The suicide of Caroline Flack was a tragedy. I empathise with her family. I lost my sister who committed suicide too.
In that sense, I can relate and empathise with her family and friends with the guilt, pain, their loss and their feelings of powerlessness.
These are natural feelings that the surviving family and friends have to contend with. However, calling for stricter laws to protect celebrities and people in the public eye is not going to protect anyone.
It is a kneejerk reaction to a situation that people who are vulnerable think will make a difference. It is not a well thought out reaction.
It is more emotional than anything else and I can understand and empathise with where they are coming from.
Normally when people are making reactionary petitions, they are not well thought out.
They are driven by other considerations such as grief; pain, loss, and guilt. Those mixed emotions are enough to cloud anyone’s reasoning.
They may think that they are doing something to protect someone else from going through the same things.
However, you cannot protect someone who is determined to kill themselves or self harm. They will do whatever it takes; that is the sad reality.
There is no law that can prevent someone from taking their own life when that time comes.
Instead, we risk getting flooded by over legislation. There is too much legislation in the world and we don’t need anymore.
So when I saw the following insert from an email from change.org, I knew what I was going to do.
“After the tragic passing of Caroline Flack over the weekend, her friends are calling for stricter laws to protect celebrities and people in the public eye. Over 222,000 people have signed the petition. Will you?”
I was not going to sign it. I have nothing against Caroline Flack or her family and friends. It is not personal.
I do not believe having laws to protect privileged people is an answer.
There are people who have to put up with more vitirol than Caroline had to put up with. Take the case of Meghan Markle.
The media has given her a lot more flack; she has been the subject of racist attacks by celebrities and people in the public eye.
The likes of Germaine Greer a so called feminist is a typical example of people who have consistently attacked Megan. Forget that they are both women which makes the attacks so much more insiduous. She is not alone.
The above illustrates the double standards of the media and the subtle racism that is insinuated in the subtle choices of a few poignant words.
Why should they be protected yet have the privilege of attacking people they don’t like for their own selfish reasons?
We don’t see the same kind of sustained attacks on Kate Middleton even for similar things they criticise in Meghan.
The media is always biased in reporting news. A black youth who commits the same crime as a white youth is demonised and depicted as evil and a devil.
At times, they don’t have to do anything bad at all. It can be good. But they will be demonised for being black. Their skin is their crime.
Image shows how the media depicts black people in racist stereotypes and demonises them even when they have done noting wrong but extols the virtue of white people for doing the same thing they lambast black people for.
Yet a white youth is humanised and referred to as a lad who made a mistake. He is not subjected to the racist stereotypes and vitirol directed at young black men or women are subjected to.
We should concentrate on treating people equally. We cannot have separate laws for different people.
Black people already have to deal with laws that are skewed against them. We have to deal with a judicial system that is biased against us and a media that only amplifies black stereotypes.
Nobody calls for laws to protect them from a racist media.
Having laws that protect celebrities only places other people right at the bottom rung of a multi tiered legal ladder.
Celebrities and people in the public eye have made choices to live in the glare of the limelight and paparazzi. They invite them into their lives.
They may manipulate the media to get column inches and use them to get what they want in the form of publicity and influencer deals.
Therefore, it makes it difficult to introduce laws that protect these people because of the nature of their fleeting relationship with the media.
It cannot be ok to be milking the media when it suits them and tell them to fuck off when it doesn’t.
If you don’t like the media then get out of the limelight.
If a moth plays near a candle, one day it’s life will be snuffed out and so it is with celebrities who live their life under the spotlight. It is the natural cycle of that life.
What we need is less legislation. We need common sense that Jesus and other wise sages througout time were trying to teach that, “you should treat people just as you would like them to treat you”.
That would do a lot more to protect our sanity and generate more goodwill than selective legislation can ever achieve.
What we need is more humaninty and less legislation.
In conclusion, I say give us equal rights and justice.
Sankara was written and directed by Ricky Dujany. Dujany claims the inspiration for the play, which is basically the rise and fall of an Africa hero, was Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar.
It is a timely reminder of the iconic African leader; his life, death, philosophy, principles and struggle against power, Western imperialism and international hypocrisy.
