Burkina Faso’s transition government has announced that the remains of President Thomas Sankara and his 12 companions assassinated on 15 October 1987 will be reburied later this month, at the Thomas Sankara Memorial in the capital, Ouagadougou.
This decision is the result of consultations within the Armed Forces, the families of the victims, the customary and religious authorities and the International Committee of the Thomas Sankara Memorial, according to a statement issued on Friday.
The bodies of Sankara and his companions of the People’s Democratic Revolution (RDP) were exhumed on 25 May 2015 as part of a judicial process to make sure the remains were indeed his.
Seen as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, the anti-imperialist revolutionary was hastily buried with 12 others after he was ousted in a 1987 coup.
Permission for an exhumation was denied during the rule of his successor, Blaise Compaoré, who left office in 2014 amid street protests.
Mr Compaoré received a life sentence in absentia for his role in the assassination of Sankara.
Sankara’s reburial will be done according to customary funeral rites followed by religious and military ceremonies.
Today, Thomas Sankara is seen as a hero in Burkina Faso. His face adorns stickers and t-shirts, and there’s even a large statue of him in the country’s capital, Ouagadougou.
Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty ImagesTwo men pose in front of the Thomas Sankara statue in 2020.
But questions remain about his death. Though Compaoré always denied explicitly ordering Sankara’s assassination, he and 13 other men are currently on trial for his death. (Compaoré, living in exile in the Ivory Coast, is being tried in absentia.)
“We have been waiting for this moment,” said Mariam Sankara, Thomas Sankara’s widow. Though she’s convinced that Compaoré orchestrated her husband’s death, Mariam thinks he had help from France.
Indeed, France has long faced such allegations. And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, even agreed to send a number of declassified files to Burkina Faso for review in 2017. However, he did not send any from François Mitterand, whose presidency overlapped with Sankara’s.
Though his life and his presidency were cut short, Thomas Sankara’s legacy remains compelling to many living in Burkina Faso today. Sankara himself understood that, noting a week before he died: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”