After a very, very long wait — it’s been almost 30 years — the international arrest warrant issued by the courts of Burkina Faso against former President Blaise Compaoré for the assassination of Thomas Sankara, should not come as a surprise, even to its recipient. Especially because the new political situation developed in the capital Ouagadougou after elections Nov. 29 — the new president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré will be sworn in the next Dec. 29 — can definitely be considered hostile to him.
But the wanted tag under Compaoré’s mug shot of is still only a first step in a sequence of events, one of the saddest in post-colonial Africa, which finally confirm what was evident even to those Burkinabe who did not support Sankara and international observers. And that is the assignment of direct responsibility for the elimination of President Sankara, during the 1987 coup, to his former crony, the man who later reigned for 27 long years on the “Land of the upright,” overseeing the disintegration of the country. Or demolishing the “democratic and popular” revolution, so boldly ahead of their time (schools, hospitals, land, culture for all, public spending reduced to a minimum, zero corruption, radical eco-Marxism, pan-Africanism, no-globalism before its time), which Sankara had begun to realize, impressing the affairs of the former Upper Volta a quick acceleration ahead that the rest of the continent could only dream of.
Greetings from Ivory Coast
After his deposition, Compaoré did not go that far: On Oct. 31, 2014, (in the wake of a popular uprising in which the institutional and civil society organizations played a role comparable to that played by the army and opposition parties) he found refuge in the neighboring Ivory Coast, greeted by his old friend and now former Ivorian counterpart, Alassane Ouattara. However, he was on friendly terms with Kaboré, the new head of state of Burkina, who in the past had held a ministry post under Compaoré. One wonders now how Ouattara can get off the hook, either delivering the uncomfortable guest to the new government of Burkina Faso or refusing to do so. And that in the event that Compaoré has not already flown away, to safer shores.
Whatever it is, the general who once commanded his praetorian guard seems in a worse position. Gilbert Djenderé is the main architect of the misguided coup attempt that between Sept. 16 and 17 of this year inflamed the political transition, followed by Compaoré’s warrant. A phase which has resulted, with a slight delay of schedule, in the first democratic elections in Burkina Faso. This new course of justice is determined to make him accountable, with 14 accusations (in the fighting during the coup attempt at least 14 people were killed), among them, one accusing him bluntly of “crimes against humanity.”
Meanwhile, the new impetus given to the investigation into the death of Sankara — the body was exhumed, even though the conditions of the remains made it impossible to identify genetic traces of any kind — has incriminated Dienderé, General Djibril Bassole (former Foreign Affairs Minister) and three other members of the armed forces, who had remained loyal to the former master father of the country, for the assassination of the revolutionary leader.
The arrest warrant for Compaoré had been ready for a long time, lawyers for the Sankara family said (“steps toward the truth,” said his widow, Mariam Sankara), but perhaps they wanted to wait to give a sign to the investiture ceremony with which Kaboré will begin his mandate next week.
This will be a credibility test on the new government and an opportunity to start a process of national reconciliation. Also, answers are expected about the elimination of journalist Norbert Zongo, a symbol of freedom of expression fatally injured under the Compaoré regime.