Sankara highlights the role of African leaders who come to power; do little to nothing to uplift their own people, protect Western interests at the expense of their own people and national interests; their role in the continual subjugation and exploitation of their own nations and people.
Sankara has all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy. However, the greatest tragedy is that this story is a real story inspired by actual events that are interwoven into the narrative by using dramatic devices such as audiovisual footage from the archives of history projected onto screens in the theatre to echoes of Sankara’s speeches from books like Thomas Sankara Speaks being recited by characters in the play.
Sankara is truly an African tragedy. It is the tragedy of Africa’s lost potential. It is the tragedy of Africa’s arrested development.
It is the tragedy of how those who have the genuine human, moral and political will to uplift the lives of Africans are murdered by the powers that be whose sole objective is to see Africa remain underdeveloped and subject to white interests.
From the outset of the play, we are reminded that Sankara came to power through a military coup – popular though it was – but a coup nevertheless.
However, the similarities end there. The Zimbabwean coup lacks the moral backbone and the philosophical perspective of the Burkinabe Revolution. It was a reactionary move devoid of a sound political ideology.
Echoes of Sankara’s words in the play, “A soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal”, resonates with developments in Zimbabwe and the actions or omissions of the miltary that seized power to consolidate it’s own interests, and create a mililtary state under the guise of preserving the legacy of the liberation struggle and entrenching democractic ideals.
In the play, the role of the military is a world away from the role of the military in Zimbabwe. Whereas, in The Burkinabe Revolution, the military was actively involved in working hand in hand with the people to build roads, the first international railway and other projects that developed the communities; the opposite is true in Zimbabwe.
The military has awarded itself all the positions of power in goverment and the public sector, and has limited involvement in helping to make the living conditions for the masses better in Zimbabwe.
In addition, they have made themselves king makers, the ultimate arbitrator of who has the right to lead Zimbabwe through the ballot or other means.
Reliving Sankara through the play reinforced the principles that he enshrined and lived by. His wit, charisma, humour and powers of mind were brilliantly captured in this three hour long production.
However, it is Sankara’s attitude towards debt that is truly at odds with the Zimbabwean leadership.
“Debt is aimed at subjugating the growth of Africa through foreign rules. Thus each one of us become a financial slave, which is to say a true slave.”
In the play, this quote above is brilliantly captured in the speech that Sankara made at the OAU meeting addressing the question of debt and creating a club of Addis Ababa for African leaders to address these pertinent questions that many African leaders are reluctant to address to this day.
It is ironic that it is also in this speech that Sankara reminds the seated leaders at this meeting that he might not be there next year because of his speech and that was eerily so.
In the play, as Sankara speaks, the footage at that meeting is projected on the screens making the scene eerily realistic.
When Sankara returns to Burkina Faso, he is asked how did things go. He responds that he expects the other African leaders to come out in support of him. However, the irony is that we know it is not going to happen and they are going to betray him.
Three months after that speech at the Organisation of African Unity headqurters on the 29th of July 1987, Thomas Sankara was assassinated.
One can sense the same betrayal happening to the masses in Zimbabwe who are waiting for the military that removed Mugabe to change things, but are in the process of making them financial slaves as they go globetrotting seeking loans and indebting the nation, and seeking re-entry or reengagement with the clubs that Sankara despised for their hypocrisy and robbing the people of the fruits of their hard labour.
It is also ironic how in one scene Sankara receives an official from the IMF who is seeking to get contracts signed off that will undermine the interests of the people and Sankara refuses on points of principle.
This official from the IMF appears in the play in different guises as different characters. He is like a recurring motif that reminds you of the many facets imperialisms manifests itself like a pest that leeches off its host.
However, in the Zimbabwe situation, the new president declared Zimbabwe is open for business, and is actively seeking to engage investors who may not have the interests of the people at heart but their own.
What is eerily unnerving is that the president has no known stance on imperialism as Sankara did. His political philosophy is opaque. He lacks the political and moral gravitas of Sankara.
And it is this stance above, that partially made Sankara the African hero transcend his continental limitations to become a global icon, embraced across the world for speaking to power not only on behalf of his own people but all oppressed people all over the world. Women included. Sankara’s feminist stance is well known and also well entrenched in the play and some of his revolutionary comrades react to it in quite humourous ways.
