Dubbed Africa’s Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara wanted to “decolonise minds” in Burkina Faso and across the continent, but his revolutionary dreams were cut short when he was gunned down in a 1987 coup after just four years in power.
The trial of the alleged perpetrators of the assassination, including his former friend Blaise Compaore who succeeded him as president and went on to rule for 27 years, opens Monday in the capital Ouagadougou.
Despite his short time in power, Sankara remains for many a revered figure.
During mass protests which toppled Compaore in 2014, young people carried portraits of Sankara aloft — though many had not even been born during the Marxist–Leninist leader’s rule.
“Sankara is a whole philosophy, a way of thinking and being, a way of life. Sankara is a pride of Africa,” high-school teacher Serge Ouedraogo said.
“Today, we can say that Sankara represents a compass for the people of Burkina Faso. He is a guide, it is he who blazed the trail of hope for the people.”
– Rise to power –
Born on December 21, 1949 in Yako in the north of the poor, landlocked country, Sankara was raised in a Christian family, his father a military veteran. He was just 12 when the country gained independence from France.