Burkina faso. Thomas Sankara, chronicle of a death foretold

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The shadow of France and Côte d’Ivoire, sponsors or alleged accomplices of the coup d’état of October 15, 1987, will hang over the trial of the alleged assassins of the Burkinabe revolutionary, which resumes next Monday in Ouagadougou. After a postponement of fifteen days, obtained “in the name of the manifestation of the truth” by the defense lawyers, arguing that they had too little time to study “the 20,000 documents in the file”, the hearings will nevertheless focus on the strictly Burkinabé component. And fly over the possible international complicities, yet at the heart of the case, but which are the subject of a separate procedure, still under investigation.

It is in this context that the civil parties filed a list of additional witnesses, not yet exhaustive, so that they can be heard by the Burkinabé justice. All are French, and many are among the close entourage of François Mitterrand, President of the Republic at the time of the coup: Roland Dumas, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, former head of the African cell at the Élysée; Jacques Le Blanc, former French Ambassador to Burkina Faso; François Hauter, then journalist; or Jack Lang, former Minister of Culture.

Over the course of other hearings already carried out, the magistrates were able to measure the unusual agitation in the circles of power in Paris, then divided by a government of cohabitation, with François Mitterrand at the Élysée and Jacques Chirac at Matignon. Robert Bourgi, at the time emissary of Jacques Foccart, the man-orchestra of the French-African networks, for example told in the minutes that he had been commissioned by his boss, in August 1987, to convey this explicit message to the Burkinabe president. “Tell him to be very careful, to beware. Try to call him by a secure line to transmit the information to him, “says the lawyer, who continues today to deliver his” advice “to many African heads of state.

Many fear a contagion of “Sankarism”

In the summer of 1987, just a few weeks before the assassination, the situation was indeed explosive in Ouagadougou. The relatives of Thomas Sankara multiply the warnings about a possible coup d’état perpetrated by Blaise Compaoré, the number 2 of the regime that the “African Che” considered his “best friend”. The presidents of the sub-region, like Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire or Gnassingbé Eyadéma in Togo, no longer support the speeches removed by the African revolutionary, his fierce criticism of their submission to French neocolonialism or to the American imperialism. Many fear a contagion of “Sankarism” in neighboring countries, or a shift of Burkina Faso into the hands of Muammar Gadhafi, the Libyan “guide”.

It is in this context that another delegation, this time commissioned by François Mitterrand, went to Ouagadougou at the end of June 1987, a month before Robert Bourgi’s warning. Guillaume Cruse, who was then working at the French Development Agency, and Guy Delbrel, a close friend of Thomas Sankara, must directly send the following message: “We have information gathered by the competent services according to which Blaise wants to eliminate you”, details Guy Delbrel, who was heard for many hours by François Yaméogo, the Burkinabé magistrate in charge of the case. In response, “Thomas burst out laughing,” he recalls. Then he added: “Come on, we do have some disagreements between us and that’s quite normal. If there weren’t, the French would accuse us of forming a dictatorship. “

Muscular exchange between the “African Che” and the French President

Thomas Sankara, however, does not only have friends within Mitterrandie. His relations with Guy Penne, François Mitterrand’s adviser on African affairs, are notoriously execrable. And his disillusionment as his bitterness in the face of the manifest hostility of a power supposed to embody “socialism” has continued to grow. In a diplomatic telex dated March 19, 1984 and exhumed by the weekly Jeune Afrique (October 21, 2007), Ambassador Jacques Le Blanc delivers his analysis, as a warning to his hierarchy: “(Sankara) has behind him, with the youth, all the fringe of the population who willingly take to the streets. No one would venture to dispute the merits of this revolution, its inspiration, the integrity of its leaders and the dedication to the public cause of the members of the Committee (which runs the country – Editor’s note). “

But the big explanation with the French president comes on November 17, 1986, during an official visit to Ouagadougou. Vigorously challenged on the policy of Paris vis-à-vis apartheid in South Africa, considered complacent by Thomas Sankara, François Mitterrand answered him thus: “He is a disturbing man, Captain Sankara. (…) He does not leave you with a clear conscience (…). I admire his qualities, which are great, but he cuts too much. He goes further than necessary. “Jack Lang, who visited Ouagadougou a few months later with Danielle Mitterrand to meet the Burkinabe leader, assures us that the muscular exchange was not to displease the French president:” I am sure he had a lot of esteem for him. He found him to be a man of character and convictions. This is one of the paradoxes of this assassination. With the exception of Jacques Chirac, who made no secret of his detestation of Sankara, most of his potential or declared enemies, from Jacques Foccart to Félix Houphouët-Boigny, showed a surprising mixture of mistrust, hostility and ‘admiration.

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