From right to left: Yonka Awoni in green beret [Henry Zongo], Ike Chuks in red beret [Thomas Sankara], Chris Machari in blue beret [Blaise Compaore], Clovis Kasanda [Jean Lingani/ Charles Taylor]. Image belongs to Gova Media [https://www.govamedia.com/2018/04/04/theater-the-rise-fall-of-an-african-hero-play-written-directed-rickydujany/]
It is apparent that the Zimbabwe situation is devoid of a young, charismatic leader like Sankara who had the political will to carry out fundamental change as echoed in the play, “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness”.
The late Thomas Sankara was instrumental in changing the mentality of his country, promoting work for everyone to build the nation’s first internatinal railway, refusing aid and debt, and coining the famous slogan “he who feeds you controls you”.
There are scenes that are brilliantly captured in the play that show there was an urgency in the way Sankara implemeted reforms such as nationalisation of land, empowerment of women, building houses, addressing hunger and solving the environmental crisis, education and vaccination programmes.
This urgency is absent in the Zimbabwean situation. That lack of urgency reinforces that Zimbabwe is most likely than not headed for gloom.
There will be no revolutionary programmes coming from the encumbent government because it is a government of reactionaries and a privileged elite who are similar to the ones Sankara and others unseated in the hope of liberating Burkina Faso.
It is this urgency above that allowed Sankara to make Burkina Faso self reliant within four years while other nations have failed to achieve a fraction of what he did in over three and a half decades plus more.
The greatest question many will have is does the play teach us anything new about Thomas Sankara. The answer is in the affirmative.
I will not spoil that by revealing all, but I can say that I have read a lot of books on Thomas Sankara, watched numerous documentaries and written a fair bit about him and still learnt something new that I did not know from the above.
Sankara also raises questions about the agency of Captain Blaise Compaoré. I am not sure if it is a question of Ricky Dujany employing poetic licence or he is aware of something that a lot of people are ignorant of. It is a strong possibility considering that he did his research for writing the play.
However, whether the wife of Captain Blaise Compaoré really did influence him to assassinate Sankara or not is questionable, but in my opinion it doesn’t absolve him from the ultimate act of betrayal as it appears to do in the play or undermine his own agency.
In conclusion, Sankara is a timely and honourable production. It is honest, brutal, well executed and sensitively handled. The players rose to the occassion and did such a historical narrative justice, bringing the play to a new audience who may not have known or heard anything about Sankara.
I was happy to see some parents bringing their children to watch this play because it is important that our children grow up knowing our history, and where we are coming from, and those Africans who gave their lives to liberating the continent.
I was not impressed by the accents in the play. There were times when you could hardly hear what the actors were saying because of the funny and inconsistent accents. They were not necessary especially when you have actors using English when we know that the real life characters communicated in French and local languages in Burkina Faso.
That is a minor criticism of the play. My disappointment is mainly reserved for those who did not turn out to support.
I watched over the past weeks as Black Panther trended on social media and it appeared like every black person went out to watch the movie yet those same people who became honorary Wakandaians were nowhere in sight.
It appears that our people are more in love with the hype of Hollywood and fictious heroes and seductive white naaratives about Africa than they are about the real thing, and they remain ignorant and oblivious of African history and embracing our own African heroes and narratives.
The ultimate question though is how will the Zimbabwean coup that wasn’t a coup end. Sankara reminds us that coups rarely end well. As a Zimbabwean, I wish that we are an exception to the rule though this may go against what I know or have observed through our history. There are exceptions to the rule. And maybe our coup that wasn’t might not end up in the same way as Sankara and be one of the most notable exceptions.
What does writing poetry and African presidency have in common? None. Unless you are Agostinho Neto. He was an acclaimed poet and the first African President of Angola.
I knew a bit about Neto and his role in the decolonisation of Africa. He was quite an exceptional leader in many ways. Not only did he become the first president of Angola in 1975, but he was also a medical doctor who specialised in gynaecology.
To be published among such names speaks volumes about the nature of one’s work and the quality of it. You don’t get published among legends like that unless you are made of the same stuff.
