March 5, 2015 / 5:33 PM / in 3 years

Burkina Faso government authorizes exhumation of Sankara's remains

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s interim government has authorized the exhumation and testing of remains from the tomb of former president Thomas Sankara, a step toward a full investigation into his killing in a coup in 1987.

People hold pictures showing former president Thomas Sankara and Prime Minister Isaac Zida during a funeral service for six people killed during the popular uprising of October 30 and 31 in Ouagadougou, December 2, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Sankara’s relatives have for years sought permission for the body to be tested, saying they suspect it may not be that of Sankara, who died in the takeover that brought former ally Blaise Compaore to power.

Questions over Sankara’s death dogged Compaore throughout his presidency, which ended when he fled amid mass protests in October.

Sankara’s sons Philippe and Auguste have provided DNA samples so experts can confirm whether the remains in the tomb in the capital are indeed his.

The justice system stalled any investigation while Compaore was in power. In one of his first statements after becoming interim leader last year, Michel Kafando said he would ensure the government authorized the exhumation.

The interim government did so on Wednesday, according to a statement.

An investigation into Sankara’s death is one of the demands that emerged when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Ouagadougou in October.

The protests were sparked by Compaore’s bid to force through changes to the constitution that would allow him to stand for re-election this year, when he had been due to stand down.

Compaore abandoned the move when parliament was ransacked and was forced to stand down when protesters marched on his presidential palace.

Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Roche

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