Former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for the 1987 murder of revolutionary icon Thomas Sankara has apologized to the former leader’s family on Tuesday, July 26.
“I apologize to the people of Burkina Faso for all the acts I may have committed during my tenure and, in particular, to the family of my brother and friend Thomas Sankara,” the former leader said in a statement read publicly by a government spokesman Lionel Bilgo.
Compaore seized power in the West African country in a 1987 coup that toppled and killed incumbent leader Sankara.
A court in Burkina Faso in April handed down a life sentence in absentia for his role in the murder. The 71-year-old has lived in exile in neighboring Ivory Coast since mass protests toppled him from power in 2014.
The ex-leader of Burkina continued, “I take responsibility, and I sincerely apologize for all the pain and misery endured by all the victims while I was the country’s leader, and I ask their families for forgiveness.”
He returned to Burkina Faso for several days this month without threat of arrest after the country’s military leader, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, invited him in the name of “national reconciliation“.
The visit sparked protests from civil society groups and political parties, who said uniting the nation must not come at the expense of impunity.
The militarily dominated interim government in Burkina Faso received “deep thanks” from Compaore. For the national interest to prevail, he called on his countrymen to form “a sacred union, tolerance, moderation, but above all forgiveness”.
Thomas Sankara, a fierce Marxist-Leninist who denounced the West for neocolonialism and hypocrisy, was shot to death by a hit squad on October 15, 1987, just over four years after he had won the country’s highest position at 33. years old.
Lieutenant Colonel Damiba took power in January in a coup that toppled former President Roch Marc Christian Kabore amid widespread anger over the government’s failure to deal with a bloody jihadist insurgency that spread from neighboring Mali in 2015.