October in Burkina Faso thoughts turned to Thomas Sankara, the country’s leader killed on October 15, 1987. The young army captain — champion of women’s rights, advocate for local food production and industry, able guitarist and soccer player — was assassinated in a coup staged by his right hand man, Blaise Compaore. Compaore has remained comfortably in power ever since. Though, in the past year, he’s felt the pressure build as soldiers demanded arrears in salaries and better food rations since so much of that supply was blocked by the troubles in southern Ivory Coast earlier this year.
But it’s the country’s connection with Libya that was on the minds of Burkinabe in mid-October, and made this year’s anniversary of Sankara’s killing especially bittersweet for many of them. Before Sankara died, Burkinabe were skeptical of Muammar Gaddafi’s motives in financing water projects and pumps in some of the most remote corners of arid Burkina Faso. And since 1987, more Burkinabe have suspected Gaddafi (along with other parties that, depending on whom you ask, range from the US and France, to the Ivory Coast and Togo) of encouraging Compaore to eliminate Captain Sankara back in 1987.
Now with Gaddafi gone, it will be hard for the sankaristes in Burkina Faso to reconcile any responsibility he might have had in Sankara’s death.
To read more about Gaddafi’s relationship with Africa, Howard French wrote this insightful piece for the Atlantic in May.