Cameroon and the Double Standard of the ‘International Community’

tshisekedi_2
Felix Tshisekedi on investiture day

During the last elections held on 30 December 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),  Félix Tshisekedi was pronounced winner . He  defeated another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, as well as Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who was supported by term-limited outgoing president Joseph Kabila. Immediately, the ‘international community (I.C.)’ pounced on Tshisekedi claiming that he could not have won, and that it was but Martin Fayulu the second who had won. There were even threats by the ‘international community’ via the French government through her Ambassador to the Congolese government. Tshisekedi’s victory has since then been upheld by the constitutional court of the DRC, and he was installed as president on 24 January 2019.

Maurice Kamto
Maurice Kamto (Maurice Kamto Facebook page)

In Cameroon, the story is a fair tale. After the 7 October 2018 presidential elections, opposition candidate Maurice Kamto, from all indications, came out winner of the elections against outgoing president, Paul Biya, who has been in power for the past 37 years… It was total silence by the I.C., in the case of Cameroon, who saw nothing wrong with a man who had been in power 37 years! They clapped and called those elections a standard of democracy! In the western media, there was no mention of Maurice Kamto, and the international community saw nothing wrong with the results of a presidential election being read 2 weeks after polling took place! This is the same international community that was so eager to get the results out in a timely manner in other countries such as the DRC, Madagascar, etc. Yet, Maurice Kamto won the elections and no mention of what happened to him took place. For Kabila in the DRC, the international community, via its medias, spent long time telling the world how Kabila had been in power for 18 years, and how anti-democratic that was. Yet in Cameroon, Paul Biya has been in power for 37 years, and they are clapping and calling the electoral hold-up democratic!

Cameroon_Provinces
Map of Cameroon with all its regions

Since then, Cameroon has further descended into the abyss that it slipped into 37 years ago. Not only is the Cameroon territorial integrity in question: Boko Haram in the North has cut off the 2 northernmost regions from the rest of the country, the 2 English-speaking regions are cut off from the country ; in the East of the country, armed bands coming from the Central African Republic (CAR) are terrorizing the population, and in the Adamawa Region, armed groups coming from CAR are kidnapping people for ransom including traditional chiefs and stealing cattle; there are refugees both inside and outside the country, and post-electoral violence has ushered in a profound exacerbation of tribalism leading to the politics of divide-and-conquer. It looks like the ultimate objective is dividing Cameroon, like in Sudan, with an exacerbation of ethnic differences with a further push toward chaos for better exploitation of the country’s resources and emptying it of its youths.

Paul Biya_1
Paul Biya, President of Cameroon

If the I.C. can scream for DRC, and publish articles about Martin Fayulu being the winner in its media the day after publication of results, with the catholic church complaining about results, why does it not show any indignation or some concern for Cameroon? How can a 37-year-old rule in Cameroon be applauded and referred to as being democratic by the I.C., while an 18-year rule in DRC is called a dictatorship? Why is 85-year-old Paul Biya’s 37-year rule being applauded when Mugabe in Zimbabwe was vilified? How can Biya, with nothing to show for his stewardship, not even the integrity of his territory, not even roads, but total chaos and backwardness, be applauded by BBCRFI,  The Guardian, and France 24?  How can a president purposely destroy its country including its resources and be applauded by this so-called democratic I.C.? Well, because he serves the interests of the I.C., and has been a good student and puppet in helping the I.C. pillage the resources of his country. Cameroon is so rich in natural resources: oil, cocoa (6th producer), coffee, natural gas, gold, diamond, etc. In the robbery that is so synonymous with France’s predatory behavior in Africa (particularly in its so called “pré-carré”), why should this be a surprise? France’s nature in Africa, and the I.C.’s in general, has been and remain predatory.

Cameroon_flag
Flag of Cameroon

In Cameroon today, there is a strong dictatorship. The mafia that is synonymous with this regime has been repressing in blood all peaceful demonstrations and marches for the upholding of the genuine electoral results. All protest marches calling for the electoral records to be published are either banned or have seen the winner of the elections Maurice Kamto and his team arrested, including many innocents who have been screaming for a change, for a chance to have better life, roads, jobs, better healthcare, etc. People in the English-speaking provinces have been, hurt, beaten or killed, for simple claims which are basic human rights. A lot of them are currently displaced…  people in the north provinces have been displaced, and hurt by Boko Haram… yet BBCRFI, and the likes of them say nothing! Instead they applaud a government which refuses to negotiate with its own people. We do not ask them to intervene, but if those medias are supposed to be impartial, then they should be impartial, otherwise they should clearly state their agenda: portrayal of Africa as poor and in need of help, pillaging of African resources, promotion of wars on the African continent to help their cronies those western multinationals destroy and get all resources for nothing.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

We, Africans, should recognize that we are not, and never were independent. We should protest and fight pacifically like this is our last fight. A mother sending her child to school, a father being able to feed his family, university graduates finding jobs in countries where everything is yet to be built, roads, water, electricity, basic human rights to respect, all of that are rights… and it looks like we will have to earn them  ourselves. Like Thomas Sankara said, “the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for him. 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 struggle liberates… [ 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 …(Discours de Sankara à l’ONU le 4 octobre 1984 (texte intégral) Speech delivered on October 4, 1984 during the UN general Assembly)].” DO NOT trust this condescending I.C., DO NOT trust their media that is very partial, and were all against Laurent Gbagbo, who today has been acquitted from crimes invented by this I.C. and its cronies. We have to fight for our own rights, our own freedom,  acknowledge that we are in charge of our own destinies, and never expect some partial Western media to report on the truth!

