The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, a celebrated anti-colonial leader across the continent, was assassinated in 1987. Now 14 men are on trial, including the president who replaced him.
DAKAR, Senegal — One of the most anticipated trials to be held in Africa opened in the capital of Burkina Faso on Monday, aiming to establish who killed the country’s former president and a revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankar, who once killed the entire nation. famous on the continent.
Mr Shankar was assassinated 34 years ago by a hit squad in the capital, Ouagadougou, after only four years in power.
Now 14 people accused of plotting his death are being tried in the capital. Among them is a man once known as his close friend, Blaise Compaore, who succeeded Mr. Shankar as president – and remained in power for 27 years. The trial is being held in the absence of Mr. Compore; Efforts by Burkina Faso’s government to extradite him from Ivory Coast, where he lives in exile, have been unsuccessful.
Most of the accused reached the court on Monday in a white bus. Apart from Mr. Compore, the man suspected of leading the team that killed Mr. Shankar was also absent, his whereabouts unknown.
“We are looking forward to this moment,” said Mr. Shankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, attending the trial from her home in the south of France on Monday. He had pressed for years to bring his killers to justice.
Mr. Shankar was the president of Burkina Faso, a landlocked and diverse country in West Africa, from 1983, when he took power in a coup, until 1987. He was 37 when he was killed, and was already honored to have spoken in several African countries. Against the remnants of colonialism and the influence of Western financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“The main aim of the revolution,” said Sri Shankara shortly after taking power, “is to destroy imperialist domination and exploitation.”
He changed the name of the country from Upper Volta, as it was labeled by France – Burkina Faso, meaning “Land of the Honest People”, in Mossi, the language of the country’s largest ethnic group.
He redistributed land, expanded access to education, and launched vaccination campaigns and social reforms with the goal of ending female genital mutilation and polygamy. He insisted that government officials forgo allowances such as first-class airline tickets.
but he also ruled characteristic of political repression, with many of his critics going into exile, and Human rights groups allege that prisoners were tortured.
The trial, which is expected to last several months, is a military tribunal headed by both civilian and military officers.
The most anticipated testimony may be that of Gilbert Deandere, the only accused man to attend the trial in military uniform. A former general and Mr Compaore’s right-hand man, he is accused of assaulting state security, engaging in murder, concealing corpses and bribing witnesses.