Thomas Sankara: 30-year Anniversary

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the death of Thomas Sankara, our African Che.  The first article I ever wrote on this blog was on Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara, The African Che. To me, Thomas Sankara is one of the most charismatic, selfless, dedicated, and beautiful African leaders of all times. And I love his sense of humor, and humility. He may not have had a perfect time in power, but what I am certain of, is the deep love he had for his country, his people, and for the whole of Africa. Imagine, someone who renames his country and people to empower them, from Haute Volta to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright man. I would also like to thank the people running the website entirely dedicated to his memory,; I raise my hat to them, and their tireless work throughout the years.

Here is a summary of Thomas Sankara‘s actions in his 4 years of power. These are taken from For the full article, check out Full facts about Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso . Enjoy the video below!


Guerrillero Heroico
Picture taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, at the La Coubre memorial service

After renaming his country Burkina Faso, here are Thomas Sankara’s accomplishments, [after] ONLY 4 YEARS in power (198387).

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (21 December 194915 October 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara.

– He vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in a matter of weeks.
– He initiated a nation-wide literacy campaign, increasing the literacy rate from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987.
– He planted over 10 million trees to prevent desertification
He built roads and a railway to tie the nation together, without foreign aid
– He appointed females to high governmental positions, encouraged them to work, recruited them into the military, and granted pregnancy leave during education.
– He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy in support of Women’s rights

Flag of Burkina Faso

– He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
– He reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
– He redistributed land from the feudal landlords and gave it directly to the peasants. Wheat production rose in three years from 1700 kg per hectare to 3800 kg per hectare, making the country food self-sufficient.
He opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara

– He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity [Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unityagainst continued neo-colonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance. • He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.[Thomas Sankara’s Speech at the United Nations / Discours de Thomas Sankara aux Nations Unies]
– In Ouagadougou, Sankara converted the army’s provisioning store into a state-owned supermarket open to everyone (the first supermarket in the country).
He forced civil servants to pay one month’s salary to public projects.
– He 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.

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

– 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.
– A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-women motorcycle personal guard.
– He required public servants to wear a traditional tunic (the Faso Dan Fani), woven from Burkinabe cotton and sewn by Burkinabe craftsmen. (The reason being to rely upon local industry and identity rather than foreign industry and identity)
– When asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”
– An accomplished guitarist, he wrote the new national anthem himself.

Some of Thomas Sankara’s Famous Quotes

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

15 October 1987 was the day Africa lost one of his greatest sons: Thomas Sankara.  Words cannot express the loss we’ve felt, and the loss Africa and the world suffered on that day.  I would like to share with you some of Thomas Sankara’s famous declarations.


« Une jeunesse mobilisée est dangereuse, une jeunesse mobilisée est une puissance qui effraye même les bombes atomiques. Il y en a qui possède les bombes atomiques et qui ont des problèmes avec d’autres peuples qui, eux, ne possèdent pas la bombe atomique, mais pourquoi ils n’osent pas l’utiliser ? Parce qu’ils savent très bien, parce qu’ils savent très bien, que dans ces peuples que osent les attaquer, ils trouvent une jeunesse mobilisée, une jeunesse à mourir [A youth mobilized is dangerous, a youth mobilized is a power which scares even atomic bombs. There are those who own atomic bombs, and who have problems with other nations who do not own the atomic bomb, but why don’t they dare using it? Because they know very well, that in these people who they want to attack, they find a mobilized youth, a youth ready to die.] 14 mai 1983 s’adressant aux jeunes de Bobo Dioulasso

« Nos ancêtres en Afrique avaient engagé une certaine forme de développement. Nous ne voulons pas qu’on assassine ces grands savants africains. » [Our ancestors in Africa were actively committed to a certain form of development. We do not want these great African wisemen to be assassinated.] 2 octobre 1984 à Harlem

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

« Il faut que l’école nouvelle et l’enseignement nouveau concourent à la naissance de patriotes et non d’apatrides. Mettre un enfant à l’école doit cesser d’être perçu comme un simple placement comptable, si tant est vrai que la transformation continue des sociétés qui incombe aux générations successives comporte des éléments quantifiables et non quantifiables. »  [We need the new school and the new teaching concur with the birth of patriots and not stateless people. Putting a child in school should stop being conceived as a simple accounting investment, if indeed the ongoing transformation of societies which fall on successive generations has quantifiable elements and non-quantifiable.] 17 octobre 1986 Appel de Gaoua sur la qualité de l’enseignement.

