Thirty-One years ago, the leader of Burkina Faso’s revolution, Thomas Sankara, was cut down in a hail of bullets – a bloody end to a turbulent yet charismatic memory that has remains alive globally. Today marks 31 years since his assassination.
The Thomas Sankara we knew
The young army captain who took power in the deeply poor nation in 1983 has been nicknamed “Africa’s Che Guevara,” a monicker that reflects his anti-imperialist convictions almost as much as the way he died.
“Kill Sankara and thousands of Sankaras shall be born,” he is said to have declared in 1987. Just a few months later he would be assassinated as he headed to a government meeting.
Born on December 21, 1949, at Yako in the dusty north of what was then Upper Volta, the future officer was 12 when his homeland attained independence from France.
Once in power after an August 1983 coup, Sankara would rebaptise the country Burkina Faso, or “land of upright men”, and introduce progressist policies that distanced his regime from other former colonies in what France regarded as its backyard in Africa.
Sankara’s priority policies were to clean up public finances and trim a bloated civil service, to bring improvements in health, to increase access to education and to take rural measures to meet the aspirations of peasant farmers.
“We have to decolonise mentalities,” Sankara said. Sankara urged struggling African nations to stop paying their debt to the West. “The debt cannot be reimbursed because if we don’t pay, our creditors won’t die. But if we pay, it’s us who will die. Be sure of it,” he argued.
His programmes however revealed Sankara’s iron-fisted side, which included sacking striking teachers and arrest of trade Union leaders whom he said were backed by the opposition.
Burkina Faso Celebrate Sankara 31 years after his assassination
President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Kabore, says the memory of the country’s former leader, Thomas Sankara, remains alive the world over and that he was poised to ensure justice is done in the case of his murder.
Kabore wrote in a tweet on the 31st anniversary of Sankara’s murder lauded his sacrifice for the emancipation and dignity of Burkinabes.
“15 Oct. 2018, the memory of president Thomas Sankara remains alive throughout the world. His sacrifice for the emancipation and dignity of the people of Burkina Faso will not be in vain.
I reiterate my commitment to work for the culmination of justice in the case of his murder.
“I reiterate my commitment to work for the culmination of justice in the case of his murder. Rk (Roch Kabore),” the president wrote in a personally signed tweet.
Ousted president Blaise Compaore – currently on exile in next door Ivory Coast – is suspected to be behind the killing of Sankara, his predecessor.
An international warrant was issued for Compaore’s arrest in December 2015 for the charges of “murder”, “assassination” and “corpse concealment” after an investigation by Burkina Faso authorities.
Compaore has been indicted for his alleged involvement in the assassination of President Thomas Sankara who was killed on October 15, 1987 during a coup that brought him to power.
He was charged with “murder”, “assassination” and “corpse concealment” as part of the open enquiry in March 2015 by the Burkina Faso transition authorities.
Compaore stayed in power between 1987 till 2014 when he was ousted by an uprising. He was a top associate of Sankara but reportedly led the coup d’etat that killed Sankara.
Thomas Sankara is widely described as a pro-people revolutionary, pan-Africanist who led the West African country from 1983 to 1987. He was seen as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, often referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.