Time for Justice for Thomas Sankara | International

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Thomas Sankara at the 8th Summit of Non-Aligned Countries.

T-shirts with his face are sold in the thousands, his famous phrases are quoted in speeches and tributes and his ideas continue to inspire generations of Africans. Captain Thomas Sankara, known as the African Ché Guevara and president of Burkina Faso between 1983 and 1987, was brutally assassinated 34 years ago along with 12 of his collaborators, but the legacy of the socialist revolution that he launched still feeds dreams today. of the Pan-Africanist left. This Monday begins in Ouagadougou the trial for this unsolved crime with 14 defendants, although the main suspect in the plot, Blaise Compaoré, who after the assassination became president until he was overthrown by a popular uprising in 2014, will not sit in the dock.

“In any case it will be a historical process, we must not underestimate it”, says Bruno Jaffré, biographer and great specialist on the figure of Sankara in a telephone conversation from Paris, “the instruction has been done exhaustively and independently, so we hope that light is shed on the facts and a conviction is produced ”, he assures. Everything is prepared in the banquet hall of Ouaga 2000, where a military court will have to clarify what exactly happened that October 15, 1987 in the early afternoon when a group of soldiers interrupted a meeting in which Sankara was participating and shot him to bullets.

Those soldiers were under the orders of Blaise Compaoré, who will follow the trial from his residence in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), protected by the Alassane Ouattara regime despite the international arrest warrant against him. “He will not be on the bench due to the lack of political will from both the Ivorian and Burkinabe governments, which has not pushed enough,” adds Jaffré. In 1987, Compaoré was Minister of Justice in the government headed by Sankara, but he was much more than that. For years he had been the closest collaborator of the revolutionary leader, his brother in arms, the one who contributed like few others to the triumph of the revolution. And yet he craved power.

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One of the key aspects around which the process will revolve will be knowing who gave the order to kill. According to all the witnesses, Compaoré was convalescing that afternoon at his home in the Burkinabe capital. But the command that committed the massacre, led by Sergeant Hyacinthe Kafando, left that same home aboard several vehicles, one of them driven by Compaoré’s driver, Hamidou Maiga, according to the judicial investigation. On the few occasions that he spoke on the subject, he always defended that his intention was to evict Sankara from power, but not to assassinate him, and that his death was the result of a fight against his resistance to his arrest.

The problem with this version is that Alouna Traoré, the only collaborator of Sankara present at that meeting who managed to survive, assures that, after the irruption of the soldiers, the president came out with his hands up saying “it is me who they want” and that later he was assassinated in cold blood. As Hyacinthe Kafando is not going to testify either at the trial because he took a flying dive after the fall of Compaoré in 2014, all eyes will be focused on one of the most accused defendants. juicy that yes, General Gilbert Diendéré will sit on the bench, who in 1987 was Compaoré’s right hand and then, when he seized power, he became head of his Presidential Guard. He is currently serving a sentence for the 2015 coup attempt.

“We Burkina Faso are thirsty for justice and for truth, we want to know what exactly happened”, says Karim Traoré, member of the Justice for Sankara Network, “there will be a popular mobilization so that the process is transparent and broadcast on radio and television. ”. Defense lawyers are expected to cling to procedural issues or the impossibility of identifying Sankara’s remains through DNA tests, but beyond some delays it does not seem that this strategy will prevent the holding of the trial, according to close legal sources to the case.

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After coming to power in 1983 through a coup, Sankara undertook an ambitious and radical reform plan that included the nationalization of land and mineral wealth, extensive literacy and vaccination campaigns, and stimulation of local industry to avoid dependence on aid. exterior and promotion of the role of women. His pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist revolution was so deep that he even changed the name of the country, which was called Upper Volta, renaming it Burkina Faso, which means the country of men of integrity. “He was someone incorruptible, his life was an example,” adds Traoré. However, his refusal to pay the foreign debt and his attempts to prevent any African country from doing so placed him in the spotlight of international organizations, as well as his excellent relations with Cuba or the Soviet Union.

The role of France

Precisely one of the aspects that will fly over the entire process and that will be addressed only tangentially, since it has been separated from the main cause, is the participation of other countries in the assassination, most notably France. The animosity of the then French President François Mitterrand and his Prime Minister Jacques Chirac towards the revolutionary leader who questioned the constant French interference in Africa is beyond doubt. The Gallic attempts of destabilization were constant. In November 2017, President Emmanuel Macron promised to lift the secrecy of key official documents kept in Paris. However, he did not keep his promise. The Burkinabe Justice has found traces of French agents in the plot.

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But France was not alone and had allies on African soil, some predictable and others unexpected, whose role remains to be elucidated: the Ivory Coast of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the Mali of the dictator Moussa Traoré, the Libya of Gaddafi and, above all , the mercenaries in the pay of guerrilla Charles Taylor, whom Sankara denied help to seize power in Liberia. In one way or another, all these names appear again and again in the statements of witnesses and in the revelations of intelligence agents or diplomats present in Burkina Faso at that time. Thomas Sankara’s revolutionary proposal was uncomfortable and enemies flourished both inside and outside the country.

“The idea is that this historic trial takes place and we can close a dark page in Burkina Faso’s history. It is not a political process against what some want to argue, it is a trial for a crime. There are two emblematic dossiers open in this country, that of the murder of journalist Norbert Zongo and that of Sankara, until both are closed, the confidence of citizens in Burkina Faso Justice will not be restored, “says rapper Smockey, leader of the citizen movement Citizen Broom. It took 34 years and the popular uprising that ended the Compaoré regime in 2014 to make it possible, but the desire for justice of the families of the 13 victims and of all those who saw in Sankara a broken hope for Africa, remains intact.

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