The trial of 14 people accused of plotting to assassinate its former president Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara began on Monday, almost 34 years after one of the most notorious murders in modern African history.
Sankara, a charismatic Marxist revolutionary widely known as “Che Guevara of Africa”, was assassinated in 1987 during a coup led by his former ally Blaise Compaore, who came to power on October 15, 1987.
Compaore, who is the main defendant, was charged in April with conspiracy to commit murder. He lives in exile on the neighboring Ivory Coast and has always denied any involvement in Sankara’s death.
“It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for”
“This is the moment we have been waiting for,” Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, told reporters as she arrived in court. “It’s a day of truth for me, my family and all the people of Burkina Faso.”
She told the BBC earlier today that she hoped the trial would shed light on the deaths of 12 other people killed on the day of the coup.
“It’s important for all these families,” he said. “This trial is needed to stop the culture of impunity and violence that still exists in many African countries despite the showcase of democracy.”
Kobaore’s former security chief, Yassid Kafado, is also on trial in absentia. Twelve other defendants are due to appear in court in Ouagadougou. Everyone has pleaded not guilty.
More than 100 journalists from around the world were at the start of the hearing inside the Ouaga2000 conference center, where the military tribunal is sitting.
THE Thomas Sankara came to power in a coup in 1983 at the age of 33 with promises to tackle corruption and the domination of former colonial powers.
A former fighter pilot, he was one of the first African leaders to speak out about the AIDS epidemic. He had publicly denounced the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs and banned female clitoridectomy and polygamy.
Sankara had won popular support with his simple lifestyle, as when he was a minister he went to the ministry by bicycle and when he became president he sold the government fleet of Mercedes.
However, critics say his reforms have restricted freedoms and have not improved the situation of the people of this besieged West African country. Compaore had previously claimed that Sankara had jeopardized relations with the former colonial power, France, and with the neighboring Ivory Coast.
Compaore took refuge in C Εte d’Ivoire after he was overthrown in 2014. His lawyers told him on Friday that he would not attend the trial and C Αte d’Ivoire has refused to extradite him.