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Apparent remains of Burkina Faso's ex-leader Sankara ‘riddled with bullets’, says lawyer

AFP file picture | Thomas Sankara

An autopsy on the supposed remains of Burkina Faso's iconic ex-president Thomas Sankara, who was killed in a 1987 coup, showed he was 'riddled with bullets", a lawyer said Tuesday. At least eight people have allegedly been charged with his murder.


"In terms of the (gunshot) wounds, what was found in relation to Thomas Sankara's body is really mind-boggling. You could say he was purely and simply riddled with bullets," Ambroise Farama, a lawyer for his family, said.

Farama emphasised she was still waiting for the results of DNA tests to confirm the body was that of the revolutionary former army captain but said "there is every reason to believe" the remains exhumed from a cemetery in the capital Ouagadougou in May were his.

Another lawyer, Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara, (no relation to the ex-president) told AFP that “eight or nine people” -- some of them soldiers who took part in a failed September coup in Burkina Faso -- have been charged with Sankara’s murder.

‘A visionary nationalist’

Sankara took power in a coup in 1983 and quickly established a reputation as a visionary nationalist and pan-Africanist, known for his charisma and trademark military red beret.

He nationalised land and mineral wealth, moved to improve health and education in the impoverished country, pressed for debt reduction, promoted women into leadership and changed the country’s name from Upper Volta.

Many African intellectuals viewed him as a role model, not least because he appeared to eschew the luxury enjoyed by fellow African leaders.

Sankara’s sons Philippe and Auguste have provided DNA samples so experts can confirm whether the remains in the tomb are his.

Exhumed in May

Sankara’s remains were exhumed in May after his relatives had pressed for years that they be tested on the suspicion that they may not be that of the former president, who died in a coup that brought his former ally Blaise Compaoré to power.

Compaoré faced questions about Sankara’s death throughout his presidency, but attempts to mount a judicial investigation stalled. Compaoré fled after a popular uprising against his rule in October last year and was replaced by an interim government.

But in September, Compaoré’s former chief of staff, rebel leader General Gilbert Dienderé, launched a short-lived putsch, demanding that the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections would allow Compaoré loyalists to run for office after they were barred on the grounds they had backed the former leader’s bid to extend his 27-year grip on power.

After four days, however, the coup leaders agreed to hand back power to the interim government. According to authorities, at least 10 people were killed in the September disturbances.


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