The murder trial against Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s legendary “father of the revolution”, is due to open on Monday, 34 years after his murder. Fourteen people, including the country’s former president, Blaise Compaoré, will be tried.
In one of the long-awaited trials in Africa, 14 people will face a military tribunal in Burkina Faso’s capital on October 11th Ouagadougou indicted for the murder of the country’s former president, Thomas Sankara, and 12 members of his entourage.
Sankara, nicknamed “African Che Guevara,” came to power in a 1983 coup. He was a hero to many fans – who say he campaigned for national sovereignty by refusing aid from the International Monetary Fund, citing his promotion of women’s rights, the ban on forced marriages, polygamy and female genital mutilation.
Sankara’s critics say he is an authoritarian leader and alleges human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests of political opponents and extrajudicial killings.
Sankara was killed four years after he came to power when commandos stormed the headquarters of his National Revolutionary Council and shot dead – brings Blaise Compaoré to power, so far Sankara’s close friend and right-hand man.
Compaoré then ruled Burkina Faso for almost three decades before a popular uprising in 2014 toppled him and he moved to the neighboring Cote d. “Ivoire fled.
The ex-Starkmann is the main culprit in the upcoming trial – but he won’t go to Ouagadougou to stand trial, his lawyers said Thursday.
Still The absence of Compaoré, the trial is eagerly awaited – with more than 200,000 journalists from around the world accredited to cover the trial.
What does Sankara represent?
Sankara has left an indelible mark on his country and has become a Pan-African icon.
In an important symbolic step, he changed the name of the country from Upper Volta, given by France, to Burkina Faso, which ” the land of upright men “means”.
Sankara broke with the former colonial power of France, which had clientelist relations with its former African colonies in an approach known as Françafrique.
“Sankara has in his country Achieve complete independence by giving people confidence in themselves, ”said Bruno Jaffré, author of L’insurrection inachevée: Burkina 2014 (“ The Unfinished Rebellion: Burkina 2014 ”), the one Sankara operates a website dedicated to thomassankara.net.
“Outside of Burkina Faso he is considered an anti-imperialist revolutionary who spoke for the oppressed and strengthened his nation’s sovereignty over France.”
In In this context, the Sankara legend continues to grow, especially among young people who revere him even though they have no memory of his rule in Burkina Faso.
Why did it take 34 years for a trial to take place? < / h3>
The announcement of the trial in August came as a great shock, Jaffré said, as the 1987 attack had long been a taboo subject. Burkina Faso: “When the trial was announced, the Burkinabés didn’t even dare to believe it” he said.
“Compaorés Regi I did everything I could to prevent the criminal justice process from doing its job after Sankara’s death – and it wasn’t until autumn 2014 [Compaoré was ousted] that the ball got rolling, ”Jaffré continued.
In fact, the government initiated the democratic transition in Burkina Faso, which opened legal proceedings in March 2015.
In December of the same year, an international arrest warrant was issued against Compaoré. The first reconstruction of the murder of Sankara at the crime scene finally took place in February 2020.
The examining magistrate then transferred the investigation to a military court in October – paving the way for the trial to begin on Monday.
But obstructionism delayed this historical process. Compaoré’s defenders “did everything in their power to delay or even cancel it,” noted Jaffré. In particular, they have had great success saying that Compaoré’s international arrest warrant was “overturned” in 2016 by the Burkina Faso Supreme Court.
Compaoré’s lawyers also said their client was “never for questioning “had been summoned” and that he had “never been briefed” by the Burkinabe criminal justice system, with the exception of his “final summons” to appear before the court.
The defense lawyers also argued that Compaoré was Former head of state.
In April 2016, the Attorney General of the Supreme Court of Burkina Faso actually announced that the international arrest warrant against Compaoré would be lifted due to a formality. But a month later, the government commissioner at the Military Tribunal dismissed reports that the trial had been canceled, clarifying that the reversed arrest warrants only concerned a September 2015 coup trial against the transitional government.
Given the fact that the ex-president has always denied responsibility for everything that went wrong in Burkina Faso, “it is not surprising” that Compaoré will not be on trial to face the allegations against him, Guy Hervé Kam, the civil party’s lawyer in the Compaoré case, said AFP.
Who are the defendants?
Compaoré is one of 14 people charged. General Gilbert Diendéré – one of Burkinabé’s main army chiefs at the time of the 1987 coup – is the other main defendant.
After serving as Compaoré’s chief of staff during his long presidency, Diendéré was imprisoned for 20 years attempted murder in the attempted coup in 2015.
In the forthcoming trial, he and Compoaré are both charged with “complicity in murder”, “hiding corpses” and “attacking state security”.
p> < Soldiers from the former Compaoré Presidential Guard - specifically Hyacinthe Kafondo, who is accused of leading the commando group that murdered Sankara and who is currently on the run - are also among the defendants.
Initially, more people were expected to be brought to justice. According to lawyers for the civil party, however, “many defendants have died”.
What can be expected from the trial?
There has been much speculation about the possible role of foreign countries – including France, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Libya – in the killing of Sankara. But the trial will focus solely on burkinabés who were involved in his murder.
The focus will be on Compaoré, according to Jaffré. “His absence is unfortunate; however, the question of his responsibility for the killing will be at the center of the trial, ”he noted.
The investigating judge was able to question all of the surviving witnesses who had never spoken on the day of the murder .
These witnesses have already clarified a number of important issues – in particular, they stated that the “commando force came from Compaoré’s house” and that “Diendéré was present to direct the operations”. “Jaffré remarked.
In addition to trying to understand the exact sequence of the murder, the trial will also attempt to hold individuals responsible for complicity in the attempted cover-up of Sankara’s murder. For example, the doctor Jean Christophe Diébré said he died a “natural death”; Diébré is being prosecuted for “forging a public document”.
Is the alleged role of France being addressed?
Although the focus is on the role of the Burkinabe actors, France is still relevant to des Trial.
“The investigation revealed that the day after the attack, French agents were present in Burkina Faso to destroy eavesdropping devices on Blaise Compaoré and Jean-Pierre Palm, a gendarmerie officer who was supposed to be responsible for his Killing role in Sankaras, ”said Jaffré.
Many observers note that Sankara’s government rejected the Françafrique operation and rejected his country’s longstanding alliance with France. He also angered Paris by demanding that New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, be added to the United Nations list of places to be decolonized.
During a trip to Burkina Faso in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to which classifies all French archives on the Sankara assassination as a “national defense secret”. Since then, three batches of approved documents have been sent to Ouagadougou.
However, these contain only secondary documents and no documents from the offices of François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, who were respectively President and Prime Minister of France at the time of the assassination.
“In the documents submitted so far, there is no evidence of a French presence in Ouagadougou on the day after the murder. But those documents have to exist – and the fact that Macron didn’t keep his word shows a certain embarrassment, “said Jaffré.