Thomas Sankara was an icon in Burkina Faso for using his power to promote peace and equality. He was called the Father of the Revolution for the new vision he incited for his nation and its citizens: a vision void of the corruption and terror which plagued the country for many years. Today, Burkina Faso’s courts are looking to identify the key players in his assassination.
Political power could not corrupt Thomas Sankara, but it could definitely corrupt the people who opposed him or who wanted his spot. Blaise Compaore, a top associate of Sankara’s at the time of his death, did not subscribe to Sankara’s vision of a more equal Burkina Faso. With a desire to run the nation, and a distate for Sankara’s revolutionary ideals, Compaore led a coup in 1987, resulting in Sankara’s murder at the hands of commando troops. Campaore hid any evidence of his involvement in the killing and became president of Burkina Faso.
Through unfair elections and self-interested policy changes, Compaore stayed in power for 27 years, until a popular political uprising drove him out of the country and his seat of control. Throughout his whole time at Burkina Faso’s head, Compaore did everything in his power to ensure that he would not be tried for Sankara’s murder, including destroying recordings and documents, using his immunity, and eliminating people with valuable information. According to the B.B.C., this is why it took 34 years for a trial for this assassination to finally begin.
However, the subterfuge came to an end after the uprising in 2014, when Compaore was forced out of power and handed an arrest warrant as a suspect in Sankara’s death. Starting on Monday, Compaore will be the main defendant in the murder trial. Although he will not personally attend, Compaore and his accomplices will risk the loss of their freedom if they are proven guilty of killing a man who very obviously opposed them.
When the trial begins on Monday, over 10 defendants will be questioned on the details of the situation, their own personal involvement, the motive of the coup/killing, and the person responsible for the attack.
“We’ve waited a long time, all along the 27 years of Blaise Compaore’s regime,” Sankara’s brother Paul recently said. “Under his rule we couldn’t even dream of the possibility of a trial.”
Cases like this have a devastating impact on world peace and civil rights because they show many judicial and political systems’ susceptibility to corruption. A well-executed political process will greatly assure Burkina Faso that its courts are focused on correctly recording history and ensuring justifiable punishment for anyone who kills another human being to put themself in a better position.
Thomas Sankara was a hero in the eyes of the public. He was killed before having a chance to leave a permanent mark on the nation that loved him, not to make Burkina Faso a better place, but as a deadly power play by a political rival. If he were still at the helm, Burkina Faso may be in a much better position now. It is my hope that this trial will offer resolve to the citizens of Burkina Faso and Sankara’s family, and that it will prove to the rest of the world that no judicial system should tolerate a corrupted leader.
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