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Faith Nyasuguta

Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s ex-leader and anti-colonial icon alongside 12 of his followers were on Thursday buried at the site of their 1987 assassination in Ouagadougou.

About 100 relatives gathered in the capital by 13 coffins draped in the national flag. Senior state officials including Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem de Tembela were in attendance as well.

The coffins were then placed in tombs behind a giant statue of Sankara erected at the site of his murder.

Sankara’s widow Mariam Sankara and his two children, who opposed the choice of location for the burial, were absent, but other family members attended the ceremony, according to journalists on site.

Shot down

Sankara reburied /Aljazeera/

As a Marxist-Leninist Pan African icon and a hero of anti-imperialist causes, Sankara grabbed power in a 1983 coup and was gunned down with a dozen other leaders in another putsch led by his number two Blaise Compaore on October 15, 1987.

Previously, the bodies were buried on the outskirts of Ouagadougou before exhumation in 2015 for a judicial investigation.

We are happy that our martyrs can finally rest in peace with a fitting grave because their souls had been wandering for eight years,” said Joseph Saba, a representative of the 13 families.

“It’s a historic day, a solemn moment. They were killed, but they (the assassins) didn’t kill the vision, they didn’t snuff out the mission,” a chaplain said on Wednesday after the blessing of the bodies.

According to Benewende Sankara, a lawyer for the Sankara family with no relation to them, the ceremony was “the culmination of the quest for justice.

“It’s a joy for all young people because it’s like a recognition,” said Stanislas Damiba, president of the Sankara Orphans Association, which sent hundreds of Burkinabe youngsters to communist Cuba for professional training in the 1980s.

Global ceremony

Thomas Sankara /News24/

The government has said an international ceremony will be organised on October 15 this year to honour the victims.

Sankara came to power in August 1983 as an army captain, aged just 33.

Dubbed Africa’s Che Guevara, he blasted the West for neo-colonialism and hypocrisy and carried radical reforms.

He altered the nation’s name from the colonial-era Upper Volta to Burkina Faso — “the land of honest men” — and pushed through a range of changes, among them boosting vaccination and prohibiting female genital mutilation.

Compaore, his successor and former comrade-in-arms, remained in power in the West African nation until a popular uprising ousted him in 2014. 

Blaise Compaoré /Encyclopaedia Britannica/

In 2022, a Burkinabe court convicted him to life in prison in absentia for his role in the assassination.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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