12 Lessons From the 31st October Burkinabe Revolution


Burkinabe Protesters with Sankara Placards

In October 1984, the late revolutionary and first president of Burkina Faso, Captain Thomas Sankara, announced during a speech he was making:

Our revolution in Burkina Faso draws on the totality of man’s experiences since the first breath of humanity. We wish to be the heirs of all the revolutions of the world, of all the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World. We draw the lessons of the American revolution. The French revolution taught us the rights of man. The great October revolution brought victory to the proletariat and made possible the realization of the Paris Commune‘s dreams of justice.

A week before he was assassinated, he made one of the most profound and prophetic announcements that would cement his philosophy and personality in the hearts and minds of future revolutionaries, Africans and lovers of freedom and justice all over the world.

A week before he was assassinated by a group of soldiers loyal to his friend and comrade, Blaise Compaore, Thomas Sankara announced,  “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”

These words would come to embody the undying spirit of Thomas Sankara and what he represented. Thomas Sankara understood that no race, people, ethnic group or class had a monopoly on ideas, knowledge, intelligence, strength, etc. These belong to the totality of man’s experience since the beginning of time. His own revolutionary outlook was inspired by the French revolution and American revolution as stated above.

The 31st October Burkinabe Revolution or uprising, or whatever you wish to call it, clearly echoes Sankara’s own thoughts and philosophies. Many commentators who witnessed these recent events immediately evoked memories of the revolution that brought Sankara to power in 1983 alongside the man who was to murder him four years later.

Most commentators who bore witness to these recent events attributed the uprising to the resurrection of Sankara’s spirit. True or false, the revolution was attributed to the lessons the Burkinabe learned from Thomas Sankara‘s 1983 revolution.

It is difficult to dispute that the ideas, the seeds, Sankara implanted while he was alive bore fruit 27 years later to haunt the man who was behind the coup that prematurely ended his dreams and revolutionary programme.

The actions of the Burkinabe echoed the words Sankara made during his speech in October 1984, We wish to be the heirs of all the revolutions of the world, of all the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World. They clearly learnt their lessons well and inherited the revolutions that came before them.

Ideas are not the exclusive intellectual property of any one group. We can all draw lessons from the 31st October Burkinabe Revolution.

  1. The most revolutionary force in any society are the poor, downtrodden, youths, women, peasants, the marginalised, the unemployed, the outcasts, the rejects, the marginalised, the minorities, the illiterate, college/ school and university dropouts. They have the least to lose and most to gain. Spiritual and material poverty are a form of death, and so is oppression and exploitation. So dying to free oneself from spiritual and mental death infuses the most revolutionary force in society with life. They become alive. They are resurrected by fighting the cause of their death – oppression and exploitation. And if they lose their lives in the process, their deaths are a politicising factor which serves to rally and inspire their comrades to the fight to the end.

    Burkinabe protesters

    Have no fear of atomic energy coz none of them can stop the times…

  2. The least revolutionary forces in the country are the security forces, the middle class, civil servants and the compradors. These are the reactionary forces. They have the most to lose. They are reactionary forces and their role in society is to protect the interests of capital and preserve the status quo because their aspiration is to earn a few more crumbs that fall from the tables of the tiny political elite. At best, they aspire to be one of them. The reactionary forces are potential exploiters and dictators in hiding. Beware of that brood of vipers.
  3. The iron fist of any dictator is not indestructible. It is human and can be broken. The iron fist, like metal, eventually suffers fatigue. No fist can remain clenched forever. Eventually, the tensile and cyclic loads begin to tell and cracks develop. Various movements, political parties and civic society organisations, individuals, factions and external forces, will tend to pull the fist apart and the various forces vary over time. The fatigue cracks are very slow to develop initially but their rate of growth increases dramatically as the cracks deepen and take root. The top of the crack is accelerated by the stress. The cracks are promoted by the presence of defects in the original socioeconomic and political structural setup. The blemishes increase over time and all the centres that have been poorly drilled or mechanised tend to be the origins of the majority of the cracks. In some cases, it is possible to establish how quickly the crack grew. Sometimes, it is not. In this case, the cracks were apparent for a while. The attampted assassination of Blaise Compaore and increasing protests showed ever widening cracks. Eventually, the fatigue imploded spectacularly on the 31st of October 2014. The iron fist unclenched and fell apart while the nations watched from afar and marvelled how that political harlot, that had fornicated with many nations had fallen spectacularly in one hour.
  4. The ballot is stronger than the bullet but the unflinching will of the people is the strongest. There are many ways to remove a dictator from power. When the ballot and the bullet fail, you can do it the Burkinabe way. Burn the institutions of his power and head for the dictator’s residence and pick him apart limb by limb if you find him. Most of them will flee the moment they hear the people are on the way and they are smashing through the security barricades. Few will risk the wrath of the masses.

