Last year, I signed a petition calling for the remains of Thomas Sankara, popularly known as The Upright Man and the former leader of Burkina Faso, anti-imperialist activist and revolutionary, to be exhumed. Now, his remains or what are believed to be his remains are in the process of been exhumed.
I am not sure if the petition I signed had anything to do with it or if his widow and her family’s calls for his remains to be exhumed are the catalyst. It is immaterial.
The good news is that an injustice can be corrected and the late revolutionary, feminist, anti-imperialist activist and one of the best leaders to emerge from Africa can receive a dignified burial befitting a legend of his stature.
It is more important that this is done not only to provide closure for the family but for Thomas Sankara’s story to be told in full.
The truth is something we all want to hear. We want to know who killed him. We want to know about the alleged involvement of external imperialist and neo-colonialist forces. We want those who took him out to be brought to justice.
The exhumation of Sankara’s remains reopens a chapter of African history that those who assassinated him hoped would never be revisited.
Revisiting Sankara’s legacy will provide us with the opportunity to understand the modus operandi of those forces that trot the globe preaching democracy on the world stage, but use proxy wars and propaganda to silence and remove leaders who are critical of their unorthodox methods and install puppet regimes sympathetic to their interests.
The assassination of African leaders who have upheld the interests of their people’s and selflessly defended their sovereignty is beyond tragic.
It has arrested the development of the continent and in many cases set Africa back decades, and provided a platform for corrupt dictators and despots to flourish with the support of many Western nations.
The support of these despots has been a vain attempt to maintain the cultural, socio economic and political hegemony of the more powerful nations over the weaker nations and maintain their stranglehold on the resources of Africa for their exclusive use.
These are the ills Sankara diagnosed through a Marxist critique and offered remedies to cure Africa of its ailments. He reached out to and spoke on behalf of all the oppressed and exploited people’s of the world who refused to accept the economic subjugation of classified societies and their consequences.
He condemned ecological devastation, African genocides and wars, racism, wars of conquest and plunder brought on by the workings of capitalism. He understood that those conditions were unnatural but a by-product of the modern imperialist order.
For 28 years, what happened on that fateful day in October 1987 has been shrouded in mystery. Now, the opportunity to find out the truth has become a reality.
Nowhere is this need to know greater than within Burkina Faso. Hundreds of Burkinabe went to the graveyard where the exhumation was taking place in Ouagadougou. However, the security forces kept them out.
Blaise Compaore who is largely believed to have been instrumental in the assassination of Sankara, has always denied involvement but while he was in office, the courts denied a request by the family for Sankara’s exhumation.
The assassination of Sankara made him a martyr not only in Burkina Faso, but across Africa and internationally. His star continues to rise and many people are embracing his ideas, reinforcing his belief that, “You cannot kill ideas. Ideas do not die”.
His most popular quote, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”, has proved that the assassination of Sankara did not kill his ideas, and that they continue to influence new generations 28 years later.
His mission to confront imperialism, colonialism, social inequality, socioeconomic and political transformation and the subjugation of women has not diminished with time.
More and more movements are sprouting internationally, continuing the work Sankara started and he has become a figurehead of many of these social movements.
The books mentioned above are important resources that make Sankara’s ideas more accessible but most importantly, they illustrate what he stood for as well as show that he was an excellent theoretician who could break down complex ideas and reproduce them in a form palatable to the layman.
They reveal his accomplishment as an orator but also set out his plans for Burkina Faso and his achievements within the four years he transformed his country from a nation dependent on France to a self reliant people.
His growing popularity is a direct result of his selfless task to speak on behalf of “‘the great disinherited of the world’, those who belong to the world so ironically christened the Third World. And to state, though I may not succeed in making them understood, the reasons for our revolt.”
Probably Sankara’s most endearing quality was his total trust in the people providing answers to their own challenges and transforming their own society and governing it.
His extraordinary confidence in the revolutionary capacity of human beings set him apart from all other leaders and politicians who tend to preach that the role of governance and maintaining order is the sacred duty of only the enlightened in society. That means only the “elite”!
He played a role as a leader of African people and as the unofficial spokesperson for the oppressed, and exploited in the semi colonial world, plus he provided leadership to working people in the imperialist world: it is this internationalist appeal and perspective of his that many people identify with and embrace.
Many have no idea who he is. But once they see his videos or read his books, they are converted almost instantaneously, attracted by Sankara’s charisma, confidence and honesty.
Sankara’s legacy has many facets I cannot cover here. In principle, his life’s work provides us with the blueprint of what an African leader can, could and should be.
His honesty and integrity and political will are qualities we should seek in those who we elect to power.
In addition, the way he lived his life with compassion, empathy, in reverence of nature, cognisant of the struggles of women and all oppressed people should inspire us to live a more meaningful life with purpose, and think and act like those mad men who dare to dream and change the world.
The Upright Man, Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, gave us hope when we had all but lost it. He gave us the confidence to believe that we can create a world built on different economic and social foundations and not by technocrats, financial wizards or politicians.
He inspired us to acknowledge that we, ordinary human beings, can transform ourselves by becoming active, conscious forces, transforming our conditions in life.
Most importantly, the Burkinabe Revolution is a blueprint to freedom that he left to inspire us to dare to dream and change the world. It enlightened us and left us with many valuable lessons in the same way Sankara was inspired by those revolutions that came before him.
