FORMER Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore will return from exile for the first time since being ousted in a 2014 uprising, Burkinabe authorities said on Wednesday, despite his conviction earlier this year for complicity in his predecessor’s murder.
Compaore, who governed for 27 years, was invited by the ruling military junta to take part in a meeting on Friday between interim president Paul-Henri Damiba and several former presidents to discuss ‘questions linked to the higher interests of the nation,’ the presidency said in a statement.
The junta seized power in a January coup that it justified by citing rising Islamist violence, but it has been unable so far to slow an insurrection by militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Damiba has been reaching out to predecessors in recent weeks, emphasising the need for political unity in the face of the threat.
Compaore, 71, fled to Cote d’Ivoire during the 2014 uprising, which was sparked by his efforts to change the constitution to allow himself to remain in power.
He was sentenced in absentia in April by a military tribunal to life in prison for complicity in the 1987 murder of his predecessor Thomas Sankara during the coup that brought him to power.
The statement from the presidency said the meeting of former heads of state ‘does not hinder judicial prosecutions engaged against some of them,’ but did not elaborate.
In a statement, an association of lawyers representing the families of Sankara and others killed during the 1987 coup demanded that Compaore be arrested once in Burkina Faso.
That appeared unlikely. Amadou Coulibaly, a spokesman for the Ivorian government, which has repeatedly refused to extradite Compaore, said the government had agreed to Compaore’s return with the Burkinabe authorities.
Burkinabe media have speculated in recent days that Compaore could be granted a pardon over the Sankara murder as part of the junta’s reconciliation process.
Neither Cote d’Ivoire nor Burkina Faso has made any official comment on the subject.
Also participating in Friday’s meeting will be Roch Kabore, the president the junta overthrew in January. Kabore met with Damiba last month for the first time since the coup.