    Burkinabe protesters

    People power: Burkinabe protesters gather in Ougadougou to protest against Blaise Compoare attempts to extend his rotten shelf life.

  5. The Law of Reciprocal Action is always at play. This law never acts in isolation, it acts in conjunction with the Law of the Attraction of Homogeneous Species. The later law works on the basis that homogeneous elements are attracted and accumulated. This means they grow during the return motion. Normally people describe this phenomena as you reap what you sow. Whether you believe in a higher being or don’t, we all have a way of explaining this common observation as set out in this law. Some call it karma. Some say, “What man gives that he gets.” Christ’s teachings, “What a man sows that shall he reap!” best encapsulates this. This phenomena is embodied in the physical law of action and reaction. What you do to others will come back to haunt you. So when you are in power or on the ascend don’t look down on those who are not so fortunate because the ups and downs of life are like an escalator where we inevitably meet with others going up and others coming down. Blaise Compaore rose to power spectacularly with Thomas Sankara through a coup. He later ended Thomas Sankara‘s revolution through another coup. This time he was removed by almost similar means in the same month he overthrew Sankara. The material difference is that his life was spared. In addition, his overthrow was his final fall into ignominy. In contrast, Sankara’s overthrow made him one of the greatest African heroes of all time and a political Messiah. In a strange way, their paths keep crossing each other as things return to where they started.
  6. A well drilled and experienced army with the latest armaments cannot stop the will of a determined people. We witnessed the never die attitude of the Burkinabe as they faced and clashed with an army with heavy artillery. They took live rounds for the revolution. They fell for the freedom of their nation. Their deaths were a form of political sacrifice – dying to free their comrades and country from political and socioeconomic oppression, exploitation and French domination. You cannot talk about revolution or change and remain fearful of death. You have to be willing to die if you believe in change and revolution as the Burkinabe have demonstrated.
  7. Once people overcome their fear of death or the system, they are unstoppable. Burkina Faso
  8. Unity is strength. When a people become so united that their can put their political, tribal, social and cultural differences aside, and act together to defend their humane interests, they can overcome the greatest superpower on earth without the need for weapons of mass destruction or heavy artillery. Many political movements in Africa fail because they are driven by the quest for individual power and wealth accumulation. They don’t have the interests of the people or the nation at heart. Their selfish motives lead to the rise of various factions fighting for their own slice of the cake. Even at the decisive moment, they will rather let the country and the people down, if they can’t get their own way. Consequently, they make it impossible to form a coalition of the opposition as we saw in Burkina Faso. They make it impossible to end the ignoble regimes they claim to be fighting. They make it impossible for justice and equal rights to blossom.
  9. The system is flawed and needs to be overhauled. The electorate, the citizens of the nation, have become lethargic and politicians have abused their political apathy. Burkina Faso has taught us that the people capable of changing the country are the youth, the poor peasants, women and all those who are left out of mainstream society. They are the real agents of change. They have taught us that bottom-up solutions are the best rather than top-bottom solutions which haven’t worked since the decolonisation of individual African countries. We need to question our blind faith in these tried and failed solutions. What does that say about the electorate? The electorate, the nation, is its own worst enemy. We haven’t been vigilant enough. We haven’t demanded more from our leaders. We have let them get away with murder. They know it and act with impunity because we won’t react. It is time for a revolution. A revolution that begins with the individual and society and spreads out from the epicentre of the nation in concentric circles spreading outwards. We should stop making excuses for failure. We make excuses for our leaders and their failure to economically, politically and socially transform our nations. We make excuses for poor service delivery by our governments and municipalities. Stop it right now! Stop saying this is Africa! We deserve better. It is our right. Thomas Sankara