In his own words, he said we are “open to all the winds of the will of the people’s of the world and their revolutions, having also learned from some of their terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights. We wish to retain only the core of the purity from each revolution. This prevents us from becoming subservient to the realities of others”.
Like Sankara, “we are heirs of the world’s revolutions” and we too can learn from the “terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights” and the loss of The Upright Man’s life to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future.
Revisiting Sankara’s legacy is necessary to understand our potential as revolutionaries and our role in determining the future of a liberated Africa. No developed nation, no matter how benevolent, can provide us with solutions to develop our continent. Let the spirit and ideas of Sankara be our guide to the Promised Land.
Thomas Sankara was a soldier, not only in the literal sense, and even from beyond the grave, he continues to fight for justice and inspire a new generation of fearless warriors, soldiers and revolutionaries. As long as we are breathing, we will continue to uphold Sankara’s legacy and spread it internationally. Sankara Lives!
Captain Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara is the late Burkinabe military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan African theorist and the President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. He is more popularly known as The Upright Man. He was born on the 21st of December 1949 in Yako, Burkina Faso.
He rose to power through a popular revolution or coup in what was known as Upper Volta in West Africa. He was only 33 at the time. His goal was the socioeconomic and political transformation of his nation, eliminating corruption, oppression, exploitation and dominance of France, the former colonial power.
He renamed Upper Volta and called the new country Burkina Faso which literally means Land of Upright Man, hence his popular moniker.
Sankara is remembered for some of the most ambitious and successful programmes for social and economic change he implemented when he came to power. Within four years, he transformed Burkina Faso from an impoverished nation to a self reliant country through his commitment and drive to transform his political and moral ideology into action.
He conducted a struggle against imperialism, foregoing foreign aid for his government, nationalising the land and mineral wealth, neutralising the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
He was one of the first presidents to launch a tree planting programme to arrest the desertification of the Sahel, agrarian self sufficiency, local production of Burkinabe goods, nationwide literacy campaigns and vaccination programmes.
These are only a few examples of his programmes. It is by no means an exhaustive list. He was deeply committed to the liberation of women from exploitation and oppression by outsiders and society and culture.
He banned female circumcision, forced marriages, polygamy, expelling girls from school when they fell pregnant. Sankara appointed women to high governmental positions, employed women in the army, encouraged them to be employed outside the home and set up committees and institutions to tackle women’s liberation.
This article is not going to focus on his accomplishments and programmes. The focus is on his words and ideas and one of his concerns – Women’s Liberation.
Therefore, I have chosen 27 quotes, mainly from The book Women’s Liberation and the African freedom Struggle. The book features two speeches. The first, Women’s Liberation and the African freedom Struggle, was made he made in 1987.
The second, Women’s role in the democratic and popular revolution, was made earlier on the 2nd of October 1983. I was reading the book and was going to write and post a review. However, time was not on my side.
Therefore, I thought that 27 quotes, one for each year since he passed away, was a befitting way to remember Thomas Sankara through his own words and ideas and something, women’s liberation, that concerned him very much while he was still alive.
In a sense, it captures the essence of Thomas Sankara and provides a focus on the man himself, his convictions and his essence without an interpreter or narrator providing their own opinion of what they made or understood of the Upright Man.
Look forward to the review in a few days. In the meantime enjoy these quotes and please share them so that more people become aware of Sankara and what he stood for; his ideas, his quest for the liberation of the oppressed worldwide and women’s liberation.
In his own words, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”. He would happy that his ideas are still alive and are a source of inspiration to the people he sacrificed his life for – you and me – and humanity.
The weight of age-old traditions in our society has relegated women to the rank of beasts of burden. Women suffer doubly from all the scourges of neocolonial society. First, they experience the same suffering as men. Second they are subjected to additional suffering by men.
Our revolution is in the interests of all the oppressed and all those who are exploited in today’s society. It is therefore in the interests of women, since the basis of their domination by men lies in the system through which society’s political and economic life is organised. By changing the social order that oppresses women, the revolution creates the conditions for their genuine economic emancipation.
The men and women of our society are all victims of imperialist oppression and domination. That is why they wage the same battle.
The liberation and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph. Women hold up the other half of the sky.
A diploma is not a free pass to emancipation.
We must have a correct understanding of the question of women’s emancipation. It is not a mechanical equality between men and women, acquiring habits recognised as male – drinking, smoking and wearing pants. That’s not emancipation. Nor will acquiring diplomas make women equal to men or more emancipated. A diploma is not a free pass to emancipation.
The genuine liberation of women is one that entrusts responsibilities to women, that involves them in productive activity and in different fights the people face. The genuine emancipation of women is one that compels men to give their respect and consideration. Emancipation, like freedom, is not granted, it is conquered. It is for women themselves to put forward their demands and mobilize to win them.
Could it be possible to eliminate the system of exploitation while maintaining the exploitation of women, who make up more than half of our society?
The final goal of this great understanding is to build a free and prosperous society in which women will be equal to men in all spheres.
We should be conscious of the battles that have been waged, the successes that have been achieved, the setbacks that have been suffered, and the difficulties that have been encountered. This will aid us in further preparing and leading future struggles.
