2021-10-11 09:54:04 Burkina Faso to open trial on 1987 Sankara assassination | News
Burkina Faso to open trial on 1987 Sankara assassination
The ex-president is one of 14 people charged in the assassination of former President Thomas Sankara 34 years ago.
In Burkina Faso, the trial of 14 men, including a former president, is set to begin over the assassination of the country’s revered revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara 34 years ago.
Former President Blaise Compaore and 13 others face a variety of charges in the death of Sankara, dubbed the “African Che Guevara” by his followers.
For years, the assassination of Sankara, an icon of pan-Africanism, has cast a dark shadow over the Sahel state.
Sankara and 12 others were shot by a hit squad during the October 1987 putsch that brought his friend and comrade-in-arms Compaore to power.
Compaore ruled the country for the next 27 years, until he was deposed by a popular uprising and fled to neighboring Ivory Coast, where he was granted citizenship.
He and his former right-hand man, General Gilbert Diendere, who once led the elite Presidential Security Regiment, are accused of murder, endangering state security, and concealing corpses.
In the absence of
Compaore, who has always denied any involvement in the killing, will be tried in absentia by a military court in the capital, Ouagadougou.
His lawyers announced last week that he would not be attending a “political trial” marred by irregularities, and that he was entitled to immunity as a former head of state.
Diendere, 61, is already serving a 20-year sentence for orchestrating a 2015 plot against the transitional government that followed Compaore’s ouster.
Hyacinthe Kafando, a former chief warrant officer in Compaore’s presidential guard who is accused of leading the hit squad, is another prominent figure among the accused. He is fleeing.
Sankara, a young army captain and Marxist-Leninist, seized power in a coup in 1983 at the age of 33.
He changed the country’s name from Upper Volta, a French colonial legacy, to Burkina Faso, which means “land of honest men.”
He pursued a socialist agenda of nationalizations, prohibiting female genital mutilation, polygamy, and forced marriages.
He, like Ghana’s former president Jerry Rawlings, became an idol in Africa’s left-wing circles, lauded for his radical policies and defiance of the big powers.
Burkina Faso has long been burdened by silence over the assassination – the subject was taboo during Compaore’s long tenure in office – and many are angry that the killers have gone unpunished.
“The trial will put an end to all the lying – we will get some kind of truth.” But the trial will not be able to restore our dream,” Halouna Traore, a Sankara comrade and putsch survivor, said in a TV interview.
What does Sankara stand for?
Sankara left an indelible mark on his country while also becoming a pan-African icon.
In a significant symbolic move, he changed the country’s name from Upper Volta, given by France, to Burkina Faso, which means “land of upright men.”
Can Sankara’s ecological, pan-African vision be realized through the ‘Great Green Wall’?
Sankara broke with France, which maintained clientelist relationships with its former African colonies in a strategy known as Françafrique.
“Sankara developed complete independence in his country by instilling confidence in its people,” said Bruno Jaffré, author of L’insurrection inachevée: Burkina 2014 and founder of the Thomas Sankara website, thomassankara.net. “Outside of Burkina Faso, he is regarded as an anti-imperialist revolutionary who spoke up for the oppressed and strengthened his country’s sovereignty in the face of France.”
In this context, the legend of Sankara continues to grow, particularly among young people who worship him despite having no recollection of his reign in Burkina Faso.
Why did it take 34 years to hold a trial?
The announcement of the trial in August was a huge shock, according to Jaffré, because the 1987 assassination had long been a taboo subject in Burkina Faso: “When the trial was announced, Burkinabés didn’t even dare to believe it.”
“Compaoré’s regime did everything it could to prevent the criminal justice process from carrying out its work in relation to Sankara’s death – and it wasn’t until [Compaoré’s] ouster in autumn 2014 that the ball got rolling,” Jaffré continued.
Indeed, the justice process in Burkina Faso began in March 2015, with the establishment of a government for the country’s democratic transition. In December of that year, an international arrest warrant was issued for Compaoré. In February 2020, the first reconstruction of Sankara’s assassination took place at the crime scene. The inquiry was then transferred to a military court by the judge presiding over it in October, paving the way for the trial to begin on Monday.
However, obstructionism caused this historic trial to be postponed. Jaffré noted that Compaoré’s defense attorneys did “everything they could to delay or even cancel it.” They got a lot of mileage out of claiming that Compaoré’s international arrest warrant was “cancelled” in 2016 by Burkina Faso’s highest court. Compaoré’s lawyers also stated that their client had “never been summoned for questioning” and had “never been notified” of any procedure by the Burkinabé criminal justice system, other than his “final summons” to stand trial. Compaoré’s lawyers have also claimed that as a former head of state, he is immune from prosecution.
