Burkina Faso has unveiled a huge bronze statue in honour of its former president and revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara.
The statue was inaugurated on Saturday in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe capital, on the sidelines of the African film festival, the Fespaco, and as part of the grand Sankara memorial monument.
Burkinabe president, Roch Kabore, was assisted by former Ghanaian leader, Jerry John Rawlings, and other members of the government to unveil the statue.
In 1983, Sankara became president after participating in a coup that removed Col. Saye Zerbo from the presidency and subduing Maj. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo who was also struggling to take the nation’s top position.
One can never overestimate the fact that Sankara was one of Africa’s greatest ever revolutionaries and thinkers. Though his time in power as President of Burkina Faso was senselessly cut short, his ideals and legacy will forever be etched in African political history.
His statue was built on the very spot where on October 15, 1987, he and his comrades were murdered.
Burkinabe President Kaboré visited that particular site with former Ghanaian President Rawlings. Rawlings, who had come to power through a coup, was a great friend of the late Sankara.
“We have emotions on this site but we need to capitalize on these emotions to move forward. Those who fell here remind us that we are fighting for freedom and justice,” said Rawlings.
For President Kaboré, the ideas and actions of Sankara must be preserved for future generations.
The unveiling of the statue is also seen as an important step in the construction process of the Thomas Sankara Memorial, according to Colonel Major Bernard Sanou, President of the International Thomas Sankara Memorial Committee.
The monument also featured the busts of three of the 12 companions that were killed at the same time as Sankara.
“It is five meters high on a base of four meters, which is a total of nine meters, ” said Jean-Luc Bambara, who supervised the making of the monument by Burkinabe sculptors.
While president, Sankara quickly became known as Africa’s Che Guevara. In addition to implementing left-wing and anti-imperialist policies, he was a staunch opponent of corruption.
Sankara’s life was however cut short on October 15, 1987, when he was murdered along with 12 soldiers and buried in an unmarked grave by military men. He was only 37 years old.
His former colleague and confidant Blaise Compaore, who took over as president of Burkina Faso after his murder is generally thought to have ordered his assassination.
It is also very interesting to note that former Liberian warlord Prince Johnson, while testifying before Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008, said his one-time ally and Ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor also played a key role in Sankara’s murder.
According to Johnson, while on a mission in Burkina Faso together with Taylor and other rebels to plot the overthrow of the-then Liberian president Samuel Doe, Compaore approached them and asked for their assistance in getting rid of Sankara.
During former President Blaise Compaore’s 27-year reign, he refused to allow Sankara’s body to be exhumed.
However, after Compaore was forced to step down following a failed attempt to extend his presidential term in 2014, Sankara’s body together with the other 12 slain soldiers were exhumed in late May 2015 to unravel the mystery surrounding the circumstances of their death. This was done after an investigation into the death of Sankara was opened late March 2015.
According to Sankara’s family lawyer Ambroise Farama, the autopsy findings were “mind-boggling”: “While the soldiers who were buried with him only sustained one or two gunshots, Sankara’s alleged body was “riddled with bullets.”
“…As far as Thomas Sankara was concerned, there were more than a dozen bullet holes all over the body, even below the armpits,” Farama explained.
The results of the autopsy, which was done in France to confirm the identity of Sankara and the other soldiers, however, could not be corroborated as the DNA results were inconclusive thereby making it impossible to fully identify the victims.
This compelled Sankara’s family to request for another DNA test on his supposed remains to which a judge ordered for it to be undertaken in Spain. The results of that were also inconclusive.
Exiled in Ivory Coast after his overthrow, an international warrant was issued for Blaise Compaore’s arrest in December 2015 for the charges of “murder”, “assassination” and “corpse concealment” after an investigation by Burkina Faso authorities.