It is probably little known that Neto was a poet because his work was not so easily accessible to those of us who cannot read or write Portuguese. But it is also not so well known that Neto, to this day, is one of Angola’s most acclaimed poet and writer. That is no easy feat.
Agostinho Neto was born in 1922 at Icola e Bengo in Angola. He studied medicine in Lisbon and Coimbra in Portugal and returned to practice in Angola.
He joined a movement for the discovery of indigenous Angolan culture. In 1960, was elected president of the MPLA [Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola – People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola] which was a militant anti-colonial organisation. That year he was arrested and taken to jail in Portugal but escaped two years later.
After a protracted guerrilla struggle, he helped to establish the independence of Angola. He became it’s first president but died in 1980.
He published poetry in several Portuguese and Angolan publications and a volume entitled A Sagrada Esperanca (Sacred Hope).
There was little in Neto’s earlier life that indicated the direction of his later life. He was born in a Methodist family. His father was a Methodist pastor. We can interpret through the trajectories of what is known about him that his conception of serving his people was strongly influenced by his father and his exposure to the teachings of Christianity.
It was only when he was in Lisbon [Portugal] that his political activism became marked. He became friends with other future political and iconic figures such as Amilcar Cabral who I have written about and would leave a lasting legacy in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. This also included Marcelino dos Santos from Mozambique.
Dos Santos and Neto seemed to have more than politics in common. Dos Santos was also a poet and a revolutionary. After Neto was arrested and his friend Eduardo Mondlane also from Mozambique and a fellow comrade from FRELIMO moved to the United States, dos Santos moved to Paris where lived with other artists and writers and became associated with the literary magazine Présence Africaine.
Their friendship seemed to be destiny because they had so much in common and as leading intellectuals of their time, it was inevitable. What we don’t know is what role they had in each other’s poetry and if they read and critiqued each other’s work.
Somehow, Neto managed to juggle both his academic life and covert political activities. However, he was soon to learn that mixing politics and medicine had its consequences.
That came in 1960 when he was arrested for campaigning against the colonial administration of Portugal in Angola. When his family, friends, patients, supporters and empathisers and others marched to protest his arrest, the police fired at them. Consequently, thirty people were killed and about two hundred others were injured.
He was later exiled to Cape Verde where he wrote his second poetry publication. It is not clear if he was able to link up with the likes of Cabral in Cape Verde. It is always a possibility and it is also possible that he learned firsthand about their struggle and used it to forward his own political development.
Like Lumumba and Cabral, he sought assistance from the Americans but as usual, the Americans let him down and he enlisted the help of the Soviet Union and Cuba.
Unfortunately, Neto’s rule was not marked by peace. It was riddled by a civil war that was sponsored by foreign agents that were sponsoring sectarian violence and trying to destabilise the country.
His country was flanked by hostile territories. On one side was the FNLA supported by the dictator, Belgian and American puppet Mobutu Sese Seko who got into power through assassinating Patrice Lumumba and given free reign to terrorise his own people.
On the other side was Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA movement which was supported by the racist Apartheid government of South Africa that had no wish in seeing a thriving majority ruled African country because this would make the Africans at home want the same.
One of Neto’s lasting legacies to Angola was his invitation to westerners to invest in the oil industry. To this day, it happens to be one of Angola’s largest export and brings in the largest revenues. However, as in most African countries, the proceeds or these great repositories of wealth rarely filter to the people. They are monopolised by the leadership who enjoy the wealth and treat it as their own.
I guess you can do more research and fill the holes in the life of this remarkable leader. I set out to share this little bit of knowledge about him and his accomplishments.
I will leave you with a poem he wrote in 1954 and entitled Bamako. You can interpret it for yourself, not that it needs it.
Bamako! Where the truth dropping on the leaf’s sheen unites with the freshness of men like strong roots under the warm surface of the soil and where grow love and future fertilised in the generosity of the Niger shaded by the immensity of the Congo to the shim of the African breeze of hearts
Bamako! there life is born and grows and develops in us important fires of goodness
Bamako! there are our arms there sound our voices there the shining hope in our eyes transformed into an irreproachable force of friendship dry the tears shed over the centuries in the slave Africa of other days vivified the nourishing juice of fruit the aroma of the earth of which the sun discovers gigantic kilimanjaros under the blue sky of peace.