In April 2016, the attorney general of Burkina Faso’s highest court announced the cancellation of the international arrest warrant targeting Compaoré due to a technicality. However, a month later, the government’s commissioner at the military court denied reports that the trial had been canceled, clarifying that the cancelled warrants only concerned a coup case against the transitional government in September 2015.
Given that the ex-president has always denied responsibility for anything that has gone wrong in Burkina Faso, Guy Hervé Kam, the lawyer representing the civil party in Compaoré’s case, told AFP that his absence from court is “not surprising.”
Who are the defendants?
Compaoré is one of 14 people who have been charged. The other main defendant is General Gilbert Diendéré, one of the main Burkinabé army chiefs at the time of the 1987 coup. Diendéré was imprisoned for 20 years for attempted murder in the 2015 coup attempt after serving as Compaoré’s chief of staff during the latter’s long presidency. In the upcoming trial, he and Compoaré will be charged with “complicity in murder,” “concealment of dead bodies,” and “attacking state security.”
Soldiers from Compaoré’s former presidential guard are also among the defendants, including Hyacinthe Kafondo, who is accused of leading the commando group that assassinated Sankara and is currently on the run.
Initially, it was expected that more people would stand trial. According to the civil party’s lawyers, “many defendants died.”
What can be anticipated from the trial?
There has been much speculation about the possible role of foreign countries in Sankara’s assassination, including France, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Libya. However, the trial will only focus on Burkinabé people involved in his assassination.
According to Jaffré, the focus will be on Compaoré. “His absence is regrettable; however, the issue of his responsibility for the killing will be central to the trial,” he said.
The judge in charge of the investigation was able to question all of the surviving witnesses who had been present on the day of the assassination but had never spoken before.
These witnesses have already clarified some key points, including the fact that the “commando force came from Compaoré’s house” and that “Diendéré was present to direct the operations,” according to Jaffré.
In addition to attempting to determine the exact sequence of the assassination, the trial will seek to hold individuals accountable for their role in the attempted cover-up of Sankara’s murder. For example, the doctor Jean Christophe Diébré claimed to have died “naturally”; Diébré is being charged with “forging a public document.”
Will the alleged role of France be addressed?
While the focus is on the role of Burkinabé actors, France will remain an important factor in the trial.
“The investigation determined that French agents were present in Burkina Faso on the day after the assassination to destroy wiretaps targeting Blaise Compaoré and Jean-Pierre Palm, a gendarmerie officer implicated in Sankara’s killing,” Jaffré said.
Many observers point out that Sankara’s government was opposed to the operation of Françafrique, citing his country’s long-standing alliance with France. He also enraged Paris by calling for the UN to include New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, on the list of places to be decolonized.
During a visit to Burkina Faso in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to declassify all French archives relating to Sankara’s assassination as “national defense secrets.” Three batches of declassified documents have since been delivered to Ouagadougou. However, these are only secondary documents and do not include any from the offices of François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, who were president and prime minister of France at the time of the assassination, respectively.
“There is no evidence of a French presence in Ouagadougou the day after the assassination, based on the documents provided thus far.” But these documents must exist – and the fact that Macron did not keep his word demonstrates some embarrassment,” Jaffré said.
The only survivor of the 1987 Burkina Faso coup recalls Thomas Sankara’s assassination.
Halouné Traoré, a former comrade of Pan-African icon and former Burkina Faso President Thomas Sankara, explains how he was the only one to survive the 1987 coup in which Sankara and 12 others were assassinated. After 34 years, the perpetrators are finally scheduled to stand trial in Ouagadougou on Monday.
Traoré hopes that at the trial, “the truth finally gets told” about Sankara’s assassination, but admits that it will not be able to restore “the dreams for Burkina”
“We had a meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. in this room. The comrade president arrived last; we were waiting for him in the meeting room here, and the meeting began as soon as he arrived. So we began the meeting, and because I had just been assigned to a mission in Benin, I was given the floor. I had just finished saying, “I left Ouagadougou” and was about to begin my report when we heard gunshots outside and someone yelling, “Get out! get out! get out!” So, following these orders, the comrade president stood up, adjusted his clothing, and walked out with his hands up. At the entrance to that room, he was shot at point blank range.”
Traoré hopes that during the trial, “the truth finally gets told” about Sankara’s assassination, but he recognizes that it will not be enough to restore “the dreams we had for Burkina”
“The main expectation I have is that the truth, that a man, a group of men, and especially President Thomas Sankara, were murdered for loving his country, is finally told. If only the trial could help us establish this truth…”
Compaore has long denied any involvement in the murder of his former comrade-in-arms, but Sankara’s death was always taboo during his long reign.
