in 1983 and pursued a philosophy of Marxism and pan-Africanism that led him to be called “Africa’s Che Guevara.” Many African intellectuals view him as a visionary.
Another family lawyer said on Monday that a team of French investigators had failed to identify DNA from samples of a corpse presumed to be Sankara. The family has two weeks to seek a second expert opinion.
At least 10 others have already been charged in connection with his murder. They include General Gilbert Diendere, who led a failed coup in September.