It now falls to you to act with the great sense of responsibility in breaking through all the chains and shackles that enslave women in backward societies like ours and to assume your share of the responsibilities in the political fight to build a new society at the service of Africa and at the service of all humanity.
As long as women don’t have a clear appreciation of the just nature of the political battle to be fought and don’t see clearly how to take it forward, we can easily stop making headway and eventually slip backward.
Education and economic emancipation, if not well understood and channelled in a constructive direction, can be be a source of misfortune for the woman and thus for society as a whole.
Our women should not retreat in face of the so many-sided struggles that lead a woman to take charge of herself fully and proudly, so as to discover the happiness of being herself, not the domesticated female of the male.
We must say again to our sisters that marriage, if it brings society nothing positive and does not bring them happiness, is not indispensable and should be avoided.
As revolutionaries, we should see to it that marriage is a choice that adds something positive, and not some kind of lottery where we know what the ticket costs us, but have no idea what we’ll end up winning. Human feelings are too noble to be subjected to such games.
The revolution cannot triumph without the genuine emancipation of women.
Women, like men, have qualities and weaknesses – which undoubtedly proves they are equal to men. Placing the emphasis deliberately on women’s qualities in no way means we have an idealistic vision of them. We simply aim to single out the qualities and capacities that men and society have always hidden in order to justify their exploitation and subjugation of women.
Though our resources are ridiculously small, our goals are ambitious. The will to go forward and our firm conviction are not sufficient to make our wager succeed. We must marshall our forces – all our forcs, organise them, and channel them toward winning our struggle.
We should avoid shirking responsibilities, which has led to a failure to bring all forces into the struggle and to making this pivotal question of women’s emancipation into a marginal one. We must avoid rushing ahead, leaving far behind those, especially the women, who should be on the frontlines.
It’s in the heat of the struggle that important and decisive victories are won.
Conceiving a development project without the participation of women is like using only four fingers when you have ten. It’s an invitation to failure.
It is an obvious fact that wherever women have had access to education, their march to equality has been accelerated. Emerging from the darkness of ignorance allows women to take up and use the tools of knowledge in order to place themselves at the disposal of society.
Living in squalor produces squalid relations. Look at the pigs if you don’t believe me.
For the time being, we have no choice but to recognise that male behaviour – made up of vanity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and violence of all kinds toward women – can in no way result in coordinated action against women’s oppression. What can be said of these attitudes, which can sink to the level of stupidity, and which in reality are nothing but a safety valve for oppressed males, who, through brutalising their wives, hope to regain some of the human dignity denied them by the system of exploitation. This male stupidity is called masichismo. It includes moral and intellectual impoverishment of all types, even (acknowledged or not) physical powerlessness, which often compels politically conscious women to consider it their duty to fight on two fronts.
We must pay close attention to the situation of women because it pushes the best of them to talk of a war of the sexes, when what we really have is a war of social groups and of social classes that should simply be waged together, with men and women complementing each other. We have to say frankly that it’s the attitude of men that makes such confusion possible. That in turn paves the way for the bold assertions made by feminism, some of which have not been without value in the fight that men and women are waging against oppression. This fight is one we can and will win – if we understand that we need one another and are complementary, and finally, if we understand that we are condemned to being complementary.
Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of women’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt. I await and hope for the fertile eruption of the revolution through which they will transmit the strength and the rigorous justice issued from their oppressed wombs.
Keep your eyes peeled for two book reviews coming within the next few days. The first is Woman’s liberation and the African freedom struggle based on speeches by the late Captain Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara.
The second is I Write What I Like written by the late Steve Bantu Biko. It is a compilation of his speeches, letters, reports, articles and interviews. Don’t miss them. Thanks for reading. Spread the word. Spread the ideas.
Over the past few weeks I have observed keenly the events unfolding in Burkina Faso. I have written a number of articles documenting what has been taking place.
As I am writing now, there is a meeting in progress, which started at 18:00pm, where the leading men and women in Burkina Faso are in the process of picking a civilian leader.
Maybe before I publish this article, the new civilian leader in charge of leading the country through a transition period for a year will have been announced.
By then, this article will be old news but still good news. Maybe I might have to edit it and update it. Whatever the case is, the facts remain unchanged.
After Lt Col Issac Zida stepped down, the path to a new era was laid. He did the honourable thing and handed over power gracefully. He became an intergral link to history when he signed the transition charter. He duly got a standing ovation for playing his part in the smooth transition of power.
Lt Col Zida handing over the transition charter paving the way for civilian rule.
It could have been a bloody conflict which would leave behind residues of hate and plant seeds for sectarian violence as we have witnessed recent events in Syria, Iraq, Libya, etc. where these nations have descended into anarchy and wave after wave of sectarian violence.
Thanks to the African Union for remaining on top of the situation. It is a good sign to see Africans resolving African issues in peace without the need for external intervention which mainly believes that total destruction is the only solution.
Therefore, it is no longer a question of if a civilian leader will be handed power but more a question of who and when.
The latter question is hanging in the balance for a few hours but the more pertinent question most of us want to know is who will have the honour of making history.
Whoever is chosen will be sworn in on Friday. The transitional president will choose a prime minister who will appoint a 25 member government. They will not be allowed to participate at the elections. The first government sitting will be on Saturday.
