Monday, September 26, 2011

Thomas Sankara

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (1949 – 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara."
Sankara seized power in a 1983 popularly supported coup at the age of 33, with the goal of eliminating corruption and the dominance of the former French colonial power. He immediately launched the most ambitious program for social and economic change ever attempted on the African continent. To symbolize this new autonomy and rebirth, he even renamed the country from the French colonial Upper Volta to Burkina Faso ("Land of Upright Men"). 
His foreign policies were centered around anti-imperialism, with his government eschewing all foreign aid, pushing forodious debt reduction, nationalizing all land and mineral wealth, and averting the power and influence of the IMF and World Bank. His domestic policies were focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, prioritizing education with a nation-wide literacy campaign, and promoting public health by vaccinating 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow feverand measles. Other components of his national agenda included planting over ten million trees to halt the growing desertification of the Sahel, doubling wheat production by redistributing land from feudal landlords to peasants, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents, and establishing an ambitious road and rail construction program to "tie the nation together." 
Moreover, his commitment to women's rights led him to outlaw female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy; while appointing females to high governmental positions and encouraging them to work outside the home and stay in school even if pregnant.
His policies alienated and antagonised the vested interests of an array of groups, which included the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labour and tribute payments, and the foreign financial interests in France and their ally the Ivory Coast. 
Pioneers of the Revolution, with Ché style berets
As a result, he was overthrown and assassinated in a coup d'état led by the French-backed Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987. A week before his execution, he declared: "While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas."
Personally, I feel a lot more sympathetic to Sankara than Che Guavara...

2 comments:

  1. From your short bio, I would agree with your summation. It's so true that his real compassion for the "people" and his views were then not tolerated by his assassins? Whereas if he was throwing the same people in the gulag, he would probably be silently applauded? ...... Why is that?

    Thanks for posting, interesting ...... cheers!

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  2. You can learn more about Thomas Sankara at http://thomassankara.net/spip.php?rubrique27.
    And please sign the petition "Justice for Sankra, Justice for Africa" at http://thomassankara.net/spip.php?article876&lang=en

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