Murder trial of Thomas Sankara to finally begin this week

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The murder trial of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s iconic “father of the revolution”, is due to open on Monday, 34 years after his assassination. Fourteen people, including the country’s ex-president, Blaise Compaoré, will stand trial.

In one of Africa’s most eagerly awaited trials for years, 14 people will be tried on October 11 at a military court in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou for the murder of the country’s former president, Thomas Sankara, and 12 members of his entourage. 

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Nicknamed the “African Che Guevara”, Sankara came to power in a coup in 1983. He was a hero to many fans – who say he championed national sovereignty by rejecting aid from the International Monetary Fund and point to his advancement of women’s rights, banning forced marriages, polygamy, and female genital mutilation.

The building Sankara was killed

Sankara’s detractors say he was an authoritarian leader, alleging human rights violations including arbitrary arrests of political opponents and extrajudicial killings.

Sankara was killed four years after taking power when commando troops stormed the headquarters of his National Revolutionary Council and shot him dead – bringing to power Blaise Compaoré, hitherto Sankara’s close friend and right-hand man.

Compaoré then ruled Burkina Faso for nearly three decades, before a popular uprising overthrew him in 2014 and he fled to the neighboring Ivory Coast. The ex-strongman is the main defendant in the forthcoming trial – but he will not go to Ouagadougou to stand in the dock, his lawyers said on Thursday.

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Despite Compaoré’s absence, the trial is hotly anticipated – with more than 200 hundred journalists from across the world accredited to cover the proceedings. 

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