A committee of 23 compromising members of the army, religious and traditional groups, political opposition and civil society have the difficult task to select the chosen one. They have four to five candidates to choose from. These range from a priest, two journalists, a socioligist and a retired diplomat.
However, it appears that the church may have retracted the priests nomination citing that political power and priesthood were incompatible.
Therefore, you are witnessing history in the making. It may not be as dramatic as the fall of the Berlin Wall or the moment Nelson Mandela walked out of prison with Winnie Madikizela Mandela on his arm, waving to people who came to witness the end of an era and beginning of another.
However, it is still a historic moment, especially, for the Burkinabe who made this moment possible. In the words of the late Thomas Sankara, they dared to invent the future. This is the future they have invented.
For the Burkinabe, it will be the first time in 31 years that they will have a civilian leader. For many young people under the age of 28, it will be the first time they will have seen a new leader apart from Blaise Compaore who ruled for 27 years after he overthrew the late Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara in a military coup on the 15th of October 1987.
The fall of the strong man might herald a new era for Africa. I have to resist the temptation of waxing lyrical and romanticise the situation. Change is stubborn. Change is difficult. It is resisted by many for various reasons even if it is in their best interests.
Simply changing from what people know or are comfortable with may be be too much for some people because it forces them to change too. Sometimes it’s the fear of the unknown that forces people to hold onto situations that are not conducive for their personal, political and social growth and development.
Change is not apocalyptic. It is a protracted process over time. It requires compromise. It calls for political maturity and interested parties to work together for the common good of the people and the country.
There will be conflict in bringing change to the country because different parties or factions will have different ideologies or methodologies that they believe work best.
The greatest challenge to change is having people who have the political will and honesty to implement the policy and ideas they propose. However, I believe that Burkina Faso has taken a mature step towards building a future compatible with their aspirations and will.
The events of the 31st October took many by surprise. Few foresaw how a sitting president of a stable country in Africa could be unseated by a popular uprising. It is rare. There are few precedents.
However, a number of presidents in Africa who have been in power for decades will have observed what happened in Burkina Faso and they will know it can happen to them too.
Anytime they see or hear of a protest, the events of the 31st of October 2014 will be at the back of their minds. It remains to be seen whether the cries of the Burkinabe youth “Enough is enough” will find resonance elsewhere on the continent.
People power: Burkinabe protesters gather in Ougadougou to protest against Blaise Compoare attempts to extend his rotten shelf life.
Gone are the days when the national media could censor events happening across the continent or all over the world. The advent of social media and various smart phone apps where ideas and knowledge can be shared without state censorship has weakened those who would want to keep ideas of uprisings at bay.
This continual flow of subversive ideas through technology, enlightenment through formal or informal education is a cause for major headaches for tyrants and rogues who keeping clinging to power amid the clamouring calls for change by the youth.
Those who refuse to respect the will of the people may regret their decisions when their empires come crumbling down and masonry and steel structures from the castles they build in the sky rain on their heads.
For a long time, Blaise Compoare like many African leaders, presided over a democracy in name only but not in substance or practise. He did so many things to transform his image to appear like a moderate leader and a respected consummate statesman who had his fingers on the pulse of what was happening in Africa.
He was a strong ally of the western powers in their fight against Muslim militants in the region but not even his powerful connections could save him when the time came.
However, the company he kept revealed more about his nefarious activities and his Jekyll and Hyde character. You can polish a turd and spray perfume on it but you can’t hide the stink. The Burkinabe smelt the shit and when it’s stench became unbearable duly flushed it down the toilet and consigned it the political sewer where it belongs.
The final act by Lt Col Zida to sign the transition charter to pave way for a civilian leader to head the government for a year marks a triumph of the people’s will over tyranny.
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.
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.
Have no fear of atomic energy coz none of them can stop the times…
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.
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.
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.
People power: Burkinabe protesters gather in Ougadougou to protest against Blaise Compoare attempts to extend his rotten shelf life.
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.
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.
Once people overcome their fear of death or the system, they are unstoppable.
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.
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.
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.
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****.
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.
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.
The express train of Burkinabe anger crushed the iniquity of the security forces and dreams of Compaore under their wheels.
Not only did the brave Burkinabe force the government to be dissolved, but they drove Blaise Compaore out of office. The state of emergency didn’t help him. It didn’t stop the protesters breaking his iron grip on power and prising his fingers from throttling Burkina Faso‘s throat.
People power: Burkinabe protesters gather in Ouagadougou to protest against Blaise Compoare attempts to extend his rotten shelf life.
As the Burkinabe express bore down on the presidential palace, Compaore fled from the obscene opulence he was accustomed to luxuriating in. Occasionally, that sewer rat tweeted from the hole he took refuge in.
27 years later, in the same month Compaore ousted Sankara, he has been ousted in October too. Talk about the law of reciprocal action. We have waited for this moment for a long time and feel that justice has been partially done.
Now, we want to know the truth about Sankara’s assassination. Compaore owes the Burkinabe and Africa an explanation for snuffing out one of its shining lights and leaving it in an incomprehensible darkness. He traded freedom for servitude. He traded self reliance for dependence. He sold his soul for a few pieces of silver.
Compaore knew his day was coming and he did everything he could to keep that day at bay. He made the wrong move: he planned a parliamentary vote to change the constitution and allow him to extend his rule and insulate himself from justice.
