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“Everything that man can imagine, he is capable of creating”

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara, commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.

“Our country produces enough to feed us all. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in our spirits the attitude of beggars.”

Sankara’s main concern after taking office was giving medical care to the people that needed it, supplying food and housing to people. In an attempt to eliminate polio, meningitis and measles, Sankara launched a country wide vaccination program. It only took 1 week to vaccinate 2.5 million Burkinabè.

Burkina Faso became food sufficient within 4 years. During this time there was an incredible increase in the production of cotton and wheat. Sankara had not only shifted his country into food self-sufficiency but had in turn created a food surplus.

During Sankara’s time in office brick factories were created to build houses to try and make an end to urban slums. Large-scale housing and infrastructure projects were also undertaken.

Burkina Faso also needed all regions to be connected, to do this they started a rail-building program that laid over 700 kilometres of rail.

These programs proved that African countries could be prosperous without foreign help or aid.

Women’s rights

“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky.”

One of Sankara’s main goals was to improve women’s status in society by appointing women to high governmental positions and encouraging them to work outside the home and stay in school even if pregnant. His government banned female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and polygamy.

His death

On 15 October 1987, Sankara was killed by an armed group with twelve other officials in a coup d’état organised by his former colleague Blaise Compaoré. Deterioration in relations with neighbouring countries was one of the reasons given, with Compaoré stating that Sankara jeopardised foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Facts

  • He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
  • He reduced the salaries of well-off public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
  • He redistributed land from the feudal landlords to the peasants. Wheat production increased from 1,700 kilograms per hectare (1,500 lb/acre) to 3,800 kilograms per hectare (3,400 lb/acre), making the country food self-sufficient.
  • He opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”
  • He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.
  • In Ouagadougou, Sankara converted the army’s provisioning store into a state-owned supermarket open to everyone (the first supermarket in the country).
  • He refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabés.
  • As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
  • He wrote the new national anthem himself
Thomas Sankara playing guitar

Thomas Sankara Quotes

“I can hear the roar of women’s silence”
― Thomas Sankara

“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.”

“Imperialism is a system of exploitation that occurs not only in the brutal form of those who come with guns to conquer territory. Imperialism often occurs in more subtle forms, a loan, food aid, blackmail . We are fighting this system that allows a handful of men on Earth to rule all of humanity.”

“The enemies of a people are those who keep them in ignorance.”

“We must learn to live the African way. It’s the only way to live in freedom and with dignity”

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