  10. The army and security forces rarely act in the interests of the nation. They are extensions of the dictator’s iron fist. Their duty is to keep the citizens cowed in fear through spectacular shows of power. The politicians sleep peacefully at night because these soldiers, this band of robbers and mercenaries, are ready to do violence and abuse human rights on their behalf. Like a mercenary, the soldier is paid to kill. The only difference is that he kills for the state. And he has a uniform. And a gun. He has no conscience. Or he acts like he doesn’t have one. He is prepared to die for the flag but he neither understands nor questions the value he places on a coloured piece of rag made by man. For flag and country, he will oppress and shoot his own countrymen instead of protecting them, simply to continue the domination of the masses by a tiny political elite. In Burkina Faso, we saw the counter revolutionary (security) forces gunning down the masses. Only a few soldiers joined the revolutionaries and supported the masses. These are rare men who have a conscience. The rest are what Thomas Sankara referred to as a solider without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal.” Today, we can see the criminal mentality of the army in Burkina Faso trying to impose their leader and will on the nation. The army and the security forces should never under any circumstance impose their will on the people through the barrel of the gun because they become complicit with the crime committed against humanity. 
  11. When the people turn against you, the end is near. This doesn’t need an extended explanation. Once the people are fed up with anyone, their end is just around the corner. Blaise Compaore earned the wrath of the people by pushing the limits of their frustration and the last insult snapped the people’s patience. They were tired of his bull****.
  12. In the words of Thomas Sankara, “We must dare to invent the future”. We the little people have more power than we acknowledge. However, we have surrendered our power to other people, corrupt leaders and government officials. We leave the fate of our future in their hands even when we can see that they are navigating our Titanic straight into an iceberg. We choose to let them take us to our doom. We choose to let them do the things that we should be doing for ourselves. We choose to let them hijack and screw our future because we have lost all confidence in ourselves. We have surrendered our power to them. However, we must not lose hope. We need to rise up above the miserable conditions that we find ourselves in because we have a positive history. A history of overcoming adversity and inequity. We have developed a stoic approach to wading through the harsh realities of life. We laugh in the face of adversity. We sing and dance in the presence of deep suffering and abject poverty. We remain optimistic in the presence of oppression and exploitation and domination. Now, we must develop hope and the security to be together, to look together, to work together and tackle our problems as one and build a force that cannot be stopped with guns or atomic energy. The Burkinabe have dared to invent the future. Let us dare to follow in their footsteps. Let us dare to shape our vision and reality of the future. The future you and I hope for lies in our hands. It’s our destiny to decide now.

Picture of Thomas Sankara

There is a lot more we can learn from the Burkinabe. Let us continue to follow their progress and be inspired by their brevity. All the societies in the world, throughout the ages and time, have not changed through the philanthropic actions of the most powerful men and women. It is the actions of the oppressed and exploited: the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement, the Liberation Movements, the slave revolts, Civic Society Organisations, peasants and students who have shaped the world. It is time for us to play our part. Let the spirit of Thomas Sankara and example of the Burkinabe be a light guiding us through our own dark hours.

Viva Revolution!

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2 responses to “12 Lessons From the 31st October Burkinabe Revolution

  1. Pingback: Burkina Faso Sanctions Threat | thegatvolblogger

  2. Pingback: 12 Lessons From the 31st October Burkinabe Revolution | thegatvolblogger

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