But the signs were always there. His close friend Muammar Gaddafi was dragged from the sewer by an angry mob who gave him a dose of mob justice. His other cohort ex-Liberian president, Charles Taylor fell from grace too. He was later tried and found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.
Maybe they can share a cell together and catch up about old times when they were once in power, looting their countries wealth, ventriloquist dolls for their puppet masters and aiding the looting of Africa.
I do not subscribe to the African Spring moniker some are using to describe the triumph of the new Burkinabe Revolution. They are meaningless phrases.
Let’s not forget what happened to the Arab Spring. It didn’t change anything. If anything, it has left countries like Libya riddled by sectarian violence. It has left stooges in power. Their economy is in tatters and foreign powers shared reconstruction deals to rebuild the country they bombed back into the Stone Age.
The “revolution” in Egypt was reversed by counter revolutionary forces. Any revolution that doesn’t cleanse its structures of the vermin left by the former regime is not a revolution. It is a sitting duck. It is a reactionary movement.
Blaise Compaore is a staunch ally of the French and U.S. They have interests in the region. It is not in their DNA to support regimes that are “hostile” to them. In other words, governments that put their countries and citizens interests above the interests of these imperial powers.
The demonstrators have the upper hand right now. They have to consolidate their power and leave no loopholes for counter revolutionary forces, such as Compaore and other ticks like him, to manoeuvre and suck the blood of the Burkinabe.
We all know how agents of the west were involved in the murder of Patrice Lumumba. His death eerily echoed that of Thomas Sankara. What happened to them can happen again.
Like Sankara, Lumumba refused to remain dependent on the former colonial powers as he stated in his presidential speech. Like Sankara, that decision cost him his life.
Burkina Faso is an ally of the US in West Africa. They are being used to thwart fighters linked to Al Qaida, a group created by US intelligence agencies, operating in the Sahel region.
This will test and challenge the new government. They are doomed if they refuse to join this war because they might be added to the axis of evil or accused of supporting and abetting terrorists. We already know the script and what will happen next.
We heard the obscene noises made by the French. They deplored the violence that resulted in the burning of government buildings and they were calling for restraint.
Restraint is a luxury. It is a comfort that a man or women who has never lived under a dictatorship and oppression their entire life preaches. They lack the urgency of the oppressed. Restraint doesn’t bring about revolutions. It restores the status quo allowing oppression and exploitation to continue as it has for the last twenty seven years in Burkina Faso.
I don’t condone violence. However, retaliation to violence is not the same as initiating it. It is self defence.
The French Revolution was not brought about by practising restraint. It was violent. It was gory. It was savage. It was all out war. The American Revolution was bloody too. Patrick Henry declared in the Virginia Convention in 1775, “give me death or give me liberty”.
You don’t talk about revolution if you are not prepared to die.
One of the greatest theoreticians of the oppressed and revolutions, Frantz Fanon, wrote in the Wretched of the Earth, “National liberation, national reawakening, restoration of the nation to the people or Commonwealth, whatever the name used, whatever the latest expression, decolonization is always a violent event”.
Getting rid of a violent dictator is no different. Violence is the only language they understand. Fanon went on further to say,
“At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude. It emboldens them, and restores their self-confidence.”
The day those men who once cowed at the sight of the security forces, once they discover that through violence they yield power will affirm its effectiveness. They will wield it like a machete and chop anyone’s head if they get in their way.
They know that they are a member of a powerful life changing force which allows them to believe that they are in charge of their destiny.
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, None but our self can free our minds. Have no fear for atomic energy, ‘Cause none of them can stop the time. How long shall they kill our prophets, While we stand aside and look?” Bob Marley – Redemption Song
They know that the masses united are more powerful than an army that is no better than a band of well armed mercenaries. They know that they are powerful enough to improve the fate of their comrades and fellow countrymen through combining their power and dedicating their lives to the cause.
The Burkinabe has seized the cause of his oppression and exploitation and ripped out the jugular vein of that beast ravaging society. He is redeemed, and rejuvenated with the exhilaration of action and revolution.
But revolution is not like an apocalypse. It is a dedicated process carried out through mass political education, destruction of the structural pillars of the old regime to build a new foundation from rock bottom.
Revolution is abandoning the old and embracing the new. It is process you cannot go through without tears, blood and pain along the way. It is the rebirth of the new man and woman, in mind and spirit, resulting in the emergence of the envisioned self.
The Burkinabe Revolution is an infant still learning how to crawl. It will take a while before it can walk and run but Thomas Sankara left them a template to follow. They have Sankara’s spirit to learn from. Sankara’s spirit is a beacon to guide them through the dark hours that will come.
The battle is far from won. The counter revolutionary forces are stunned but not fully defeated. They are gathering and regrouping in the background. Their general, General Honore Traore, is currently heading the transition government.
He is very close to Blaise Compaore. And as long as he is in power, the revolution is incomplete. The pathogens of the former regime need to be removed from power to neutralise their power and influence. The Burkinabe need to pick a man who embodies their dreams and aspirations.
That man for them is the former general, Gen Kouame Lougue. It is time for them to decide their destiny. In the words of Thomas Sankara. “We must dare to invent the future”. They have taken the first step and there is still a long way to go.
