Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unity

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

This past weekend saw the anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s assassination. In memory of this great man who graced our continent. I decided to repost his speech on African debt, which after almost 30 years is still very actual. His speech in one of unity. Imagine if we had been united, would there have been a Libya 2011, or Cote d’Ivoire 2011, or all the subsequent others? Unity does make us strong.

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Thomas Isidore Sankara, our African hero, was killed for his convictions, love of his people and his country. This great hero gave one of the greatest speech I have heard about the problem of the  African debt. Such an eloquence! Such Truth my Lord! Such humor! I do agree with him that the African debt cannot be entirely paid… and that the African nations who do not show up at the UA summit should not have favors extended to them the same as those who attend the meetings. Moreover, he talks about living and breathing African: his delegation and himself were entirely dressed by Burkinabés tailors with cotton from Burkina Faso. Please watch, listen, and celebrate one of the greatest man the African continent has ever seen! Don’t forget to watch part 2 as well.

Thomas Sankara’s Speech at the United Nations / Discours de Thomas Sankara aux Nations Unies

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

On October 4th, 1984, Thomas Sankara addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was a historical speech, as only he, the great orator, could speak. It was moving, it was strong, and it was good. Below is an extract of his speech. For the whole speech, go to thomassankara.net. Enjoy!!!

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“I speak on behalf of the millions of human beings … thrown out of work by a system that is structurally unjust and periodically unhinged, who are reduced to only glimpsing in life a reflection of the lives of the affluent. I speak on behalf of women the world over, who suffer from a male-imposed system of exploitation. … Women who struggle and who proclaim with us that the slave who is not able to take charge of his own revolt deserves no pity for his lot. This harbors illusions in the dubious generosity of a master pretending to set him free. Freedom can be won only through struggle, and we call on all our sisters of all races to go on the offensive to conquer their rights.

Sankara_Women's liberationI speak on behalf of the mothers of our destitute countries who watch their children die of malaria or diarrhea, unaware that simple means to save them exist. The science of the multinationals does not offer them these means, preferring to invest in cosmetics laboratories and plastic surgery to satisfy the whims of a few women or men whose smart appearance is threatened by too many calories in their overly rich meals, the regularity of which would make you—or rather us from the Sahel—dizzy. We have decided to adopt and popularize these simple means, recommended by the WHO and UNICEF.

I speak, too, on behalf of the child. The child of a poor man who is hungry and who furtively eyes the accumulation of abundance in a store for the rich. The store protected by a thick plate glass window. The window protected by impregnable shutters. The shutters guarded by a policeman with a helmet, gloves, and armed with a billy club. The policeman posted there by the father of another child, who will come and serve himself—or rather be served—because he offers guarantees of representing the capitalistic norms of the system, which he corresponds to.

"We are heirs of the revolution" by Thomas Sankara
“We are heirs of the revolution” by Thomas Sankara

I speak on behalf of artists—poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, and actors—good men who see their art prostituted by the alchemy of show-business tricks.

I cry out on behalf of journalists who are either reduced to silence or to lies in order to not suffer the harsh low of unemployment.

I protest on behalf of the athletes of the entire world whose muscles are exploited by political systems or by modern-day slave merchants.

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

My country is brimming with all the misfortunes of the people of the world, a painful synthesis of all humanity’s suffering, but also—and above all—of the promise of our struggles. This is why my heart beats naturally on behalf of the sick who anxiously scan the horizons of science monopolized by arms merchants. My thoughts go out to all of those affected by the destruction of nature and to those 30 million who will die as they do each year, struck down by the formidable weapon of hunger. As a military man, I cannot forget the soldier who is obeying orders, his finger on the trigger, who knows the bullet being fired bears only the message of death. …. I protest on behalf of all those who vainly seek a forum in this world where they can make their voice heard and have it genuinely taken into consideration. Many have preceded me at this podium and others will follow. But only a few will make the decisions. Yet we are officially presented as being equals. Well, I am acting as spokesperson for all those who vainly see a forum in this world where they can make themselves heard. So yes, I wish to speak on behalf of all “those left behind,” for “I am human, nothing that is human is alien to me.”

Flag of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso

Our revolution in Burkina Faso embraces misfortunes of all peoples. It also draws inspiration from all of man’s experiences since his first breath. We wish to be the heirs of all the world’s revolutions and all the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World. Our eyes are on the profound upheavals that have transformed the world. We draw the lessons of the American Revolution, the lessons of its victory over colonial domination and the consequences of that victory. We adopt as our own the affirmation of the Doctrine whereby Europeans must not intervene in American affairs, nor Americans in European affairs. Just as Monroe proclaimed “America to the Americans” in 1823, we echo this today by saying “Africa to the Africans,” “Burkina to the Burkinabè.”

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.

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« 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)