As Trial Begins, Will France Emerge as Power Who Ordered Assassination of 'Africa's Che Guevara'?
09:49 GMT 12.10.2021 (Updated: 12:56 GMT 01.03.2022)
Thomas Sankara came to power in Upper Volta in 1983 at the age of 33 after he and his friend Blaise Compaore led a coup. He changed the African nation’s name to Burkina Faso and sought to take on powerful vested interests.
Fourteen people have gone on trial at a military court in Burkina Faso in connection with one of the most mysterious and sinister events in African history.
In 1987, four years after taking power, Thomas Sankara was killed and his former friend Blaise Compaore
seized power, ruling the country for 27 before finally being ousted and sent into exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast.
Sankara’s widow, Mariam, said she hoped for justice for her husband, who has become an inspirational figure and something of a socialist martyr for many in Africa who despair of corrupt leaders like Compaore, who fill their own pockets and do little to help their impoverished citizens.
Mrs Sankara said: “I hope that this trial will be an example to show people they cannot kill without being held responsible in Burkina and in other countries”.
Sankara nationalised many industries, outlawed female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages and stood up to the former colonial power, France, and to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He has been dubbed "Africa's Che Guevara."
France has always been suspected of having backed Compaore’s seizure of power, and in 2017 President Emmanuel Macron agreed to declassify documents at the Quai D’Orsay which relate to Sankara’s death and send them to Burkina Faso.
Compaore is charged in absentia with complicity, undermining state security and concealing corpses.
Compaore's former right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere, is also on trial and wore a full military uniform at the opening of the trial on Monday, 11 October, in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Mrs Sankara said she expected Diendere to tell the truth.
“He must tell the truth. He is involved. I have no doubt about it”, she said.
Compaore's lawyers said the former president would “not surrender'' or attend the trial.
The current President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, is seeking re-election next month and is hoping to get kudos from the electorate for finally putting Sankara’s alleged killers on trial.