As long as the comprador’s of the imperialists are in the corridors of power, the struggle continues. ALUTA Continua! As long as the people struggle against exploitation, oppression and French domination, Thomas Sankara is alive.
Viva Revolution! Revolution is the only solution! Sankara lives again!
Four years later, Compaore overthrew Sankara. But 27 years since then, Sankara’s spirit is rising again to haunt the French comprador.
Compaore put an end to Sankara’s dream to end corruption, oppression and French domination.
Today, the people are standing up in the spirit of Sankara and saying enough is enough. They are tired of the corruption. They are tired of the oppression. They are tired of the domination. The spirit of 1983 is with us again!
The Burkinabe, the Upright Men, cannot be held down forever. The Burkinabe stand incorruptible. The end of an era is near.
The political messiah and Judas Iscariot: Captain Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaore in happier days.
Today, Compaore finds himself on the receiving end of the wrath of the people. He finds himself with his back against the wall. He finds himself in the middle of an inferno licking the symbols of his crumbling dream.
He is like a snake that has found itself by mistake in a hut in the village compound with angry villagers trying to crush its head with rocks. If it finds a crevice to hide, the people flush it out with fire. They will not let it go so that it can return and attack their young again.
There are reports of dozens of soldiers joining the protests, echoing the role of the army in Burkina Faso that toppled the oppressive regime in Ouagadougou.
Former defence minister, Gen Kouame Lougue is said to be among the protesters. He is the man the people want to lead them to the promised land of freedom. It feels like 1983 all over again.
Protestors are demanding the general’s installation as president. He is the modern Moses leading the children of Israel from Egypt. He is the one chosen to lead them from political, socio-economical and cultural subjugation.
Parliament has allegedly been ransacked and set ablaze. It is a bold statement by the people.
Though Compaore retaliated by declaring a state of emergency, we all know that when the people have turned against you, you are like a straw man waiting to be washed away by the raging torrent of the Burkinabe river.
People power: protestors occupy seats in the National Assembly after ransacking it. They give new meaning to the term “Occupy” in the protest langue.
It feels like Compaore is trying to flex his muscles an intimidate the people but the end is firmly in sight. He is in trouble as the protests have been going on for the last few days and intensifying with time.
They don’t show any signs of abating even though soldiers and police are firing live rounds into the crowd to try and stem the current of Burkinabe anger.
As a Sankarist, I have watched with intense interest because we have waited for 27 years for Compaore to get his comeuppance. I have signed numerous petitions to get the widow and family of Thomas Sankara justice.
It is the least some of us can do for Thomas Sankara who inspired us and illustrated what an African leader can, could, must and should be. A beacon for freedom and justice.
Compaore’s imposition of a state of emergency to end violent protests against his 27 year rule shows the impunity he has for the Burkinabe. He is a traitor of the genuine aspirations and dreams of the people. He killed their leader Sankara. But he didn’t kill his spirit or his ideas. Today, Sankara is with us.
Compaore has already served four terms and wants to extend his rule, extending the misery of the Burkinabe for the benefit of his neo-colonial string pullers.
Faced with a hostile population refusing to allow the government to vote and extent this comprador’s shelf life, President Blaise Compaore has been forced to dissolve government and respect the will of the Burkinabe.
Mass protests against his rule are continuing in Ouagadougou, the capital. The angry Burkinabe have burnt government buildings and set parliament alight, forcing the government to abandon the vote to provide this neo-colonialist comprador the opportunity to seek re-election in 2015.
The people occupied the seats in the National Assembly, a sign of things to come. The revolutionary Burkinabe women are in the frontline marching alongside their men fighting for freedom and justice. They embody the spirit of Sankara. It’s like he never died.
The undercurrents sweeping across the African continent may gain force and bring in untold surprises. The death of the late President Sata sparked a new era for Zambia. Currently, we are witnessing attempts in Zimbabwe to Occupy African Unity Square, in the capital Harare, a call for President Robert Mugabe to step down after 34 years in power.
Who knows what tomorrow brings.
We are watching. The world is watching. Sankara is watching.
Compaore’s days are numbered. Just a few months ago he survived an assassination attempt and I have the feeling that his days are numbered. He cannot stop an idea in the same manner he betrayed his friend and comrade and ordered his death.
Thomas Sankara and the man who was to betray him and kill him in a plot that echoes a Shakespearean tragedy.
October is the month Thomas Sankara was assassinated by a group of soldiers who burst into a meeting and killed him. It seems like his ghost is not asleep after all and his spirit lives on in the Burkinabe and many more.
Thomas Sankara lives on in everyone of us all who stand up for equal rights and cherish freedom. Support the cause of the Burkinabe.
Twenty-seven years ago, on October 15, during a staff meeting, a rogue military gang, either led or ordered by Blaise Compaoré, Thomas Sankara‘s close friend, ally and trusted comrade, assassinated the young Pan Africansist icon and anti-imperialism revolutionary, Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara.
He was was only 37 years old. His untimely murder marked the death of one of Africa’s last anti-imperialist revolutionaries.
His body was chopped, cut up and dismembered in macabre circumstances. He was buried unceremoniously and his ideas, memory and name erased from the public view. However, it remained in the personal memory of Africans worldwide. And this is why I choose to remember this icon to prevent us from forgetting, and keeping Thomas Sankara‘s ideas alive.
