Thomas Sankara: An Unrivalled Selfless African LeadersteemCreated with Sketch.

in historyleadership •  2 years ago 

I have some spare time on my hands. So I decided to do a write up on Thomas Sankara to commemorate the 302960438_thomasankara_jpeg970943df4168c06753ab9c8ac33e2730.jpgth anniversary of his death as well as educate those who do not know about this charismatic and iconic figure of revolution. I stumbled on the name recently too and decided to google up the name and read about him. I am a lover/student of history though not an historian. I found the biography of ‘Tom Sank’ as he is popular called and interesting one. I was completely overwhelmed with respect for this great African man. Africans need to learn to celebrate our heroes and heroines.
Thomas Sankara was president of Burkina Faso from 1983 – 1987. He was a captain in the Burkinabe army, a Pan-Africanist and a Marxist revolutionary. He was referred to as the African Che Guevara. Thomas Sankara was born on 21st Dec, 1949 and he was killed in a coup organized by his longtime friend and compatriot Blaise Compaore on Oct 15, 1987. Blaise Compaore also organized the coup that brought him to power. Thomas Sankara legacies still lives on, despite concerted effort by the government of Blaise Compaore to commit him to oblivion and erase his legacies.
Africa is a land flowing with milk and honey, a land blessed with abundance of human and mineral resources. It is quite unfortunate that the continent is grappling with underdevelopment, backwardness, abject poverty and economic crisis. Little or no appreciable progress has been made in the area of human and infrastructural development since the colonial masters left. No thanks to the selfish and the sit tight leaders that the continent has been cursed with. Greedy leaders who are only concerned about amassing gargantuan wealth that their generations unborn cannot exhaust while the rest of the masses live in abject poverty.
In an age characterized by an obvious dearth of selfless leaders, Thomas Sankara had carved a niche for himself as a man of the people, a leader who has the best interest of his people at heart. Thomas Sankara is an inspiration to many, he had left his footprints in the sand of time. He made his mark in life though he was cut off at a young age, his achievement speaks volume. A life well spent is not measure in the quantity but in its quality, it is not how far but how well.
Thomas Sankara came into power in 1983 in a popular supported coup. His goal was to eliminate corruption and reduce reliance on their former colonial master, France. He renamed the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (Land of the upright). He also composed a new anthem (being an accomplished musician himself) and designed a new flag for the country.
Thomas Sankara shunned all forms of foreign aids and clamoured for debt reduction. He vehemently opposed the influence of International Monetary fund and World Bank, whom he believes further impoverish African states with their unfavorable economic policies that they imposed on them. Knowing fully well that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. He believed that Africans have what it takes to be self-reliant and should not be beggars in their own land. He was quoted as saying that “Our country produces enough to feed us. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in our spirits the attitude of beggars.”
Thomas Sankara embarked on massive social and economic reforms: which led to the state stripping the local chiefs of their powers: including their right to forced labour and tribute payment as well as having their land redistributed among the peasants. This led to improvement in the standard of living of the masses and within a space of four years Burkina Faso reached food sufficiency. About 10 million trees were planted to stop the desertification of the Sahelian region of the country. And keeps the ever advancing Sahara desert in check.
In the area of health, Sankara vaccinated about 2.5 million Burkinabe within a week a bid to eradicate Polio, Meningitis and Measles, a feat that is still unsurpassed till now. He was also the first African leader to acknowledge that Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic is a major threat to Africa as far back as the mid-80s. While Thabo Mbeki, with all the advancement in the field of science and the information available at his disposal in the 21st century denies the link between the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS. This is the reason why South Africa today has the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS.
Thomas Sankara oversaw the connection of all the regions of the country by a vast road and rail system. Over 700 kilometers of rail was laid by the people themselves without any foreign aid.
Thomas Sankara could well be described as women right activist. He was the first African leader to appoint women to key cabinet positions. His government banned female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. He even encourage women to work outside the home and stay in school when pregnant. Sankara promoted contraception and encourage husbands to go market and prepare meals to experience for themselves the conditions faced by women.
In an act of solidarity with the masses, he sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (which was the cheapest car in Burkina Faso at the time) the official service car of the ministers.
He reduced the salaries of well-off public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity against what he described as neo-colonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance. He forced well-off civil servants to pay one month’s salary to public projects. He refused to use air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes. As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer. He was known for jogging unaccompanied through the streets of Ouagadougou in his track suit.
I am not trying to paint Thomas Sankara as a saint without any flaws. He had his own short comings too, after all to err is only human. There are somethings he did that could have been done in a better way. At a point he became increasingly dictatorial; he banned freedom of the press and sacked all the teachers.
His many radical reforms set him on a collision course with some vested interest, including: the Burkinabe’s middle class and foreign powers (especially France that likes meddling in the affairs of their former colonies), which eventually got him killed.
NB: Please kindly call my attention to any typos or grammatical blunders in the write up, Thanks in advance.
Adapted from: Wikipedia (

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