Sankara 20 years later: A tribute to integrity

Demba Moussa Dembélé – Pambazuka

Copyright Pambazuka
Blaise Compaoré and Françafrique killed Thomas Sankara in the belief that they could extinguish the example he set for African youth and progressive forces across the continent. They could not have been more wrong. One week before his assassination, in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Thomas Sankara declared: ‘Ideas cannot be killed, ideas never die.’ Indeed, the history of humanity is replete with martyrs and heroes whose ideas and actions have survived the passage time to inspire future generations.
Their ideas, courage and sacrifice for the freedom and dignity of their people have made these martyrs larger than life. Thomas Isidore Sankara is one in a long lineage of African sons and daughters whose ideas and actions have left an indelible mark on the history of their continent. That is why 21 years after his death, Sankara continues to guide those who are struggling to end the domination of their continent and the enslavement of its peoples.
Sankara’s great popularity is in part a reflection of Africans’ disillusionment with corrupt leaders who are incapable of meeting the basic needs of their peoples and who take their marching orders from Western capital and institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. Sankara’s popularity is also rooted in the profound sincerity of his commitment to serving his people, his devotion to the cause of the emancipation of the Burkinabés and all African peoples. His charisma, honesty and integrity made him a hero for the ‘wretched of the Earth,’ to coin a phrase from Frantz Fanon, who was greatly admired by Sankara…
…Sankara was one of the first heads of State, perhaps the only one in his time, to condemn female excision, a position that reflected his unwavering commitment to the emancipation of women and the struggle against all forms of discrimination against women.
He was a relentless advocate of gender equality and the recognition of the role of women in all spheres of economic and social life. In his famous speech of 2 October 1983, he stated: ‘We cannot transform society while maintaining domination and discrimination against women who constitute over half of the population.’
His unrelenting struggle against corruption, long before the World Bank and the IMF picked up on this issue, made Sankara an enemy of all corrupt presidents on the continent and of the international capitalist mafia for whom corruption is a tool for conquering markets and pillaging the resources of the global South.
Sankara rejected the inevitability of ‘poverty,’ and was one of the first proponents of food security. He achieved the spectacular feat of making his country food self-sufficient within four years, through sensible agricultural policy and, above all, the mobilisation of the Burkinabé peasantry. He understood that a country that could not feed itself ran the risk of losing its independence and sovereignty….

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