On 15 October 1987 in a coup led by the then Vice President (now President) of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, and believed to be backed and instructed by France, Captain Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso was killed.
Africa’s truest revolutionary was then buried in an unmarked grave and his erstwhile friend Blaise Compaore became President.
Now twenty five years on the legacy of “Africa’s Che Guevara” lives on, untainted, no matter how much his detractors try to tarnish his good name.
Sankara was a great visionary and lived well ahead of his time. When he took power he swiftly banned the genital mutilation of women and encouraged women to take up leadership positions. He also stopped forced and child marriages.
“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky. ” – Thomas Sankara
Under Sankara the government of Burkina Faso became the first in Africa to acknowledge the danger posed by AIDS. He encouraged all local communities to build medical facilities and vaccinated children against disease like measles and yellow fever.
Captain Sankara renamed from the country from Upper Volta to “Burkina Faso”, which means ‘Land of Upright Men” as a way of showing the world the independence and rebirth of his people and country. He also spurned western aid saying, “He who feeds you, controls you.” and embarked on an agrarian reform that made Burkina Faso self sufficient.
Unlike most African who are continuously increasing their personal wealth Sankara reduced his salary to $450 dollars, sold the government’s Mercedes Benz fleet and made the Renault 5 the official car. He went on to ban chauffeurs and first class tickets for government officials.
A charismatic leader, he was well loved by the people he led and was frequently seen jogging unaccompanied in Ouagadougou’s streets in the morning.
How then, does such a rare man remain largely unknown in Africa and beyond, why does such a man play second fiddle to the likes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as models of African leadership?
The answer is quite simple, the detractors of African development work flat out to keep the African uninformed. They wage, relentlessly, a ruthless propaganda and media war on African leaders who refuse to be slaves of their ideas and global exploitative institutions.
The detractors of Africa kill and destroy our great leaders, as they did with Lumumba, Amilca Cabral and Sankara, and, in their place give us Blaise Compaore, Mobutu Sese Seko and other ruthless, venal and corrupt despots.
“Africa and the world are yet to recover from Sankara’s assassination. Just as we have yet to recover from the loss of Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Eduardo Mondlane, Amílcar Cabral, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, and most recently John Garang, to name only a few. While malevolent forces have not used the same methods to eliminate each of these great pan-Africanists, they have been guided by the same motive: to keep Africa in chains.”
— Antonio de Figueiredo, February 2008
Just a week before his death, Sankara said, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be killed, you cannot kill ideas.”
Nothing can be more truthful, the idea of a self sufficient Africa lives on. The African revolution will continue.
And however badly other people may try to depict us, by giving as examples of leadership the very worst Africa has to offer, I will give as an example of capable and disciplined leadership Comrade Thomas Sankara.
I know that one day we shall have- in Sankara’s own words- “Millions of Sankaras”
25 years on, the profound wisdom of The Upright Man guides us all, the beacon of his exemplary leadership still burns bright.
In memory of Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (December 21, 1949 – October 15, 1987) a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.
A paragon of virtue and selfless African leadership, his life serves as an inspiration to millions of Africans, home and abroad, and like Lumumba and Cabral, his death, is an eternal reminder of the cost of totally emancipating Africa from political, social, mental and economic servitude.