The massacre of October 15, 1987
From the beginning of Sankara’s government, political groups and lobbyists worked to get rid of Sankara. For the USA, even at the end of the Cold War, Burkina Faso was still subordinate to military and strategic interests in the East-West conflict. Drifting into the eastern camp was not tolerated. For a Franco-African complex (especially France, Ivory Coast, Togo) economic, political and military interests against Sankara had to be preserved. Sankara escaped attacks several times. Anyone who wanted to put a coup against him in their own country could at least rely on the cooperation and recognition of the political leaderships of the countries mentioned. But the reasons for the fall of Sankara cannot be reduced solely to external or exogenous factors.
According to computergees, the revolution in Burkina Faso had politicized and ideologized civil life in an unprecedented way. The ability to act was weakened by grueling discussions that created more and more confusion. In 1987 the four-man leadership of the CNR was replaced by a 16-person “bureau politique” in which the political organizations that supported the regime were represented and parted in endless arguments. Leaflets of unknown origin defamed Sankara as paranoid in June 1987.
The friendship between Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré developed deep cracks after the latter’s very personal turn to the counterrevolutionary camp of the Ivory Coast and his – completely different – glamorous lifestyle: in 1985 he married Chantal Terrasson, who was the adopted daughter of the “reactionary” Félix Houphouët-Boigny, President of Ivory Coast, applies. The well-known handball player and hostess at the Hotel Ivoire is the granddaughter of the colonial governor Terrasson de Fougère.
Behind the divided friends, two camps were grouped, which faced each other militarily in a disastrous manner and felt each other threatened. The climate of the leaders of both camps was increasingly determined by distrust and speechlessness (10 min video from TV 5 Monde, ” Thomas SANKARA trahi et tué par son ami “).
On the afternoon of October 15, 1987 around 4:20 p.m., Sankara went to a meeting of his special cabinet in the government district in a jogging suit to discuss the publication of a new CNR magazine. A few minutes after the start, the participants were surprised by a firing squad and mowed down on the spot. There should be no witnesses to the massacre, so chauffeurs, bodyguards and a messenger were also murdered. Thirteen bodies, including those of the President, were trucked to Dagnoen Cemetery and immediately buried. At the same time, close friends of Sankara were arrested or shot. A “Front Populaire” reported on the radio in the late afternoon. Captain Blaise Compaoré was named as the head of the Popular Front. [ Film], [ last interview on October 6, 1987]
Who Murdered Sankara? Autopsy and investigation
During the 27-year rule of Compaoré, legal and forensic investigations into the death of Sankara were obstructed. According to the death certificate – issued by a military staff doctor – Sankara died of natural causes. This is what the doctor is on trial for today.
Mariam Sankara, Thomas Sankara’s widow, has long tried to obtain an investigation into her husband’s murder. Since the fall of Compaoré, Burkinabe courts have been able to work on the case unhindered. Mariam Sankara also urged the French MPs to research this case and open archives with secret documents. Her application was, however, of the French National Assembly rejected.
On May 20, 2015, the remains of Thomas Sankara and his companions were exhumed at a depth of around 45 cm in the presence of the families and lawyers. Thomas Sankara could be identified by the rags of his red jogging jacket, which he wore to the national sport on Thursday evening October 15, 1987.
The results of the autopsy were presented on October 14, 2015 : Sankara’s body was riddled with a dozen bullets from submachine guns that were common in the Burkinabe army. His skeleton was also bullet under the armpits. This proves that Thomas Sankara did not, as was officially claimed, defend himself from arrest by force of arms, but was hit with arms raised by machine gun salvos in the front. The results confirmed the statements of the only surviving eyewitness, Alouna Traoré, that a killing squad attempted to kill all those present and witnesses.
It has not yet been clarified with absolute certainty who was in command and who had fired. Some statements are contradicting itself. The main suspicion falls on Gilbert Diendéré, who remained the “man for the rough” for Blaise Compaoré for the next 27 years. On September 16, 2015, he undertook a desperate coup to restore the old rule under Blaise Compaoré (see “Current Politics”).
After 22 months of investigation, 14 charges and two arrest warrants were issued against Blaise Compaoré and Gilbert Diendéré. However, the biographer of Thomas Sankara, Bruno Jaffré, has doubts about the government’s will to investigate the Sankara case, as some members of the government are involved.