An army captain who seized power in the West African state of Upper Volta, instituted an idealistic revolution, changed the country's name to Burkina Faso, and was betrayed and killed by one of his closest allies.

Born in 1949, Captain Sankara was imprisoned under the government of Saye Zerbo, in which he had been secretary of state for information and then (from January to May 1983) prime minister. The army staged a coup in Ouagadougou on 4 August 1983 and freed Sankara, who declared himself chairperson of the National Revolutionary Council. On the first anniversary of his accession he changed the colonial name of the country to Burkina Faso and brought in a new flag. He was a radical and inspiring figure for young revolutionary groups across Africa.

On 15 October 1987 his faithful lieutenant and friend Blaise Compaoré took part in a coup in which Thomas Sankara was killed.

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