“For our Patriotic struggle,For our radiant future,our homeland or death we will win”-Thomas Sankara
One of the greatest African revolutionary stories of our time is of a young and dynamic leader, staunch Pan African, whose life and sole existence in a small country in the West of Africa “Upper Volta” a former French Colony and the now re-known Burkina Faso, had a profound impact to the political,social and economic arenas of his country through his beliefs and ideological reforms put at the service of his fellow citizens.
I am profoundly honored to tell this story of a somewhat remarkable political history.It all started in 1983 when Thomas Sankara was brought to power by a coup supported by the Burkinabes — people of Burkina Faso. He named his country “Burkina Faso” which means the “Land of the Upright men”. He was so determined to take his country out of misery due to the previous corrupt and incompetent leaders since the country’s independence in 1960.
Burkina Faso was for long seen as the reservoir of cheap labour used in the neighboring country “Ivory Coast” a resourceful region largely exploited by the French.In contrast with most African leaders who exploit their countries resources for their personal benefit,Sankara launched a series of measures unheard of on the African Continent.
Through his display of communism and socialism he educated his people through political slogans and gave them an opportunity participate in the making of their country. To perpetuate revolutionary ideas,people were trained in the “Pioneers Movement” which was made of youth under the age of 12, trained ideologically and politically as young as possible with the vision that when they grew up,would then be against negative ideas.
“When you are bearing arms that can spit fire and death and when you can receive orders standing to attention in the front of a flag without knowing who will benefit from this order or this arm, you become a potential criminal who is just waiting to spread terror around you. So a soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal”-Thomas Sankara
Sankara questioned on the African Society in which men always dominated women. He became one of the First heads of state in the world to promote women rights in order to break away from practices such as forced marriages and the excision of the fact that men were all powerful over their families.
It is thanks to the revolution that women in Burkina Faso started to take part in political activities next to men and many also joined the army after military training. It is also remembered that on the 8th of March-”international women’s day”, Thomas Sankara said that things had to go the other way round. So instead of women going to the market they were to stay home and men had to do the shopping for them for all the necessary food stuffs in commemoration of that day.
In total contrast with most African leaders who never keep their promises, Sankara set several grand programs to get his country out of trouble ie feeding, housing people and giving them medical care as a priority. At the time when all sorts of diseases are affecting his people he launched a mass vaccination campaign to eradicate polio, measles and meningitis.
Sankara instituted mass sporting activities inviting everyone to participate in a sport at least once a week. He set the example by taking part in collective sport with the army,public servants and simple villagers. “A healthy mind in a healthy body”
Economic and environmental transformations.
With the support of the Burkinabe, Sankara launched a series of large scale works in the middle of the 1980’s when Africa had just emerged from one of the deadliest droughts in it’s history. Sankara became the 1st president to launch a campaign against desertification, he organised the planting of several million trees together with the citizens.
Operations like the “one Village, one grove” whose ideal motive was to encourage young people in every village to plant a grove that would demonstrate their will to stop the desertification process and this was done to encourage reafforestation everywhere possible in order to reduce harmful effects and generally to develop people’s awareness in the matters of environmental protection.
In the cities where people took shelter in slums,Sankara launched a public housing program. The country side was not left behind especially the remote regions. Sankara, thanks to a vast rail and road building program connects all the regions.
The planned rail track that connects Ouagadougou to the manganese mines several hundred kilometers north.Due to foreign aid far from near, For Sankara it was an opportunity for the Burkinabe to roll up their sleeves. No need now to leave foreign companies in charge of building the country. The Burkinabe took to work with their hands to put in place the rails.
Sankara was convinced that the countries own resources had to be exploited as a priority to avoid depending on imports and essentially to give Burkina Faso more autonomy. He taught his fellow citizens and the whole of the African people to buy and use goods that were produced locally.
According to Jean Ziegler the then Rapporteur with the UN for feeding rights, the further irrigation and fertilization program in Burkina Faso, boosted agriculture tremendously despite of the country being situated in the Sahel region of Africa. Hunger was now a thing of the past and Burkina Faso reached self-sufficiency in less than 4 years.
Sankara cleansed all the power structures of social injustices and reduced the salaries of ministers and chief public servants starting with his own.Ministers were to be driven in cheaper cars and to take the economy class on plane flights rather than the prestigious first class. This was so as not to waste the taxpayers money.”Whether you are in first class or economy, when the plane lands you all land together and when it takes off you all take off together”-Thomas Sankara
The measures implemented by Sankara changed the face of the country’s politics as such with the aim of creating a fairer state, he embarked on a drastic plan to barn unions and opposition parties.
Relevance of Sankara’s life and ideological ideas.
Having this insight about Thomas Sankara in my youth and seeing Africa today with all the challenges across all arenas social,economic and political. It’s with strong conviction that i do believe that in African youth today, though many plunged in the popular western lifestyle, there is still a strong willing minority that are staunchly avid and concerned about positive change in their communities not necessarily political but the economy, the environment and social livelihood and upbringing. This is so as to see it that fair and just treatment is granted to fellow citizens irrespective of their gender or status in society, the economy grows for the better, leaders serving wholeheartedly while restraining from exploit of their countries or communities for their personal benefit, promoting social integrity and self-sufficiency of communities as regards food security. These and many other ideological ideas are best exhibited in the life and leadership of Thomas Sankara and i’m grateful to share this with you though this blog post. I do believe that we should not necessarily wait for governments to answer all the issues that affect the society, the truth is that you can effect the change you want to see. Thanks to this century ”the information age” and “tech-driven age” we can achieve anything.
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I also implore you to check out the documentary on “Thomas Sankara-The Upright Man” from which i transcribed to come up with this article. Available on YouTube .You can look through Through Thomas Sankara’s Biography if you please
Thanks a lot and hope i was a good steward of your time. Clap 👍 for the story if you find it insightful
Made of Africa — Made of Black