Why Blaise Compaore may be found guilty of Thomas Sankara’s murder

An international arrest warrant has been issued for Blaise Compaore in connection with the murder of Thomas Sankara in 1987. Compaore, who was Burkina Faso’s president for 27 years, resigned in 2014 then fled to the Ivory Coast due to the Burkinabé uprising.

Who is Thomas Sankara?

Sankara was a charismatic revolutionary and the president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. As soon as he became the president of the nation, formerly known as the Upper Volta, he re-christened it Burkina Faso which means the ‘land of upright man’.

Part of Sankara’s agenda was to abolish corruption and make his country self-reliant, while most African countries at the time were dependent on foreign aid. His foreign policies were centered on anti-imperialism, debt reduction, nationalizing all land and mineral wealth as well as reducing the power and influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

He was also famous for the domestic policies he introduced, concentrating on land reforms, preventing famine, literacy, public health and women empowerment. Sankara’s legacy remains revered throughout Africa today due to the progress he made through his ground breaking reforms in just 4 years as the president.

In 1987, while Sankara was in a meeting with some other government officials, he was killed by some armed men in a military coup d’état, which is widely believed to be organized by his second in command, Blaise Compaore.

Thomas Sankara was President for only 4 years, but he was known all around the world for his ambitious policies
Thomas Sankara was President for only 4 years, but he was known all around the world for his ambitious policies

The curious case of Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaore

Sankara reportedly became friends with Blaise Compaore when they met in Morocco in 1976. They also both became part of a group known as the Communist Officers’ Group. By 1983, Compaore organized a coup, supported by Libya, and through this, Sankara was announced as the president. He proceeded to appoint his friend, Compaore as his deputy. During Sankara’s tenure, Compaore served as the Minister of State at the Presidency and the Minister for Justice. A few years after Sankara became the president though, it was believed that friendship between these two men turned sour.

Therefore a coup organized by Compaore in 1987 didn’t exactly come as a surprise to Sankara and his aides. It was reported that Sankara told his associates that he would surrender his life when the gunshots that heralded the coup were heard.

Although Compaore claimed that he was not involved in the killing of his friend, many have questioned the possibility of his men shooting Sankara without express orders from him (the coup mastermind).

Blaise Compaore (L) and Thomas Sankara
Blaise Compaore (L) and Thomas Sankara

Why Compaore may be a prime suspect

Reportedly, Sankara’s austerity measures did not go down well with some of the people in his cabinet and France, from whom Burkina Faso gained independence. Some of his actions, like making Renault 5 (the cheapest car available in the country then) the official car for those in government, opposing foreign aid and accusing the West of repression, placed him at odds with some factions in his homeland and abroad.

Compaore was one of those who disagreed with Sankara’s style of governance. Therefore when he allegedly plotted the coup, he was also allegedly supported by France, who wanted Sankara out. Here are a few reasons why the recently ousted president of Burkina Faso is a prime suspect in the investigation of Thomas Sankara’s death.

  • Sankara was buried quickly in an unmarked grave without the knowledge of his family
  • Compaore reversed all the nationalization policies that his predecessor put in place
  • He denied the Sankara family permission to exhume the former President’s corpse for about 27 years.
  • According to the people of Burkina Faso, he tried to repress every memory associated with the late revolutionary and those who protested against his death were jailed.
  • Once Compaore assumed power, he clung to it for 27 years and he only let go when the Burkinabé protested against his latest bid to rule the country for another five.

Compaore was eventually ousted by the people of Burkina Faso when he was proposing another 5-year term. He has reportedly fled to Ivory Coast.
Compaore was eventually ousted by the people of Burkina Faso when he was proposing another 5-year term. He has reportedly fled to Ivory Coast.

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