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.
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.
Today we will be talking about the Faso Dan Fani, known as Burkina Faso‘s national cloth. For starters, the Faso Dan Fanimeans “woven cloth of the homeland” (pagne tissé de la patrie). All the words are Dioula: Fani = cloth/wrapper(pagne), Dan = woven(tissé), Faso = homeland (patrie). It is known locally as FDF. As you have probably guessed, the Faso Dan Fani is a handwoven cotton cloth. The weaving style and patterns differ depending on the ethnic group. As you all know, weaving cotton is an ancient African tradition (African textiles): in the old days, the spinning was done by women, while the men were left with weaving the cotton threads into cloth. With time, women took over the weaving business as well.
In 1986, the President of the Faso, Thomas Sankara, declared that it was important to “produce and consume Burkinabé“. Thus, he declared “In all the villages of Burkina Faso, we know how to grow cotton. In all villages, women know how to spin cotton, men know how to weave it into cloth, and other men know how to sew those threads into clothes... [Dans tous les villages du Burkina Faso, l’on sait cultiver le coton. Dans tous les villages, des femmes savent filer le coton, des hommes savent tisser ce fil en pagnes et d’autres hommes savent coudre les pagnes en vêtements …]” and further “We should not be slave of what others produce[Nous ne devons pas être esclave de ce que les autres produisent].” For the president, “wearing the Faso Dan Fani is an economic act, cultural, and political to challenge imperialism[porter le Faso Dan Fani est un acte économique, culturel, et politique de défi à l’impérialisme].”
Thus under Thomas Sankara’s revolution, the traditional attire was imposed in work places. … Many were not pleased with it, to the extent that some had nicknamed the FDF, “Sankara is coming“ [Sankara arrive] since the PF was known to do impromptu visit of his ministries. Under him, the FDF had become the signature of Burkinabé outside the country. Sankara even made a speech at the United Nations where all the members of his delegation and himself were dressed with the Faso Dan Fani entirely made by local Burkinabé artists to be consumed by Burkinabe.
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!!!
“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.
I 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.
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.
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.”
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.”