Burkina Faso reburies former leader Thomas Sankara

Burkina Faso reburies former leader Thomas Sankara

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A man poses for a picture as he stands next to the coffin containing the remains of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, during his reburial ceremony in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, was reburied on Thursday, February 23, 2023, eight years after his body was exhumed as part of an investigation.

Sankara’s body, and those of the 12 people who died with him, were reburied at the site of his assassination, which has since become a memorial for Sankara featuring a life-size statue of the former leader pumping his fist in the air.

Soldiers and community leaders paid tribute during a ceremony Thursday, some posing for pictures by Sankara’s coffin. All the coffins were draped in Burkina Faso flags with a photo beside them.

A military officer stands in front of the coffin containing the remains of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, during his reburial ceremony in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

Sankara and the others were gunned down in the capital, Ouagadougou, during a 1987 coup and buried hastily, their bodies only allowed to be dug up in 2015, after the ousting of former President Blaise Compaore.

Sankara, a charismatic Marxist leader with a reputation as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” came to power in 1983 at the age of 33 after he and Compaore led a leftist coup that overthrew a moderate military faction.

While in power, Sankara changed the name of his country from its colonial one, Upper Volta, to Burkina Faso, meaning the Land of Honest People.

Thomas Sankara, Ex-President of Burkina Faso

He cut his own salary, and that of top civil servants, and sold off a range of luxury cars.

During his four years in power, he promoted pan-Africanism, self-sufficiency, real independence from former colonial power France and gender equality, by banning female circumcision and polygamy.

However, in 1987, Blaise Compaore turned on his former friend in a coup in which he seized power and then ruled the country for 30 years.

Last year, Compaore, who now lives in Ivory Coast, was tried in absentia and convicted of complicity in their murders. A Burkina Faso military tribunal sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Compaore’s right-hand man, Gilbert Diendere, and former spy chief Tousma Yacinthe Kafando were also given life sentences. Eight other people were found guilty of a range of charges including giving false testimonies and complicity in undermining state security.

Sankara’s Family Disapproves Place Of Burial

While Sankara’s family was happy that he was finally laid to rest, they said the place of burial was like a slap in the face because of the horrors that occurred there.

His family said they would not attend the burial because they were not satisfied with the site, but the government said the choice was guided by “socio-cultural and security imperatives of national interest”.

“That place is painful for us to put our feet there. A lot of people were tortured there and crimes committed there and murders,” his younger brother Paul Sankara told a media agency by phone from the United States where he lives.

The family asked the government to bury him elsewhere but was told it was at the army’s discretion since he was a soldier.

People attend the reburial ceremony of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara and other twelve companions in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Activists in several African countries still pay tribute to Sankara, saying they want to continue his legacy.

In 2019, a six-metre (16ft) statue of him was erected in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou.

The West African nation has been struggling with a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people and sowed division among the population leading to two coups last year.

The current junta leader, Capt. Ibrahim Traore, has been likened by some to Sankara, as an anti-imperialist pan-African leader, and is using the reburial to increase support, analysts say.

“With undertaking a symbolic state funeral for Sankara, Traore aims to boost his image by appealing to the collective memory of the young revolutionary leader that still shapes society in Burkina Faso,” said Mucahid Durmaz, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk intelligence firm.

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