Protesters demand justice for 'Africa's Che Guevara'
OUAGADOUGOU - Agence France-Presse
People hold pictures showing former president Thomas Sankara and PM Isaac Zida during funeral service for six people killed during popular uprising of October 30 and 31 in Ouagadougou, Dec. 2. REUTERS PhotoHundreds of people placed brooms on the grave of the former Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara on Dec. 21 in a symbolic gesture to demand justice for the revolutionary hero killed in a 1987 coup.
Sankara - seen as an African "Che Guevara", who would have been 65 on Dec. 21 - was assassinated during the coup which brought his former friend Blaise Compaore to power.
Compaore fled a popular uprising in October after 27 years as president of the impoverished west Africa country.
"The broom has a symbolic meaning for some ethic groups, asking the dead person to point out who killed them," said the rapper Smockey, one of the founders of "Balai Citoyen" (Citizen's Broom) group, which helped organise the protests that led to Compaore's downfall.
"It's an appeal for the reopening of the Sankara case," he added.
"We succeeded in winning a first step towards victory (with the fall of Compaore). Now we are at the second step - for justice. The third will be the rehabilitation (of Sankara) and the spreading of his ideas," Smockey told some 300 people gathered around the grave of Sankara and 12 of his comrades killed in the coup.
A pan-Africanist revolutionary, Sankara transformed what was then the former French colony of Upper Volta into Burkina Faso, the "Land of the Upright Men". His spirit loomed large during the recent anti-Compaore protests.
Interim president Michel Kafando, who took over from Compaore after torturous talks between the military and civilian leaders, promised to investigate whether the remains in the grave were actually those of Sankara. His family have been asking in vain since 1997 for an investigation amid claims that the corpse buried there was not his.
The Sankara case "will be entirely reopened and justice will be done", Kafando said in early December.
Many in the crowd at the Dagnoen cemetery east of the capital Ouagadougou, including political leaders, demanded that the authorities turn their words into deeds.
"We want to know what happened on October 15, 1987. Why did you cut off our hope?" asked reggae musician Sams'K le Jah, another co-founder of Balai Citoyen.