U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso
Beginning January 26, all airline passengers two years of age and older traveling to the United States must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the United States may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider that they have recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to travel. For more information and frequently asked questions, visit the CDC website.
The Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso confirmed 14,341 cases of COVID-19 and 187 related deaths.
On August 1, 2020, the airports of Ouagadougou and Bobo resumed normal operations. Except for commercial traffic, all land borders remain closed. Please contact your airline for more information on possible pre-departure requirements related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including testing requirements.
The government of Burkina Faso lifted the curfew that had been in effect throughout the country, with the exception of provinces under state of emergency, on June 3, 2020. (the East and Sahel regions, Kossi and Sourou provinces in Boucle de Mouhoun, Kenedougou province in Hauts Bassins, Louroum province in the North, and Koulpelogo province in the Center-East region).
Face masks will be required across the country beginning April 27, 2020.
Are PCR and/or antigen tests available in Burkina Faso for US citizens? Yes
If this is the case, are test results consistently available within 72 hours? Yes
COVID-19 tests for travel purposes are available for 25,000 CFA as of December 21, 2020. (approximately 45 US Dollars). The government contracts with all centers that perform COVID-19 diagnostics. Ouagadougou is one of the testing locations.
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Travelers will be sent an SMS with a link to download and print the COVID-19 test results. Hard copies are also available for those who are unable to download and print the test results. Non-travelers must pick up a hard copy of their results at the testing facility.
Please see the following page for information on limited humanitarian exemptions to the CDC’s requirement that all U.S. bound travelers present a negative COVID test: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-testing-required-us-entry.html.
Humanitarian exemptions to this order will be granted on a very limited basis and will only be considered if the country of departure lacks adequate COVID-19 testing capacity. Email email@example.com to submit information in support of an exemption.
Information on the COVID-19 Vaccine:
Has the government of Burkina Faso approved the use of a COVID-19 vaccine? Yes
Is it possible for US citizens to receive vaccines in Burkina Faso? Yes
The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public on June 2, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines are available at no cost at walk-in vaccination sites from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The list of vaccination sites is available at the Central Region Regional Health Direction in Ouagadougou. Individuals are registered in a platform after receiving the first dose to receive a reminder message for a second dose.
To learn more about FDA-approved vaccines in the United States, go to the FDA’s website.
The US government has no plans to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to private US citizens living abroad. Please stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccination developments and guidelines from the host country.
Requirements for Entry and Exit:
Are US citizens allowed to enter? Yes
Is it necessary to have a negative COVID-19 test (PCR and/or serology) to gain entry? Yes, American citizens can currently enter Burkina Faso. Upon arrival in Ouagadougou, all visitors must present a negative COVID-19 PCR (nasal swab) test. The test result must be in English or French and must be dated within five days of arrival. At the moment, rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) or antibody tests are not accepted. If a passenger does not arrive with a negative COVID-19 test, the airport will perform a rapid COVID-19 test at a cost of 25,000 CFA (approximately 45 US Dollars), and the passenger will be detained until the results are available. To depart from Ouagadougou International Airport, all passengers must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR (nasal swab) test from within the last five days.
Are health screening procedures in place at airports and other entry points? Yes, American citizens may inquire with local Burkina Faso authorities about visa extensions for residents and/or tourists.
Restrictions on Movement:
Is there a curfew in effect? No
Is there a limit on intercity or interstate travel? There is no quarantine information:
Is it mandatory for US citizens to quarantine? No American citizens who test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival must be quarantined at home or in a hotel for 14 days. Those who have a negative test result are not required to be quarantined.
Are commercial flights taking off? Yes
Is public transportation available? Yes
Noncompliance penalties: N/A
Appointments for American citizen services are currently available at the Consular Section. Please see our webpage for more information and use the links below to schedule an appointment online for the ACS service you require: https://bf.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/.
Routine visa operations remain halted; however, appointments for certain immigrant and non-immigrant visa categories are still available. Please see our S. Visa and Travel FAQs for Non-US Citizens During the COVID-19 Pandemic for more information.
Call the Burkina Faso hotline at (226) 52-19-53-94 or (226) 70-95-93-27 for more information. if you are feeling unwell and suspect you have COVID-19.
Making connections in the United States for Burkina Faso’s economic development
This website’s content is intended to serve as a resource for anyone interested in learning more about the West African country of Burkina Faso. We hope that this site will be a useful tool for you, whether your interest is professional or personal, whether you want to invest or work in Burkina Faso, or simply visit the country.