That does a disservice to him. He was unique. He was the spokesman of the poorest of the poor in Africa and an advocate of women worldwide. There are those who have a less romantic and idealistic perception of him: they depict him as an autocrat who came to power through a coup. They are entitled to their opinions.
Sankara was ahead of his time. It’s a cliché but it’s also a fact. It is undeniable.
However, one thing is unquestionable: his legacy to African political thought and inspirational leadership are unparalleled especially in the present. His popularity, then and now, remains as strong as ever. Once he came to power, he undertook the most ambitious and radical programme for socioeconomic change ever attempted on the African continent, then and now.
He is remembered for the value he placed on discipline, plus his integrity and selflessness. He implemented radical reforms when he came to power. His ministers drove small cars and travelled economy class. Sankara, himself, rode a bicycle. Chauffeur driven Mercedes Benz and 1st class airline tickets were banned.
He reduced his own salary and that of his own government ministers and public servants. He left nothing in the way of the immediate and radical transformation of society which is a move that upset his opponents and the western powers.
They (France and her allies) feared his ideology of an independent Africa which was not dependent on the West for its survival. It threatened its hegemonic control over Burkina Faso and other west African colonies.
He was an advocate for good governance, sustainability and transparency.
He understood why women are so critical to Africa’s transformation and he implemented bodies and policies that addressed women’s rights long before it was popular.
Decades before Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was calling on African men to be feminists, he had already declared, “We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph.”Thomas Sankara viewed the struggle of Burkina Faso’s women as “part of the worldwide struggle of all women”.
Sankara was a preeminent thinker. He was the first African leader to recruit women into the military and appoint them to major cabinet positions. He was a doer not just a talker.
He was not afraid of challenging culture and tradition. He risked the ire of Burkinabè men by banning forced marriages and encouraging women to work outside the home, plus implementing policies to retain girls at school when they fell pregnant.
He put an end on the pressure on women to marry. He viewed the emancipation of women as central to dismantling the stranglehold of the feudal system on Burkina Faso.
He set a world record, launching a nationwide public health campaign vaccinating 2 1/2 million people in a week. He was an avid environmentalist planting over 10 million trees to arrest the desertification of the Sahel.
To promote local production, Thomas Sankara actively encouraged cotton production and made a decree for public servants to wear a traditional tunic sewn by Burkinabè tailors and woven using local cotton. Western style suits were discouraged. Sankara himself also wore clothes made by local tailors, when he was not in military fatigues, and advertised them at continental and international conferences.
He angered the feudal landlords by taking land from them and redistributing it directly to the peasants. Consequently, wheat production rose in just three years from 1700kg per hectare to 3800, making Burkina Faso self reliant, a feat nations like Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa and other African nations with rich repositories of precious minerals and fossil fuels have failed miserably.
Thomas Sankara shunned foreign aid and famously called for aid that helped the aided to become self reliant. He began a rail and road building programme to link up the country’s infrastructure and improve market accessibility.
Instead of foreign aid, he relied on (national building exercises) the commitment and energy of the Burkinabè to lift Burkina Faso out of the economic doldrums.
His political education was simple: “Let us consume only what we ourselves control!” Be self sufficient. Be honest. Live simply. But above all, it was his main goal that resonated beyond Burkina Faso and the African continent: Sankara wanted a fairer, proud, independent Africa that was equipped to tackle its challenges and that is what ultimately cost him his life.
He famously said, “Where is imperialism?” Look at your plates when you eat. These imported grains of rice, corn, and millet – that is imperialism.”
His solution was self reliance through growing what they could consume.
Thomas Sankara was a political statesmen and a political thinker who merged theory with practise in the manner of great philosopher-Kings throughout human history. His dual approach places him in the exalted company of a few.
What probably sets Sankara aside is his application of Marxist-Lenist ideology to drive structural change in an unequal society characterised by poverty and oppression by a tiny political minority.
His appeal to the majority of modern Africans, unlike the current crop of African leaders, is his undisguised dedication to the welfare and well being of his country and country-people.
Few African leaders today can match his extraordinary zeal to uplift Africa and its citizens. Today’s breed of African leaders come to power and do little or nothing to change the miserable conditions the masses find themselves in.
After independence, the people are left asking: what did we fight for. The only change in the post-independent state is the colour of the oppressor by a tiny wealthy minority.
There are no sweeping policy, structural or socioeconomic changes. There are a few aesthetic changes but the colonial structure and apparatus remain virtually intact and are used to maintain the status quo after independence.
Imperialism and neocolonialism emerge as the true winners and economic apartheid continues unchecked.
Captain Thomas Sankara in Harare flanked by the first prime minister of Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and Zimbabwe’s first president Canaan Sodindo Banana.
However, Thomas Sankara was a class apart from the types described above. He was an African populist like Steve Bantu Biko. They both embraced the tenets of African socialism but their emphasis was on structural change such as the transformation of their countries’ economies, policies and their societies for the benefit of their people.
Apart from their youth and charm, Biko and Sankara were doers, active participants in social transformation, contrary to the older brand of African socialists and nationalists who were theorists and merely played lip service to their political rhetoric.
They both came up with genuine and practical liberation ideologies.
