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Burkina Faso Ex-Präsident Compaore Archiv 2011
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/R. Blackwell

Friction between West African neighbors

Mark Caldwell (AFP, Reuters, AP)
December 22, 2015

A warrant for the arrest of an ousted head of state and the mysterious death of a left-wing revolutionary leader 28 years ago could signal a challenge for Burkina Faso's president elect Roch Marc Kabore.


Ivory Coast has so far declined to give a substantive response to an international arrest warrant issued by Burkina Faso for former President Blaise Compaore (pictured above).

"The government has been notified. We have nothing official and no comment to make," Ivory Coast's government spokesman, Bruno Kone said.

Compaore fled to Ivory Coast when he was forced from office in Burkina Faso by a popular uprising in October 2014 after 27 years in power.

The arrest warrant relates to his suspected role in the murder of Thomas Sankara, a left-wing revolutionary and president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987, the year of his death. Sankara and 12 of his supporters were killed in a coup which brought Compaore to power.

Compaore has always denied involvement in Sankara's killing.

Any possible transfer of Compaore from Ivory Coast to the judiciary of Burkina Faso, may depend on ties between the two countries.

Bram Posthumous, a veteran reporter on West Africa, told DW that relations between Burkina Faso's president elect Roch Marc Kabore and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara "are not at all bad."

But he said that Ouattara does have a loyalty problem because he is "beholden to his old friend Blaise Compaore." Kabore and his party, Movement of the People of Progress, meanwhile "must be seen to be doing the will of the people and it is abundantly clear that the Burkinabe people want justice."

Posthumous said the earliest one can expect any indication of Ouattara's intentions will be when he visits Burkina Faso for Kabore's inauguration as president.

Burkina Faso Präsidentschaftswahlen Roch Marc Christian Kabore
Anaylsts say President elect Roch Marc Christian Kabore will have to respect the people's desire for justiceImage: DW/K. Gänsler

Political commentator James Amedeker, who is based in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, told DW that "Kabore has to listen to the voice of the people and the people want Compoare to stand trial."

Human remains

Remains believed to be those of Sankara were exhumed in May 2015 from a cemetery on the edge of Ouagadougou.

But on Monday, a police lab in the southern French city of Marseille helping to investigate Sankara's death said the "state of the remains" made it impossible to detect any DNA, according to family lawyer Benewende Stanislas Sankara, who is not related to the former president.

It had been hoped that the DNA tests would confirm that the remains were those of Sankara, whose death certificate said he died of "natural causes."

Autopsy results released by the lab in October said the supposed remains of the leader "were riddled with bullets."

Sankara's family now have two weeks to decide whether to seek additional testing or analysis from different experts.

Sankara's death was considered taboo in Burkina Faso while Compaore was in power. The probe into his demise was launched five months after Compaore was toppled.

At least five other people, mostly former soldiers who served in Compaore's elite presidential guard, the RSP, have been charged in connection with Sankara's killing.

Thomas Sankara ARCHIV
Thomas Sankara: 'still admired in West Africa'Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Joe

They include the Fidelo Guebre, the military health chief at the time of the 1987 coup who is alleged to have signed the "natural causes" death certificate and General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore's former chief of staff, who led a short-lived coup in September 2015.

Thomas Sankara was a left-wing revolutionary, military captain and head of state, who reduced infant mortality and boosted school attendance. His admirers referred to him as Africa's Che Guevara and it was he who changed the country's name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which roughly translates as "land of the upright people."

Writing in April 2015, South Africa's Mail&Guardian newspaper said "Sankara is still admired in West Africa for his ideas, such as promoting women, and held up as an example of a leader by a generation of Burkinabe born after he died. Critics, including Amnesty International, say he abused military rule by imprisoning union leaders without trial."

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