Mariam Sankara

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Mariam Sankara
First Lady of Burkina Faso
In office
4 August 1983 – 15 October 1987
PresidentThomas Sankara
Succeeded byChantal Compaoré
Personal details
Born (1953-03-26) March 26, 1953 (age 65)
Spouse(s)Thomas Sankara

Mariam Sankara (née Sereme, born 26 March 1954[1][2]) is the widow of Thomas Sankara, the President of Burkina Faso (previously named Upper Volta) from 4 August 1983 until his assassination on 15 October 1987. During this time she was First Lady of the country. Thomas Sankara, a Marxist and pan-Africanist army officer, became President of what was then known as the Republic of Upper Volta after a military coup in August 1983. He carried out what he proclaimed to be, the "Democratic and Popular Revolution" (French: Révolution démocratique et populaire), implementing many radical reforms. Sankara was killed in a coup in October 1987, orchestrated by his former friend and colleague Blaise Compaoré.

As a result of the coup, Mariam Sankara was forced to flee Burkina Faso along with her two children, Philippe (born 10 August 1980) and August (born 21 September 1982).[1][2] She went into exile in France, where she would spend the next twenty years. Meanwhile, she was replaced as First Lady by Chantal Compaoré. In 1997 she filed a complaint to a Burkinabé court regarding the murder of Thomas,[2] but it wasn't until 28 June 2012 that the Supreme Court ruled that the case could be prosecuted under local jurisprudence.[3] With the gradual opening up of the country's military regime, Sankara was eventually able to return to her home country in 2007, to attend commemorations held in honour of the 20-year anniversary of her husband's death. Large crowds greeted her return to the capital Ouagadougou.[4]

In late October 2014, a large-scale uprising broke out in Burkina Faso, protesting President Blaise Compaoré's attempts to prolong his 27-year rule. As a result of the protests, partially inspired by the memory of Thomas Sankara, Compaoré was forced to resign and flee the country. In response to this uprising, Mariam Sankara issued a statement congratulating the Burkinabé people for their victory, and calling for Compaoré to be prosecuted for his crimes against the people. She ended the letter by stating: "Long live the Republic and long live Burkina! The motherland or death, we shall overcome."[5]


  1. ^ a b Cudjoe, Alfred (1988). Who killed Sankara?. p. 91. ISBN 996-490-354-5.
  2. ^ a b c Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008). Selected Decisions of the Human Rights Committee Under the Optional Protocol. United Nations Publications. p. 120. ISBN 921-154-186-7.
  3. ^ Tamba, Jean-Matthew (15 February 2013). "French MP demands trial of Thomas Sankara assassins". Africa Review. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Burkina commemorates slain leader". British Broadcasting Company. London. 15 October 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Démission de Blaise Compaoré : Mariam Sankara exulte". (in French). Ouagadougou. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.