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In 1972, Thomas Sankara was swept into a revolution
for a country not his own.
Hailing from the West African nation of Burkina Faso—
then known as Upper Volta—
the 22-year-old soldier had travelled to Madagascar
to study at their military academy.
But upon arriving, he found a nation in conflict.
Local revolutionaries sought to wrest control of Madagascar
from France's lingering colonial rule.
These protestors inspired Sankara
to read works by socialist leaders like Karl Marx
and seek wisdom from military strategy.
When he returned to Upper Volta in 1973,
Sankara was determined to free his country from its colonial legacy.
Born in 1949,
Sankara was raised in a relatively privileged household
as the third of ten children.
His parents wanted him to be a priest, but like many of his peers,
Sankara saw the military as the perfect institution
to rid Upper Volta of corruption.
After returning from Madagascar,
he became famous for his charisma and transparent oratorial style—
but he was less popular with the reigning government.
Led by President Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo,
this administration came to power in the 3rd consecutive coup d'état
in Upper Volta's recent history.
The administration's policies were a far cry
from the sweeping changes Sankara proposed,
but, by 1981, Sankara's popularity won out,
earning him a role in Ouédraogo's government.
Nicknamed “Africa's Che Guevara," Sankara rapidly rose through the ranks,
and within two years, he was appointed Prime Minister.
In his new role, he delivered rallying speeches
to impoverished communities, women, and young people.
He even tried to persuade other governments to form alliances
based on their shared colonial legacy.
But Ouédraogo and his advisors felt threatened by Sankara's new position.
They thought his communist beliefs would harm alliances with capitalist countries,
and just months after becoming Prime Minister,
Ouédraogo's administration forced Sankara from the job
and placed him on house arrest.
Little did the President know
this act would fuel Upper Volta's 4th coup d'état in 17 years.
Civilian protests ensued around the capital,
and the government ground to a halt
while Sankara tried to negotiate a peaceful transition.
During this time, Blaise Compaoré,
Sankara's friend and fellow former soldier,
foiled another coup that included an attempt on Sankara's life.
Eventually, Ouédraogo resigned without further violence,
and on August 4, 1983, Thomas Sankara became the new President of Upper Volta.
Finally in charge, Sankara launched an ambitious program
for social and economic change.
As one of his first agenda items, he renamed the country
from its French colonial title "Upper Volta" to "Burkina Faso,"
which translates to “Land of Upright Men."
Over the next four years he established a nation-wide literacy campaign,
ordered the planting of over 10 million trees,
and composed a new national anthem—
all while cutting down inflated government employee salaries.
But perhaps the most unique element of Sankara's revolution
was his dedication to gender equality.
He cultivated a movement for women's liberation,
outlawing forced marriages, polygamy and genital mutilation.
He was the first African leader to appoint women to key political positions
and actively recruit them to the military.
However, Sankara's socialist policies were met with much resistance.
Many students and elites believed his economic plans
would alienate Burkina Faso from its capitalist peers.
His crackdown on the misuse of public funds
turned government officials against him as well.
After four years, what began as an empowering revolution
had isolated many influential Burkinabes.
But Sankara was not ready to yield his power.
He executed increasingly authoritarian actions,
including banning trade unions and the free press.
Eventually, his autocratic tendencies
turned even his closest friends against him.
On October 15, 1987,
Sankara was conducting a meeting when a group of assailants
swarmed his headquarters.
Sankara was assassinated in the attack,
and many believe the raid was ordered by his friend Blaise Compaoré.
Though his legacy is complicated,
many of Sankara's policies have proven themselves to be ahead of their time.
In the past decade,
Burkinabe youth have celebrated Sankara's political philosophy,
and nearby countries like Ghana have even adopted Sankara's economic models.
On March 2, 2019 a statue of Sankara was erected in Burkina Faso's capital,
establishing his place as an icon of revolution for his country
and throughout the world.


The life, legacy & assassination of an African revolutionary - Lisa Janae Bacon

35 分類 收藏
林宜悉 發佈於 2020 年 4 月 4 日
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