An investigating judge in Burkina Faso has asked France to declassify military documents about the killing of the iconic Burkinabe former leader, Thomas Sankara. It has emerged that the judge made the request after attempts to get the documents through “political channels” failed. The country issued an arrest warrant for former President, Mr Blaise Compaore in 2015 in connection with the assassination of Sankara who has been referred to as Africa’s Che Guevara.
The Mysterious Killing of Sankara
In 1987, on the 15th of October, Thomas Sankara would breathe his last during a coup that ironically saw the rise of his friend, Blaise Compaore. Twenty-eight years later, Compaore, Sankara’s former comrade in arms would have an arrest warrant issued against him for involvement in the murder of a man billed as one of the greatest African leaders. Though he was only in power for four years, Sankara’s legacy lives on with the South African party, Economic Freedom Fighters a shining beacon of just how much influence the man had. Compaore had been deposed by the masses in 2014 after attempting to change the country’s constitution and extend his 27 year rule. Five other people were also charged in connection with the assassination but the correct narrative as to what transpired has not been established yet. Sankara’s death certificate stated that he had died of “natural causes” yet that narrative is not substantiated by any fact. To further weaken that proposition, it was then proved in 2015 that his supposed remains were “riddled with bullets”. Confirming suspicions that Africa’s Che Guevara was executed by a hit squad, the Sankara family lawyer, Ambroise Farama said, “But as far as Thomas Sankara was concerned, there were more than a dozen all over the body, even below the armpits.”
However, a police lab in the southern French city of Marseilles after performing a DNA test could not make a finding that these remains were indeed those of the late leader. Benewende Stanislas Sankara, another of the lawyers representing the Sankaras was then heard to say, “There is no detectable DNA in accordance with the current state of science. We can simply say that in view of these results, the state of the remains did not permit the laboratory to certify the existence of DNA.”
The country has since said it will be retesting the remains.
France’s idea, Compaore’s gun
In 2013, a French lawmaker spoke to journalists about a proposition to set up an inquiry commission in the French legislature. He said, “France, to an as yet unknown extent is responsible for this assassination…I believe that France, which today claims to behave differently towards Africa uner what I personally would call a virtuous circle, must tell the truth…We cannot leave the people of Burkina Faso, and more broadly speaking, the peoples of Africa in the dark about what really happened.”
In as much as Compaore is blamed for the death, France has proved to be circumstantially culpable as it helped him flee into exile (in Ivory Coast). When he came into power, he tightened relations with the former colonial power like most former French colonies. The role the European power played is not too clear yet and might be the reason why the country has not responded to the request for declassification of documents. It remains to be seen if France will release the documents but if the suspicions of the Sankara family are correct, it will be exposing its role in the process. The United States of America was also implicated in the fiasco by an Italian documentary in which one of the interviewees said, “The next thing you know, the US had infiltrated the liberation movements and set about overthrowing Sankara, who was leaning too far left. The Americans were not happy with Sankara. He was talking of nationalising his country’s resources to benefit his people. He was a socialist so he had to go.” Another interviewee also said the French secret service made the decision to eliminate Sankara and Compaore had fired the first shot at Sankara. These accounts cannot be confirmed or absolutely disproved but they serve to raise suspicions about the “natural” death of Sankara.
It remains to be seen if France will declassify the documents as requested or simply ignore as it has done until now. The calls may be ignored but France is best warned that Thomas Sankara was killed twenty-nine years ago on the 15th of October but his impact was not assassinated with him. It is almost guaranteed that there will be more calls for the truth.