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Sankara trial opens in Burkina Faso 34 years after killing of ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’

HOPES have been raised that a trial which opened in Burkina Faso today will “shed light” on what really happened to the country’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.

He was shot dead on October 16 1987 in a military coup just four years after becoming the African country’s president.

Among the 14 defendants is his close friend Blaise Compaore, who came to power after Sankara’s killing and ruled for 27 years before being forced to resign in 2014 as mass protests swept the country.

Mr Compaore, who fled to Ivory Coast soon afterwards, is boycotting the trial while denying involvement in the assassination of the man dubbed “Africa’s Che Guevara.”

The late president’s widow Mariam Sankara 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.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she said. “I want to know the truth and who did what.”

His brother Paul Sankara said: “We’ve waited a long time, all along the 27 years of Blaise Compaore’s regime. Under his rule, we couldn’t even dream of the possibility of a trial.”

Sankara came to power in 1983, changing the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning “Land of Upright People.”

He initiated a raft of progressive measures, including the redistribution of agricultural land from feudal landlords to those who toiled the fields.

Literacy rates rose from 13 per cent to 73 per cent in just four years, while the new government brought an end to female genital mutilation and forced marriage, with Sankara saying: “There is no true social revolution without the liberation of women.”

The self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist urged Africa to refuse to pay its debts to Western countries and spoke out at the United Nations against “imperialist” wars, apartheid and poverty. 

He was a supporter of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and other progressive causes across the world.

Sankara supporters gathered at the memorial statue in Bukina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou today, hoping that the trial will “shed light on his murder.”

“For us, Sankara was a patriot. He loved his people. He loved his country. He loved Africa. He gave his life for us,” said Thomas Sankara Memorial Committee general secretary Luc Damiba.

Teacher Serge Ouedraogo said: ”Sankara is a whole philosophy, a way of thinking and being, a way of life. Sankara is a pride of Africa.

“Today, we can say that Sankara represents a compass for the people of Burkina Faso. He is a guide, it is he who blazed the trail of hope for the people.”

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