By Thiam Ndiaga
OUAGADOUGOU, Feb 23 (Reuters) – The exhumed remains of Burkina Faso’s beloved ex-president Thomas Sankara, whose 1987 murder shocked the West African nation, were laid to rest at a ceremony in the capital Ouagadougou on Thursday.
The charismatic Marxist revolutionary, known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, was gunned down along with 12 others during a bloody coup led by his former ally and successor Blaise Compaore. He was aged 37 at the time.
Compaore, who ruled for almost three decades, before being toppled in 2014, was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment last year for complicity in Sankara’s murder.
Two of his former top associates were handed the same conviction in a trial that started in October 2021. All three have denied wrongdoing.
Sankara and the other victims were buried at a civil cemetery in 1987. But authorities exhumed the remains in 2015 to identify them and help with investigations into Sankara’s murder.
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They were all laid to rest again on Thursday in coffins draped in Burkina Faso’s red and green flag, and topped with red roses.
Family members dressed in white filed past Sankara’s coffin to pay their final respects. They were joined by former members of his military personnel, citizens and other victims’ relatives.
“We thank the authorities who took part in writing an important page of our history,” said Sankara’s uncle Mousbila.
Among the attendees was Burkinabe politician Mayamba Malick Sawadogo, who was a prisoner at the time of Sankara’s murder and part of a group of convicts forced to bury the deceased.
“It is emotional to find myself here again,” he told Reuters, holding back tears. “It is true that more than 30 years have passed… but it is not easy.”
Sankara seized power in a 1983 coup on promises to tackle corruption and neo-colonial influences.
He publicly denounced the World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes, banned female circumcision and polygamy, and was one of the first African leaders to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
He won public support with his modest lifestyle and admiration remains, despite critics who say his reforms curtailed freedoms and did little to enrich ordinary people.
The 1987 victims will be re-buried at a memorial built on the site of Sankara’s assassination.
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