Thomas Sankara

Thomas Noël Isidore Sankara was born on 21 December 1949 in Yako, formerly Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, into a family of which he was one of many children. He was a young soldier who graduated from the Antsirabé school in Madagascar, which he left in 1973 to return to his country. He became politically active in progressive political circles and served in 1978 at the Po base, where Blaise Compaoré was his deputy. He married Mariam Serme in 1979 and after the coup d’état of Colonel Sayé Zerbo, he was appointed captain in 1981 and in the same year had his first child and accepted to be Secretary of State for Information in the government. In November 1982, Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo’s coup d’état took place and in January 1983 he became Prime Minister. His dynamism and his style were not appreciated in bourgeois circles and the day after the visit of Guy Penne, advisor to the French Presidency, he was arrested on May 18, 1983. The military were divided over his fate and a faction, led by Compaoré, and the youth put pressure on the regime and demonstrated in the country for his release. Released and placed under house arrest, he continued his resistance against the regime with other soldiers who finally from Po, and joined by a section of the youth, marched on the capital, liberated Sankara and brought him as the head of the country on August 4, 1983.

Sankara embodied the hope of a revolutionary change based essentially on the contribution of the endogenous forces of his fellow citizens. It was the last African revolution, interrupted in blood in 1987, just as it was beginning to bear promising fruits. In the former Upper Volta, which he renamed Burkina Faso, he wanted to break with the neo-colonial mode of production and Françafrique. Thomas Sankara, among other things, favoured agriculture and peasants for the national revival; wanted to create a domestic market of accessible and varied mass consumption goods; tried to satisfy the basic needs for the masses; contributed to the emancipation of women and the change of male mentalities; had a patriotic management of public funds; pleaded against the debt and the impoverishment of Africa by refusing the subordination imposed by the world system and by applying an active internationalism. In short, many of his initiatives were radical and contrary to the norm of the world system. He quickly alienated all the local, regional and international stakeholders, especially from the françafrique networks.

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Presumably an international and local conspiracy assassinated Sankara along with a dozen of his comrades. The death certificate claims a “natural death” – along with 12 colleagues – and no explanation of the circumstances of their death has ever been given; there was no proof of the exact place of his burial, and no explanation of his assassination has ever been given. Presumptions point to his best friend, the then Minister of Justice and later President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, and a network of external supporters. At 37, like Che Guevara, Sankara joined the pantheon of revolutionaries.

 

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