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News > Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso: Thomas Sankara Lives in the Memory of Africans

  • Photography of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso.

    Photography of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso. | Photo: Twitter/ @comunistaabdito

Published 21 December 2019

This 21st of December marks the 70th birth anniversary of the Pan-Africanist revolutionary who is said to have been the "Che Guevara" of Africa.

On December 21st, African peoples remember the birth of Thomas Sankara, a Marxist revolutionary who became the icon of a collective struggle against the oppression from imperialist nations.


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Thomas Sankara was born in 1949 in the French colony known at that time by the name of Upper Volta, which he would later rename Burkina Faso, which means "the land of upright people."

While his parents came from a middle class, Sankara would not have been able to afford the costs of a college education. As a result, he chose to enter the military at the age of 17.

Once he began his military career, he contacted Adama Toure, a civilian professor who was known for having progressive, and even radical, ideas.

He invited a few of his brightest students to join informal discussions about international politics, which would have led Sankara to familiarize himself with debates on the African liberation movements.

In 1971, he was sent for officer training to Madagascar where he witnessed several popular uprisings and first read the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, which profoundly influenced his thinking.

Years later, Sankara joined the "Communist Officers' Group," a secret organization that brought together young officers who were seeking deep social changes in their country.

In 1981, he held his first public position as Secretary of State for Information. A year later, however, Sankara resigned because he disagreed with what he called policies against workers.​​​​​​​

Sankara became President in 1983 at the age of 33 as an effect of a coup d'état organized by Captain Blaise Compaore, who later would have led another coup against the Marxist revolutionary.​​​​​​​

From the presidency, the African leftist leader promoted an anti-imperialist revolution, whose main policies were focused on promoting reforestation, securing safe water, averting famine, and providing education and health to all the population.

During his four years of government, the charismatic leader acquired greater visibility in the context of African international politics.​​​​​​​

At the 25th Conference of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), for example, he harshly criticized external indebtedness, which he considered to be one of the new instruments used by developed countries to control the peoples of the world and keep them plunged into poverty.​​​​​​​

“Sankara’s foreign policy was largely focused on anti-imperialism, with his government shunning all foreign aid. He insisted on debt reduction, nationalizing all land and mineral wealth, and averting the power and influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB),” local outlet This Is Africa stressed.

The leftist leader also privileged the defense of the Non-Aligned Movement, rejected U.S. interference in developing countries, condemned the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, sympathized with Cuba and Nicaragua, and ​​​​​​​expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

During his short but fruitful administration, Sankara promoted an unprecedented policy to foster gender equity and free women from the bonds of traditional culture.

“Woman source of life, but also woman object. Mother but a servile maid. Nurse woman but woman excuse. Worker in the field and at home, but figure without face and voice. Woman hinge, woman confluence, but woman chained, woman shadow in the shadow of man,” he said.

After Sankara’s murder in 1987, which his former friend described as just an “accident,” the new regime proudly proclaimed that its main policy objective would be to "rectify" the Burkinabe revolution.​​​​​​​

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