The former French colony was plunged into a 27-year dictatorship after a coup masterminded in Paris killed one of Africa’s most promising leaders.

Justice beckons for one of Africa's most iconic post-independence leaders, Thomas Sankara, killed in a 1987 coup in Burkina Faso.

The coup, organised by the now-former president Blaise Compaore — now living in exile in the Ivory Coast — is set to be tried in absentia for the murder of the enigmatic leader.

Sankara was a charismatic revolutionary, Pan-African leader who adopted leftist politics to lift his countrymen and women out of poverty, inequality, and the legacy of French colonialism.

He gave the country "Burkina Faso" its name, which means the "Land of Upright Men".

Sankara was succeeded by his former friend Compaore who became one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, ruling Burkina Faso for 27 years. A popular uprising overthrew Compaore after he attempted to change the constitution in a bid to hold on to power.

For years Sankara's family had asked for an investigation into the assassination and his body to be exhumed, requests denied by Compaore, who has long denied accusations of involvement in the murder.

The trial now marks a watershed moment in the 34-year search for justice by Sankara's supporters. It wasn't until the country's transitional government in 2015 that an investigation was reopened.

Despite Burkina Faso seeking Compaore's extradition, Ivory Coast has rebuffed attempts to repatriate the former president, who is now a citizen of the country.

Sankara's supporters have long argued that the former colonial power, France, masterminded the assassination in cahoots with Compaore.

Compaore, and up to 13 fellow accomplices face charges of murder and hiding the dismembered body of Sankara.

Guy Herve Kam, a lawyer for the Sankara family, speaking to AFP, said, "The time for justice has finally come. A trial can begin. It will be up to the military prosecutor to determine a date for the hearing."

Following the assassination in 1987, the new administration led by Compaore sought to strengthen economic and security ties to Paris.

A 2013 research paper published by Chatham House, a UK based security think tank, concluded that "France wields a level of influence in sub-Saharan Africa that it cannot command anywhere else in the world. In crisis situations, it is still seen as a key source of diplomatic, military or even financial pressure on - or support for - the countries in the region."

Sankara's short tenure as leader of Burkina Faso antagonised the country's vested interests, which had long benefited by keeping political and economic power in the hands of the few.

He famously criticised the then French president Francois Mitterand in a state dinner to Burkina Faso for his anti-African policies, which inevitably frayed relations between them.

In Sankara's Burkina, the country left the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and embarked on a path of self-sufficiency in a bid to reverse decades of underdevelopment.

He led a massive health campaign before being deposed that would see more than 2.5 million children being vaccinated against meningitis and yellow fever.

He also led a nationwide literacy campaign that drove up literacy rates from 13 percent to more than than 73 percent in 1987, a remarkable turnaround in a region that struggled with an effective education system.

While Sankara's infrastructure plans and gender equality policies endeared him to those inside the country and the broader African continent when his tenure was cut short by the coup, many were left wondering what could have been had he been allowed to transform the country.

Source: TRT World