[Marxism] Commemorating Thomas Sankara

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 27 08:43:11 MDT 2007

Commemorating Thomas Sankara
by Farid Omar; October 27, 2007

     Between 1983 and 1987, Thomas Sankara, Pan African Revolutionary 
and former President of Burkina Faso, led one of the most 
people-centered revolutions that Africa has produced in the post 
colonial era. An incorruptible man, Sankara earned a meager salary of 
only $450 a month and his most valuable possessions were said to be a 
car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer. He was 
regarded as the world's poorest President. Also, it was noted that 
Sankara refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds 
that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes.

     To secure Burkina Faso's economic independence, Sankara 
nationalized all western-controlled land and mineral wealth and broke 
ties with international financial institutions including the IMF and the 
World Bank.  By doing so, he effectively freed domestic resources that 
the state re-directed to fund much needed social programs for the poor, 
such as public education, healthcare and housing. Sankara moved fast to 
eradicate the remaining vestiges of neo-colonial bondage by changing the 
country's name from the colonial Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, words from 
two different Burkinabe local languages meaning 'Land of the Incorruptible'.

     In setting the stage for a vigorous revolutionary project that 
prioritized the emancipation of women, Sankara established a day of 
solidarity in which  men were encouraged to go to market and prepare 
meals, clean their homes, wash clothes etc to experience for themselves 
the conditions faced by women. Determined to transform sexist 
mentalities, Sankara appointed women to key cabinet positions ensuring 
their participation in the decision making process at national level. 
His revolutionary government also opened other key avenues for women who 
became effective participant in the state bureaucracy, the judiciary and 
all other important sectors of society.

     Apart from the transformation of gender relations, the achievements 
of the Burkinabe revolution also  include 'Vaccination Commando' a state 
run program that in a period of only 15 days in early November 1984, 
completed the immunization of  2.5 million children against meningitis, 
yellow fever and measles. This operation was so successful in that 
children in neighbouring countries like the Ivory Coast and Mali were 
sent to Burkina Faso for free immunization that helped curtail high 
rates of infant and child mortality.

     Between late 1984 and mid 1986, the Burkinabe Revolution under 
Thomas Sankara oversaw a massive public housing construction program, a 
campaign to plant 10 million trees to stem back the Sahara's advance and 
the launching of "Alpha Commando" a literacy campaign that directly 
benefited thousands of Burkina Faso's rural and urban poor. Towards the 
end of 1986, a UN-assisted program brought river blindness under control.

     Thomas Sankara, a courageous proponent of self-reliant, 
self-directed Pan-African development, was assassinated in October 15, 
1987, along with a dozen of his comrades. To this day, however, his 
death certificate indicates death by natural causes. The Minister of 
Justice at the time, and the author of this crime, is none other than 
the current President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, who is 
implicated in the assassination of Sankara and his comrades.

     Thomas Sankara is widely recognized and celebrated in Africa and 
the world over as a champion of fundamental change who fought to 
liberate Africa from the control of international financial 
institutions, deepening poverty, war and the pillage of its resources.

     In 1997, the International Justice for Sankara Campaign initiated 
legal proceedings in Burkina Faso to bring his assassins to justice. 
After exhausting all legal recourses in Burkina Faso, and in light of 
that country's politically compromised judiciary, on October 15, 2002, 
the Campaign brought the case before the UN Human Rights Council

     In April 2006, the Council rendered its verdict, based on the 
complaint lodged by the Sankara family and the counter-claims of the 
Burkinabè authorities. It ruled that "the State Party, Burkina Faso, was 
in breach of Covenant-protected rights under articles 7 and 14, 
paragraph 1, with regard to Mariam Sankara and her two sons, Auguste and 
Philip. The verdict adds that "These violations stem from ongoing 
refusal of all competent authorities in Burkina Faso to initiate a 
judicial inquiry to establish the circumstances of Thomas Sankara's 
unlawful killing, which occurred on 15 October 1987, and to duly proceed 
to alter a falsified death certificate for the latter following said 
judicial inquiry".

     The UN ruling is considered a precedent in the struggle against 
impunity and Africa's first. It sets the stage for further action to 
bring to justice perpetrators of the heinous crime that led to the 
assassination of Sankara and his comrades. Twenty years later, on 
October 15, 2007, Thomas Sankara has been commemorated around the world 
in countless ceremonies that took place in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, 
Niger, Tanzania, Burundi, France, Canada, USA and beyond. As Thomas 
Sankara once said "We Must Dare to Invent the Future", his legacy and 
vision lives on and many in Africa and around the world continue to take 
inspiration from his selfless quest to free Burkina Faso and Africa from 
the yoke of western imperialism.

     Farid Omar

     Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa 
(GRILA). www.grila.org

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