Thomas Sankara a leader with a vision who couldn't survive western imperialism

Published on by KANYARWANDA

Thomas Sankara assassination anniversary!!

"October 15th, 2007 will mark the 20th anniversary of Thomas Sankara's assassination. Sankara's simplicity, high spirits, humor, honestly and generosity has inspired a generation of conscious young Africans, who see him in themselves. From 1983 to 1987 Sankara led a revolution in Burkina Faso that fought imperialism, internal corruption, and with participatory democracy made exemplary improvements in education, agriculture, and the status of women. A local coalition will soon announce an afternoon to celebration of the life and legacy of Thomas Sankara, with a screening of a documentary by Robin Shuffielf, Thomas Sankara; A Man of Integrity, a cultural celebration, a panel discussion with cutting edge information. We hope you will attend. In the mean time we offer this enlightening article for those who may have forgotten or do not know about Thomas Sankara."


Thomas Sankara:
A View of The Future for Africa and The Third World
by Ameth LO October 15, 2005

Thomas Sankara was born on November 21st, 1949 in Yako, Burkina Faso, of a
Peuhl father and a More mother, two ethnic groups in Burkina Faso. This
small country in the Sahel region, located in a part of West African known
for its extreme poverty has an infant mortality rate of 280 deaths per 1000
births and an annual per capita income of $150. The country is located in a
region with numerous drought cycles that kill part of the rural population
every year and has long lived in political turmoil as a result of elites
fighting to control the State for personal gain. Persistent poverty forces a
large part of the Burkinabè population to find refuge in neighbouring Ivory
Cost as cheap labour in Cocoa plantations.

Thomas Sankara's arrival to power in August 1983 - after an uprising of the
Burkinabè people protesting Sankara's arrest while he was a Cabinet Minister
- came after a series of military coups that had plunged the country into
chronic political instability. This coup among many, orchestrated by his
long time friend Blaise Compaoré, ushered in a new revolutionary era that
was to be national and democratic. The Sankarist regime announced its
colours early on by declaring solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed
masses of the world and asking the Burkinabè People to work at building the
foundations of an internally motivated development, relying on their own

Today's Africa in The Face of Globalization

Close to 18 years after Sankara's death, the alternative he put forward
continues to serve as a model to Africa's youth and to young people around
the world who are looking for a better future based on values of humanism
and solidarity in the struggle against imperialism which continues to impose
itself through arms and economic blackmail, and in the fight against
imperialism's devastating neo-liberal schemes aimed at ensuring the control
of national resources by big capital multinationals. Today, this control can
be seen in the stubbornness of the United States as it takes hold of vast
oil resources in Iraq and the Gulf region and works to stop the spread of
the Bolivar revolution beyond Venezuela in South America. In Africa, France
and the United States are fighting for control of the continent: France is
trying to consolidate control of its « zone of influence » made up of its
former colonies, while the US looks to Africa for an alternative to the
increasingly unstable Gulf region in terms of access to sources of energy
such as oil and coltan. This explains the numerous US attempts to place in
Africa new military bases aimed at controlling the region under the guise of
antiterrorist struggle. Today, an increasing number of Africa's youth are
desperately and unsuccessfully trying to cross into the countries of the
European Union. They take huge risks to reach Europe through Spain, going
into Gibraltar via Morocco. Many young Africans continue to lose their lives
in the Mediterranean during these crossings. On the other side of these
desperate young people, who were once the engines of the liberation
struggles for national sovereignty, one finds bulimic elites, hording the
little national wealth that is still available to shamelessly enrich
themselves, accumulating stolen capital in tax havens, sending their
children to get university education in Western countries before they return
to perpetuate the system that oppresses the people, in complete
collaboration with the Western powers which continue to pillage the
continent in complete impunity.

The Sankarist alternative remains, therefore, entirely relevant in
addressing issues surrounding development and lasting sovereignty. It is a
panafricanist socialist alternative, focused uniquely on meeting the needs
of the African masses, impoverished by decades of structural adjustment
programs that had no results other than to ensure continued payments to
shameless creditors for the so-called debt that's not only immoral since a
third of the initial debt has been repaid, but also because the borrowed
funds were never injected into the economic and social fabric of these

The Sankarist Alternative

Upon their arrival to power, Sankara and his comrades initiated multiple
projects that reshaped the living conditions of the Burkinabè people in a
meaningful way. With the help of Cuban volunteers, 2,5 million children were
vaccinated against infectious diseases which had often killed a huge number
of children. Access to education increased from 12% to 22% within 3 years.
At the same time, a serious campaign against desertification was undertaken
and 10 million trees were planted to that end.

One initiative that left the most impact on people's consciousness,
contributing to changing people's attitudes which until then were formed by
a set of beliefs dating from feudal and archaic times, was « woman's
Wednesdays ". On that day each week, men took over all domestic work
(cleaning, running errands in the market, cooking, etc.) in order to become
familiar with the tough conditions under which women worked to ensure a
decent survival for their family. Despite some reticence due to archaic
conceptions about divisions of labour in the family, this experience helped
to create better awareness in bringing about serious change to allow the
African woman to find her way back to a prominent place in society. Unless
such Cultural Revolutions takes place in all sectors of life, revolution
cannot take hold for the people, since it would keep almost half the
population in oppressive situations.

The revolutionary leaders and Burkinabè people's work was accomplished
through the CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Revolution). It is
important to recognize that opportunists using their positions within these
organizations, took advantage of the people by infiltrating these CDRs.
These issues, on top of malicious manipulations orchestrated by Blaise
Compaoré who started to put down Sankara for his mixed background and
alleged abuse of power, created a tense atmosphere which culminated in the
assassination of Sankara on October 15th, 1987 by Compaoré's men, with the
help of Liberian mercenaries close to former dictator Charles Taylor.

Two other comrades of Sankara's, Zongo and Lingani, who formed the
leadership of the revolution, were manipulated by Compaoré and did nothing
after the assassination of Sankara. Compaoré in turn killed them a few years

This four-year experience of the Burkinabè revolution achieved what no
dictatorship afterwards has managed to take away: To give back to the
Burkinabè people the dignity they had lost through centuries of humiliation
and exploitation by colonialism and the elites of the post-independence era.
The improvements in the living conditions of the people of Burkina Faso that
today's regime talks about, is the result of the four years of the Sankarist
revolution, from the construction across the country of many water
infrastructures to allow rural populations to cultivate many crops during
the year, increasing their sources of income, to the complete transformation
of the capital Ouagadougou with the building of revolution neighbourhoods
and the accomplishment of ambitious programs to clean up ghettos. On the
cultural front, the creation of popular theatre and cinema is only one
example of the relevance of the Sankarist project that Africa's youth would
do well to learn from, even if just to realize that « another way is
possible ».

The end of this experience, as painful as it is, must also help us deepen
our understanding of the most appropriate organisational framework for
radical transformation of African societies. As a friend said recently, «
the will to change is not enough, you also have to have the means ». And the
main requirement for such an experience has remained the same: setting up an
organization with a leadership that reflects the realities and the
aspirations of the population and that is ready to sacrifice its class
interests - as Amilcar Cabral said - to put the interests of the masses
first. In this, Thomas Sankara showed us the way. It's up to the future
generations to keep this experience alive and to enrich it with all the
revolutionary experiences of the world.

Ameth LO
October 15, 2005
GRILA Toronto


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