Bamako! living fruit of the Africa of the future germinating in the living arteries of Africa There hope has become tree and river and beast and land there hope wins friendship in the elegance of the palm and the black skin of men
Bamalko! there we vanquish death and the future grows – grows in us in the irresistible force of nature and life with us alive in Bamako.
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.
The revolutionary must above all be willing to sacrifice himself/ herself, live modestly and fight the petit bourgeois tendencies that his or her education and privilege have made accessible to her or him such as shopping for name brand suits in the fashion capitals of Milan, Paris, etc. That doesn’t mean he/ she must return to cow hides but he/ she must adorn him/ herself with clothes produced locally, using local materials manufactured by local tailors and designers to promote the local industry and market. Can a revolutionary preach anti-imperialist ideology while stepping out of the latest imperialist motorcar and adorned in the latest imperialist fashions?
MIXING AND MINGLING WITH THE MASSES
Moreover, the revolutionary must do away with spending money on expensive imperialist cars like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover, etc. That money must be used to finance projects to uplift the living standards of the masses. Revolutionaries insult the masses when they drive around in expensive cars while the masses are hungry and have no access to medication, electricity, running water or incomes. If needs be, the revolutionary must travel incognito on public transport mixing and mingling with the masses to understand where they are coming from. That way they won’t need to worry about writing an ideology because they will pen it in collaboration with the people. However, if cars are necessary, they must drive economy class not luxury vehicles to carry out their tasks without placing a burden on the national purse.
The late Captain Thomas Sankara and Afrobeat King and founder Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Africa’s leading lights in their respective fight for their peoples’ rights comparing revolutionary ideas and notes. They even had to time share jokes, proving revolutionaries have a keen sense of humour. The truth is a funny thing that can get you killed if you are found in its possession.
AID MUST WORK TOWARDS ELIMINATING RELIANCE ON AID
A true revolutionary never seeks to rely on foreign aid but must find ways and means to make the most of the country’s rich repository of raw materials, human resources and cultural capital. If the revolutionary is to accept aid, he must obtain it by manipulating international disagreements no matter who or where it comes from, but that aid should not keep the country dependent on the giver. That aid should work towards eliminating the reliance on foreign aid. Aid must aid Africa to become economically, politically and socially self reliant.
STRUGGLE CREDENTIALS A MEANS TO WEALTH ACCUMULATION
When I look out and see the leaders in Africa, I can only conclude that they are counter-revolutionaries. They are reactionaries. They are not acting in the interests of the masses. They are working to protect their own interests and using their struggle credentials to further enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The leaders have amassed wealth and shut their ears to the cries of the starving children and masses. They act as if they have a divine right to rule and some will even go to the extent of bribing religious leaders and prophets to make ridiculous claims that their rule is ordained by God; they forget it is not God who put them in charge but the peoples’ vote.
The late Steve Bantu Biko was a warrior against Apartheid. Biko was southern Africa’s youngest and most influential socio-political ideological thinkers. Founder of Black Conciousness and other community based projects. His ideas were so dangerous he was murdered for them, proving that you can jail or kill a revolutionary but you can’t arrest the revolution or kill the idea. His ideas are still with us more than three decades later. His philosophy on the science of self reliance is gaining more momentum with each passing day.
AFRICA NEEDS NEW LEADERS
Africa needs new leaders with an African mentality, a clear liberation ideology and the political will to implement their promises to the people. Today our leaders have lost touch with reality. They’ve cut themselves off from the grassroots and live in ivory towers. They’ve no experience of how people live on a day to day basis. They’ve no experience of riding on public transport or spending a day working in the villages. They’ve lost touch with the problems and challenges ordinary people struggle with daily because they’ve cut themselves off from the people they represent; they’ve become intoxicated by wealth and power. With each passing day, they resemble the authoritarian regimes they replaced.
Africa needs new leaders my brother and sisters. Maybe that leader is you. Prepare yourself for the time when you shall be called upon to lead the people. And when that time comes Dear Leaders, don’t forget those people who called you to lead them. Don’t lose touch with the grassroots. In the words of Ahmed Sekou Toure, “To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song: you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves.”