Thirty-four years after the assassination of Burkina Faso’s former President, Thomas Sankara, the country’s military tribunal is going to try 14 men who have been accused of complicity in the murder of the man known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.
According to BBC, the charismatic Pan-Africanist was shot dead aged 37 by soldiers during a coup on 15 October 1987, which saw his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, come to power.
He changed the country’s name from Upper Volta, a legacy of the French colonial era, to Burkina Faso, which means “the land of honest men”.
Al-Jazera noted that he pushed ahead with a socialist agenda of nationalisations and banned female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.
Compaoré remained in power for 27 years after the demise and was overthrown in 2014.
Four years previously, the pair had staged the takeover which saw Sankara become president.
Compaoré is among the 14 accused but he is currently in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he fled after being forced to resign during mass protests in 2014. He has repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death and is boycotting the trial.
He would therefore be tried in absentia.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” the former president’s widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC. “I want to know the truth, and who did what.”
His widow filed a criminal complaint in 1997 over the murder of her husband, but it took 15 years for the Supreme Court to rule that the investigation could continue.
The following year, remains presumed to be his were exhumed but DNA analysis was unable to confirm they were his.
BBC reports that in 2016, the Burkina Faso authorities officially asked the French government to release military documents about Sankara’s assassination.
Those archives were declassified and transmitted to Burkina Faso in three stages – the final one in April 2021.
Compaoré’s former chief of staff General Gilbert Diendéré and 11 others are expected to be in the military tribunal. They face charges of “attacking state security”, “complicity in assassination” and “concealment of bodies”.
Diendéré, 61, is already in prison, after being sentenced to 20 years for his role in a failed coup plot in 2015.