« Il n’y a pas de révolution sociale véritable que lorsque la femme est libérée. Que jamais mes yeux ne voient une société où la moitié du peuple est maintenue dans le silence. J’entends le vacarme de ce silence des femmes, je pressens le grondement de leur bourrasque, je sens la furie de leur révolte. J’attends et espère l’irruption féconde de la révolution dont elles traduiront la force et la rigoureuse justesse sorties de leurs entrailles d’opprimées. » [There are no true social revolution until the woman is liberated. May my eyes never see a society where half of the people is maintained under silence. I hear the racket of this silence of women, I suspect the roar of their storm, I feel the fury of their revolt. I wait and hope for the fertile irruption of the revolution for which they will translate the force and rigorous righteousness coming from their oppressed bowels.] 8 mars 1987, Ouagadougou

« La Révolution démocratique et populaire a besoin d’un peuple de convaincus et non d’un peuple de vaincus, d’un peuple de convaincus et non d’un peuple de soumis qui subissent leur destin. »  [The people’s democratic revolution needs a people that is confident and not defeated, a people of conviction and not a subjected people who suffer their fate.] 4 août 1987

African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)
African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)

«Je parle au nom des femmes du monde entier, qui souffrent d’un système d’exploitation imposé par les mâles. Pour ce qui nous concerne, nous sommes prêts à accueillir toutes les suggestions du monde entier, nous permettant de parvenir à l’épanouissement total de la femme burkinabè. En retour, nous donnons en partage à tous les pays, l’expérience positive que nous entreprenons avec des femmes désormais présentes à tous les échelons de l’appareil de l’État et de la vie sociale au Burkina Faso. Des femmes qui luttent et proclament avec nous, que l’esclave qui n’est pas capable d’assumer sa révolte ne mérite pas que l’on s’apitoie sur son sort. Cet esclave répondra seul de son malheur s’il se fait des illusions sur la condescendance suspecte d’un maître qui prétend l’affranchir. Seule la lutte libère et nous en appelons à toutes nos sœurs de toutes les races pour qu’elles montent à l’assaut pour la conquête de leurs droits. » [I speak on behalf of women from around the world, who suffer from an exploitation system imposed by the males. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to welcome all the suggestions from around the world, which will enable us to achieve the full development of the Burkinabe woman. In return, we will share with all the countries, the positive experience that we start with women now present at all levels of the state and the social life of Burkina Faso. Women who fight and proclaim with us, that the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for himself. This slave will respond only to his misfortune if he is deluding himself about the suspect condescension of a master who claims to free him. Only fighting liberates and we call on all our sisters of all races so that they rise up to conquer their rights.] Discours de Sankara à l’ONU le 4 octobre 1984 (texte intégral)

Témoignage sur les derniers jours de Thomas Sankara? Boukary Kaboré, le lion, raconte.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara à Ouagadougou

Le lion du BoulkiemdéBoukary Kaboré raconte ses derniers jours avec le capitaine, Président du Faso, le Che Africain, Thomas Sankara, et la largesse d’esprit de ce grand homme.  Proche de Thomas Sankara durant la révolution, le capitaine Boukary Kaboré dirigeait une des 4 regions militaires.

Dans les jours qui suivirent l’assassinat de Thomas Sankara, il refusa de faire allégeance à Blaise Compaoré.  Il refusa d’organiser une montée sur Ouagadougou arguant du fait qu’il ne voyait pas qui pouvait diriger le pays.  Ce sont finalement des militaires proches de Blaise Compaoré qui vont assaillir la ville de Koudougou procédant à un véritable massacre des militaires restés fidèles au Lion.  Il réussira à s’enfuir de justesse pour se réfugier au Ghana.

Boukary Kabore
Boukary Kaboré

Il revient longuement sur tous ces évènements.  ll raconte aussi combien il a tenté vainement de protéger Thomas Sankara qui ne voulait pas de protection (il dit si bien en parlant de Thomas: ‘comment protéger un président qui aime se déplacer à vélo?‘), les tentatives pour le convaincre de démissionner afin d’éclaircir la situation politique, comment était organisée la sécurité de la présidence, comment on a acheté un des fidèles, etc…

Regardez, écoutez, et que ceci vous apporte un élément de clarté sur la mort de notre héros, et grand ‘Che’ africain, Thomas Sankara.