Burkina Faso gives way to justice / by Julio Morejon Tartabull

Havana (Prensa Latina) Paraphrasing an African sentence, it could be affirmed that in Burkina Faso “no matter how high the grass grew, it failed to hide the truth”, regarding the assassination of President Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara in 1987.

Almost three and a half decades after the assassination of the president and a group of his close collaborators, the trial against the perpetrators of the crime – to which the Blaise Compaoré government vetoed any substantial reference – shows signs of interest in doing justice, although its full exercise is limited by the absence of two defendants.

The results of the trial opened in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, were at first convincing -according to the media- after learning that the three main defendants in the murder of Sankara (1949-1987) received life sentences, who was He calls him the African Che Guevara.

According to politicians and public opinion, this judicial decision put an end to impunity and improved the face of the new government led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who came to power through a coup in January 2022.

In the hearing that took place in a military court, Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso (1987-2014), and Hyacinthe Kafando, head of his security device, were sentenced in absentia to prison for life, while nine others culprits received various sentences for the 1987 coup.

Applause erupted in the courtroom as the long-awaited verdict was read, bringing down the curtain on a case that has afflicted the impoverished and volatile state for 34 years.


Compaoré, who during his mandate delayed the holding of the process to clarify what happened on October 15, 1987, acted cunningly as Joseph Mobutu did in the Congo -later Mobutu Sese Seko- in 1961, both betrayed their respective bosses and companions in the performance of power.

Mobutu destroyed the aspirations of Patricio Emery Lumumba to maintain Congolese sovereignty in the face of the neo-colonial offensive of the transnationals; Blaise Compaoré first stopped and then reversed the nationalist process that brought former Upper Volta out of political anonymity, then Burkina Faso (Country of worthy men).

“Yes, justice has been done. For the people, because they are 34 years of struggle of a people. We must not forget, it is 34 years in which the Burkinabe people fight against impunity. And with this case, I think it’s a great victory,” Prospere Farama, attorney for the prosecution, told the press.

In 2016, the then president of the country, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, ousted by the military coup in January, alluded to Sankara’s murder when he opined that the solution to the case would be “the starting point of a true reconciliation, awaited by the entire national community”.

Details of the friction between Sankara and Compaoré surfaced in the judicial investigations that lasted six months and several witnesses underlined the existence of an international conspiracy to depose the leader for considering him problematic by challenging the world order and publicly and openly criticizing the former metropolis. , France.

“The tragedy of October 15, 1987 was the result of pressure exerted by various heads of state, including Félix Houphouët Boigny,” said Abdoul Salam Kaboré, Minister of Sports in the Sankara government, referring to the role of the former ruler of Costa de Ivory and a key ally of Paris in the plot.

Regarding the absence of the main defendant, Mariam, the widow of Thomas Sankara, said: “It is not fair, it really is not fair, that he is not here. I should be, I should have the courage to be here, but you know, not everyone is brave, they run from the truth.

Lawyers for the family of the murdered president demanded that Compaoré be extradited from the Ivory Coast – where he is in self-exile – for his guilt in the death of the anti-colonial leader.


The crime was officially given a tribal connotation to demarcate it from its political character and Compaoré himself referred to the event on more than one occasion as an “accident”, but despite trying to cover it up, the truth made its way through the bushes .

Long before the judicial process, the media insisted on the subregional dimension of the assassination and coup d’état, which was linked to guerrillas of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), as one of them, Prince Jormie Johnson, confirmed in his memoirs.

The notorious torturer and assassin of the Liberian president Samuel Kanyon Doe in 1990 pointed out that the conspiracy against the president was related to the permanence in Burkina Faso territory of a faction of the NPFL and that was only possible with the support and influence of the plotted military chiefs against Sankara.

Another explanation of the events appears in Ludo Martens’ book “Sankara, Compaoré et la révolution burkinabé”, in which former general Gilbert Dienderé stated: “We had been warned that Compaoré, Lingani and Zongo would be arrested that night (…) Our reaction was to arrest Sankara before the irreparable (…).

The former general, the only one present at the Ouagadougou hearing of the three main defendants, was referring to Major Jean Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Captain Henri Zongo, executed in 1989 by Compaoré. Some investigators affirm that he eliminated them to get rid of the other two linked to the assassination.

Dienderé, identified as the ideologue and architect of President Sankara’s death, was removed as chief of the General Staff on November 27, 2014, shortly after the overthrow of Compaoré, but in 2015 he led a failed coup attempt for which he currently serving 20 years in prison.

All this is commented on after the sentence was passed against those involved in the assassination of the revolutionary, whose example shined the dome of continental honor and inserted the country of worthy men in the trajectory of world progressive work.

At the 25th Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) -predecessor of the African Union (AU)- Sankara described foreign debt as a colonial tool used to strangle and keep Third World states in poverty.

His government lasted four years and among the priorities he assumed were the fight against hunger and misery, the development of educational programs and the guarantee of an elementary health system for all the citizens of Burkina Faso, plans frustrated by the assassination, although his ideological legacy persists.

Julio Morejon Tartabull is a journalist for the Africa and Middle East newsroom of Prensa Latina.

Prensa Latina, April 16, 2022, https://www.prensa-latina.cu/