25 years of legal proceedings, but justice was served
On October 15, 1987, Captain Thomas Sankara, the illustrious president who renamed the Upper Volta into Burkina Faso, the “father of the Burkinabe revolution”, who has since become an icon of the struggle against imperialism, fell in an assault orchestrated by a commando. From that moment on, Africa lost one of its pillars. Yes, Thomas Sankara was and remains one of the pillars on which rests the hope of an independent Africa devoid of Western supremacy. Enemy of colonial imperialism and very attached to independence, not de facto, but a real independence of his country in particular and of Africa in general, Sankara had the reputation of being frank and direct in his speeches especially when it comes to defending the interests of Africa. Here you can appreciate his straightforwardness when he declared during his speech on the debt in Addis Ababa on July 29, 1987:
“The debt in its current form is a cleverly organized reconquest of Africa, so that its growth and development obey levels and standards that are totally foreign to us. It makes each one of us become the financial slave, that is to say the slave of those who had the opportunity, the cunning, the deceit to place funds in our country with the obligation to repay. We are told to pay back the debt. This is not a moral issue. It is not a question of this so-called honor to pay back or not to pay back.”
He thus instituted a new approach to the North-South relationship, a revolution that disrupted the international order by inviting his peers not to repay a debt for which they were not responsible. He clearly revealed to the world the sacrifices of Africa that allowed Europe to face the Hitlerian hordes when their economies and stability were threatened. Who saved Europe? It was Africa. But no one talks about it. He had made it his mission to restore Africa’s authority, dignity and independence, which did not suit the great powers.
In order to face the threat that the young Captain SANKARA represented, the colonial powers will use their resources to eliminate him. To do so, they will call upon his closest collaborators. Three months after his famous speech in Addis Ababa in July 1987, he was assassinated.
Thirty-five years after his death, the memory of this assassination remains fresh in everyone’s mind. Today, thanks to the relentless fight and perseverance of his wife Mariam SANKARA and his lawyers, justice is being done.
The assassins of Thomas Sankara were sentenced to life imprisonment by the military court of Ouagadougou. Who would have thought it? Africa still has a justice above the fray. This is a big step for African justice. Indeed, beyond the convictions and the justice rendered to the memory of a pan-African icon, Burkina Faso has succeeded once again in presenting the country but also the African continent resolutely committed to self-assertion through its legal instruments. If in the past the International Criminal Court, a neo-colonial legal instrument, seemed to be the only space able to judge, condemn and speak for Africa, 2022 opens new perspectives and testifies once again that Africa itself can impartially judge, condemn and speak for Africans.
Heavy sentences, Blaise Compaoré, a former president sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for his participation in the assassination of his friend and predecessor Thomas Sankara, who was killed with twelve of his companions during a coup d’état in 1987. The judges of the Ouagadougou military court went even further than the prosecution’s case. The verdict did not spare the commander of President Blaise Compaoré’s guard, Hyacinthe Kafando, and General Gilbert Diendéré, one of the army leaders in the 1987 coup.
The case of Burkina Faso today should not be seen as an isolated case but should serve as an example to African leaders and to the people who are thirsty for independence and justice. The echo of this verdict and the feeling that emerges from it show that many Africans are trying to understand what happened and hope that this work will be a milestone in the construction of a political reflection on the renewal of legal systems in Africa. This situation will allow us to get out of the abracadabratic analyses that surround the assassinations of some African leaders who did not hesitate to show and demonstrate their rejection of the Eurocentric vision of Africa; a position that earned them tragic fates.
Even today, Africa is still waiting for the legal resolution of many other crimes still unresolved of some famous African leaders, such as the case of Sylvanus Olympio, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Ruben Um Nyobe, … Don’t these crimes also have the right to be resolved? Let’s hope that justice will go beyond African borders and that the great powers involved will also answer for their actions.
Through this short film, we propose to relive the laudable career of Thomas Sankara, whom some have nicknamed the “African Che Guevara”, one of the most important figures in the contemporary history of Africa.
By Idoxine Ahoumenou & Sèmèvo ZODO