Widow of Thomas Sankara still seeks truth of his death

2015-06-19 09:33

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Nearly three decades after the assassination of Burkina Faso's iconic ex-president Thomas Sankara, his widow Mariam is still campaigning to shed full light on his 1987 death.

"I haven't given up, I won't give up until the truth is known," the 62-year-old told AFP in a rare interview during a visit to Paris.

The widow of the revolutionary former army captain, who launched an ambitious anti-imperialist programme for social and economic change during his four years in power, has lived in exile in Montpellier, southern France, since 1990.

Sankara, who famously changed the name of the former French colony from Haute-Volta to Burkina Faso ("Land of the Upright"), was ousted in a coup led by his former brother-in-arms, Blaise Compaore.

Sankara and 12 others were killed and hastily buried during the coup in circumstances that still remain unclear.

Investigation

This week, Mariam Sankara travelled to Paris to ask French lawmakers to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances of her husband's death.

Several Western and African countries, including the United States, France, Libya, Ivory Coast and Liberia, are rumoured to have had a hand in the ouster of the man dubbed Africa's "Che Guevara".

But for years the mere mention of his name was like a red flag to authorities in Burkina Faso, where calls for an investigation into his death were summarily dismissed.

Desperate to keep the case in the public eye despite the blackout, Mariam Sankara filed a criminal complaint against persons unknown in 1997.

But it took the ouster of Compaore, after 27 years in office, by demonstrators waving pictures of ex-president Sankara in October 2014 for the case to gather momentum.

In March, the transitional authorities of the west African state finally launched an investigation into his death.

Mariam Sankara was questioned in connection with the case in May - a watershed moment for the former first lady.

"I had the impression that the magistrate really wanted to get to the bottom of the affair. I only hope it goes well," said the round-faced widow in a colourful kaftan with a matching head wrap.

'I will return'

As part of the investigation, Sankara's remains were exhumed in late May, together with those of his fallen comrades.

Apart from identifying the bodies, the operation aims to determine their cause of death, "because we were given certificates saying they died of natural causes", Sankara said.

She hopes that former colonial power France can also help answer questions.

"France has been cited as a possible accomplice in the assassination. If we open the archives we would know who is responsible," she said, her voice calm but determined.

"It is in the interest of France, Burkina Faso and all Africa that the truth be known".

Sankara said she has written to three French presidents about the matter: Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and current leader Francois Hollande.

Chirac and Sarkozy both replied with pledges to avoid any further French meddling in Burkina Faso's affairs. Hollande has yet to respond, she said.

She hopes that French deputies will accept her request for a parliamentary inquiry, but acknowledges it will be "difficult" - two previous such requests from Burkina Faso lawmakers having gone unanswered.

Sankara received a hero's welcome on her return to Burkina Faso in May for the exhumation of her husband's grave, but the retiring ex-first lady insisted she had no political ambitions herself.

"I don't see myself in a political role," she said, noting that Sankara supporters already had a candidate for president in October elections in Benewende Sankara, who is no relation.

But she has registered to vote and might campaign for the other Sankara. She is also mulling thoughts of a permanent return.

"I will go back to Burkina some day. My mother is there, my brothers are there. I will return," she said.

Her two sons, Philippe and Auguste, who are now in their thirties and living in the United States, might join her there, she says.

"They are Burkinabe, we all remain Burkinabe."

Read more on:    thomas sankara  |  burkina faso  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.