Trial starts 34 years after Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara’s assassination

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Oct. 11 (UPI) — The trial started Monday over the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revered revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara 34 years ago.

Fourteen men will go to trial, accused of complicity in killing the revered leader of Burkina Faso at age 37, known as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” during a coup on October 15, 1987, the BBC reported.

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“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” the former president’s widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC. “I want to know the truth, and who did what.”

Sankara, who seized power in the northwestern African country in his own coup in August 1983, was killed when his bodyguard tried to drive back forces loyal to Blaise Compaore. Compaore was Sankara’s childhood friend and chief aide prior to seizing power.

Among the 14 now accused is Compaore, who will boycott the trial after repeatedly denying involvement in Sankara’s death, the BBC reported.

Compaore assumed power in 1987 after Sankara was killed in the coup, and he won multiple elections before resigning in October 2014 after massive street protests demanding his resignation after complaints of unfair election process.

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He fled to the neighboring Ivory Coast after being forced to resign, where he remains and will be tried in absentia, The Guardian reported.

During his four years in power, Sankara had declared war on corruption and changed the name of the former French colony from its colonial name Upper Volta to Burkina Faso “Land of the Upright People.”

The BBC noted that he also reduced his own salary and that of public servants, and banned government chauffeurs and first-class airline tickets. And he also redistributed land from local chiefs to poor farmers, prompting an increase in cotton production.

Education was a main priority of his, and under his leadership, the literacy rate increased from 13% to 73%, the BBC added.

Amnesty International said in a 1986 report that there was improvement in the human rights situation in Burkina Faso under Sankara’s leadership with the government providing amnesty to all prominent political detainees. Still, arbitrary arrests and brief detentions of potential political opponents without charges continued in diminished numbers.