Biko and Sankara, like Amilcar Cabral, believed in the intelligentsia committing class suicide to help uplift the masses because they believed that the gap between the black intelligentsia and the masses was a deterrent to development.
Two of Africa’s finest sons and popular leaders: Captain Thomas Sankara and Samora Machel (president of Mozambique)
Sankara’s untimely death robbed both the Burkinabè and Africa of a young charismatic leader who was chartering a new course. However, he left behind a template of what an African leader can, could, must and should be.
Captain Thomas Sankara with Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi
Today, there are many committed Sankarists across the African continent, extending, into the Diaspora reinforcing Sankara’s thoughts: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas“.
The appeal of Sankara’s ideas is even stronger today because of the growing divide betweens the haves and have-nots, the oppressed and the oppressed, the western puppets and masses.
Thomas Sankara‘s radical four year rule in the early 1980s transforming Upper Volta, which he renamed Burkina Faso (the land of upright men), into a self reliant nation fired the imagination of Africans and Pan Africanists. His ideas not only found currency with the Burkinabè but they resonated elsewhere in Africa and the Diaspora.
Sankara’s ideology of African economic independence, self reliance, freedom from serfdom and slavery, education, literacy, women’s equality, addressing deforestation and wiping out corruption are ideas that are still poignant in the struggle for African liberation and the realisation of the envisioned self.
This is why Thomas Sankara is still as popular and relevant as ever. His ideology, memories and popularity have a longevity which continues to haunt those responsible for his murder. They assassinated him but they didn’t kill his ideas.
Sankara’s Revolution sent seismic shocks throughout the continent threatening the status quo of France’s unchallenged dominance of its ex-colonies in West Africa and the corrupt regimes (neocolonial elite or puppets) acting as gatekeepers of these neocolonialist states.
Thomas Sankara spoke in layman’ terms publicly and at forums such as the OAU (Organisation of African Unity), articulately diagnosing the raping and pillaging of Africa by the neocolonialist powers using proxy wars, Western finance and trade. He pinpointed the pitfalls of aid saying it simply and clearly, “he who feeds you, controls you”.
He also provided the remedy to his diagnosis.
He called for the formation of the Club of Addis Ababa to collectively confront the catastrophes and issues debt was causing in Africa. He reiterated the benefits of a united front of African nations to refuse to pay debt for many reasons such as if Africa paid, it would face a crisis.
He said, “It is our duty to create an Addis Adeba’s unified front against debt. That is the only way to assert that refusing to repay is not an aggressive move on our part, but a fraternal move to speak the truth.”
Best friends, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings (Ghana) and Captain Thomas Sankara
In addition, he argued that the current governments were not the ones who had run up the debts. It was their (neocolonialist powers) cousins. Therefore, it was not Africans’ responsibility to repay that debt.
Below is an excerpt of his speech against debt at the OAU in Addis Ababa in 1987:
“We think that debt has to be seen from the standpoint of its origins. Debt’s origins come from colonialism’s origins. Those who lend us money are those who had colonized us before. They are those who used to manage our states and economies.Colonizers are those who indebted Africa through their brothers and cousins who were the lenders. We had no connections with this debt. Therefore we cannot pay for it. Debt is neo-colonialism, in which colonizers transformed themselves into “technical assistants”.We should better say “technical assassins”.
They present us with financing, with financial backers. As if someone’s back could create development. We have been advised to go to these lenders. We have been proposed with nice financial set-ups. We have been indebted for fifty, sixty years and even more. That means we have been led to compromise our people for fifty years and more.
Under its current form, that is imperialism controlled, debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave, of those who had been treacherous enough to put money in our countries with obligations for us to repay. We are told to repay, but it is not a moral issue. It is not about this so-called honour of repaying or not.”
He was aware about the role of Western aid and equally clear on the role of debt in controlling Africa as he stated: “The root of the disease was political. The treatment could only be political. Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general, welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us, subjugating us, and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural affairs. We chose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.”
Three months after this famous speech at the OAU, the angel of death closed in on Thomas Sankara because of his outspoken and uncompromising stance against neocolonialism and white supremacy.
He had prophesied at the OAU summit that, “If Burkina Faso alone were to refuse to pay the debt, I wouldn’t be at the next conference.”
Unfortunately, he was correct.
He was warned to take action but he refused because he chose to remain true to the ideals and spirit of the revolution.
Thomas Sankara‘s narrative has all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy. It has betrayal, intrigue, friendship, loyalty, a hero, a villain; he is overthrown and murdered at the request of his best friend, ally and trusted comrade.
Most important of all, his case study is a must for those who preach about Black Consciousness and unity. It illustrates the selfless approach and self discipline required to practise what you preach especially if you are dedicated to African advancement and development.
If you want to find a solution to the problems afflicting Africa, Thomas Sankara‘s narrative provides the perfect case study. He is the antithesis to the current crop of neocolonialist puppets.
Africa’s leaders and political parties should borrow several pages out of his book, if not the whole book.
Thomas Sankara‘s character and ideology doesn’t fit in with the dominant narrative propagated in the west for decades. It is impossible to find a less corrupt, selfless or self-serving leader than Thomas Sankara. It is even more impossible to find a leader today with more integrity than Sankara.
He was a man among great men. This is why he is referred to as The Upright Man.