If you are a citizen of Burkina Faso, you will find information about the Embassy’s various activities, consular services, as well as news and events in the United States and at home.
The website is also intended to foster a community that supports the Embassy’s mission of forging connections in the United States for Burkina Faso’s economic development. The website’s goal is not to be complete, but rather to thrive over time as the user community grows.
Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, is a landlocked country in West Africa that is slightly larger than Colorado. Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, and Ghana are its neighbors. The country is made up of vast plains, low hills, high savannas, and a desert in the north.
Burkina Faso was first inhabited by the Bobo, Lobi, and Gurunsi peoples, with the Mossi and Gurma peoples arriving in the 14th century. In 1897, the Mossi empire’s lands became a French protectorate, and by 1903, France had subjugated the other ethnic groups. The French named it Upper Volta, and it became a separate colony in 1919. It was partitioned among Niger, Sudan, and Côte d’Ivoire in 1932, and it was reconstituted in 1947. Upper Volta became an autonomous republic within the French Community on August 5, 1960.
On January 3, 1966, President Maurice Yameogo was deposed by a military coup led by Col. Sangoul Lamizana, who dissolved the national assembly and suspended the constitution. With the election of an assembly and a presidential vote in June 1978, constitutional rule was restored, with Gen. Lamizana winning by a narrow margin over three other candidates.
Col. Say Zerbo led a bloodless coup that toppled Lamizana on November 25, 1980. On November 7, 1982, Maj. Jean-Baptist Ouedraogo deposed Zerbo. The real revolution came the following year, when a 33-year-old flight commander named Thomas Sankara took command. He was a Marxist-Leninist who opposed traditional Mossi chiefs, advocated for women’s liberation, and allied the country with North Korea, Libya, and Cuba. To break ties with the colonial past, Sankara changed the country’s name to Burkina Faso in 1984, which combines two of the nation’s languages and means “the land of upright men.”
While Sankara’s investments in schools, food production, and clinics improved living conditions, foreign investment declined, many businesses left the country, and disgruntled labor unions went on strike. Formerly loyal soldiers assassinated Sankara on October 15, 1987. Blaise Compaor, his best friend and ally, was elected president. Compaor set about?rectifying? Sankara’s revolution right away. In 1991, he agreed to World Bank-proposed economic reforms. A new constitution paved the way for elections in 1991, which Compaor easily won despite the boycott of opposition parties. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1998. In 2003, a coup attempt against the president was thwarted, and he was re-elected for a third time in 2005.
Tertius Zongo, who has served as the country’s ambassador to the United States and as its finance minister, took over as Prime Minister Yonli resigned in June 2007.
In the spring of 2011, President Blaise Compaore responded to violent protests by soldiers and police officers in the capital of Ouagadougou with a new government and a new head of the armed forces.
The new government of Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao was announced in January 2013, with the main portfolios remaining unchanged.
Burkina Faso History
President Compaor Has Been Deposed
President Compaor, who had served as president for 27 years, attempted to push a bill through parliament in October 2014 to allow him to serve another term. Protests erupted in the capital, and demonstrators set fire to the parliament building. Compaor resigned on October 31 and fled to the neighboring Ivory Coast. Gen. Honor Nabr Traor declared himself to be the head of state and sent troops into the streets. However, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida, the presidential guard’s No. 2 figure, resisted Traor, won the support of other commanders, and became head of state. The African Union warned military leaders that if they did not hand over power to civilians, the country would face sanctions.
Michel Kafando, a longtime diplomat, was named interim president by a panel of religious, military, political, and traditional leaders in November. An agreement called for Kafando to be in charge of election preparations in late 2015. He will remain in office until the next election. Kafando appointed Zida as Prime Minister, prompting some to speculate that the military would control the democratic transition. In recent years, the United States has strengthened ties with Burkina Faso in its fight against Islamic insurgents in West Africa, and it maintains a base there from which it launches reconnaissance flights into the region. In fact, Zida has received training from US troops.
On November 29, 2015, Roch Marc Christian Kabor, the leader of the opposition party, won the presidential election in the first round of voting. Kabor was elected with 53.5 percent of the vote. Zephirin Diabr, the runner-up, received 29.7 percent of the vote. Kabor previously served as Prime Minister of Burkina Faso from 1994 to 1996, and as President of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2012. In January 2014, he left the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress to found the People’s Movement for Progress, a new opposition party. Kabor was elected in December. Paul Kaba Thieba was appointed Prime Minister the following month. Thieba declared his government on January 13, 2016.