Mariam Sankara’s Declaration

Thomas Sankara and Mariam
Thomas and Mariam Sankara on their wedding day

Today, I have translated Mariam Sankara‘s declaration on the day of the 30th-year anniversary of the death of her husband, the president of the Faso, the great revolutionary Thomas Sankara.

Very often we forget women’s contributions to revolutions, history acts as if these men had been all alone. If Mariam Sankara had not been home to take care of their two children, to take care of Thomas when he got home after a hard day, do you think we would have had a revolution? If Winnie Mandela had not carried on the battle, do you think the world would have known about Nelson Mandela? Maybe not… because during those 27 years while Nelson was living a ‘somewhat’ cozy life in prison, Winnie was being jailed, attacked, harassed, beaten to death, had to run to exile several times, but she kept his name high up. Now, today, history chooses to only count his contributions, forgetting hers!

So here is the declaration from Mariam Sankara, that she made last year on 15 Oct 2017. The original on ThomasSankara.net; the text has been translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

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Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The assassination of President Sankara and his companions on October 15, 1987, interrupted an original and promising development experience in the history of contemporary Africa.

I would like to thank you for your support to the whole Sankara family and to me as well as for your loyalty to the memory of President Thomas Sankara.

Through his policy, Thomas defended, by giving the example himself, essential values such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, will, respect and justice. By mobilizing the various components of society, he fought hard against the debt, for the well-being of all Burkinabé, the promotion of Burkinabé cultural heritage and the emancipation of women. He urged his fellow citizens to take care of themselves to live with dignity. In short, he refused submission to the diktat of the most powerful in this world, took the defense of the weakest and most disadvantaged. Impregnated with these values and ideas, you have, through the popular uprising of October 30 and 31, 2014, put an end to the dictatorial regime of Compaoré. This insurrection has allowed the people to take back the floor to demand, among other things, the end of impunity, the reopening of the justice file on the assassination of Thomas Sankara and his companions, that of Norbert Zongo and many others.

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Flag of Burkina Faso

The decision taken in Burkina Faso by the transitional authorities to finally bring justice to Thomas Sankara has generated immense hope in Burkina, in Africa in general and in the world. But we are still waiting for justice.

The request of the civil society and families is clear. We want to know as soon as possible the sponsors and the executors of this assassination and those of the other crimes.

To delay the quest for truth is to play the game of the assassins of Thomas Sankara and his companions. To do no justice is to refuse a dignified burial for Thomas Sankara and his companions, it is to prevent families from mourning.

That is why the people of Burkina Faso and their friends must remain mobilized and relaunch the campaign so that thirty years later, justice is finally done for Thomas Sankara and his companions.

Dear compatriots, our family welcomes your initiative to erect a memorial to Thomas Sankara.

Thomas Sankara family
Mariam and Thomas Sankara with their children

Like many of our compatriots, we are committed to the defense and safeguarding of Thomas Sankara’s memory. I would like to salute this initiative of the civil society, led by the association CIMTS (International Committee for the Thomas Sankara Memorial). This Memorial project enjoys popular support. A consensual and inclusive approach should allow to realize a quality work which will testify to the vitality of the ideas of Thomas and his faithful companions of the revolution of August 4, 1983. However, the family wants this memorial not to be built in the enclosure of the Council of the Entente which brings back painful memories because of the assassinations and the tortures which have marked this place.

With all these wishes for the valorization of the memory of Thomas observed around the world, one realizes with the time that Thomas Sankara was a visionary. Aware of the actions of the critics of the revolution, he knew he was misunderstood because he was ahead of his time. He said back then: “kill Sankara, thousands of Sankara will be born”. This has become a reality. Today, we see that the youth is immersed in its progressive ideas to transform society.

Thirty years after his death, Thomas’s thought remains alive and of actuality.

Once again, I congratulate you on your commitment and your loyalty to the memory of President Thomas Sankara.

30 years of resistance!

30 years of impunity!

Finally bring justice to Thomas Sankara and his companions and to all the victims of unpunished crimes!

Homeland or death, we will overcome!

I thank you.

Mariam Sankara

Montpellier, 15th October 2017

Why the Name: Ouagadougou?

Ouagadougou in 1930_Mittelholzer
Ouagadougou in 1930

I always loved the sound of the name Ouagadougou as it rolled off my tongue: it felt like a mouthful, but like a happy mouthful, the one you say with love: OUA-GA-DOU-GOU (WA-GA-DU-GU). Remember this is the capital of the land of upright people, the land of this proud son of Africa, Thomas Sankara. Yes, you know, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Originally, the city was called Kombemtinga, or the “land of princes.” It was founded on the 11th century by the Nyonyonse people.

WestAfrica1530
West Africa in 1530, with Mossi kingdom on the bottom right (Wikipedia)

The name Ouagadougou dates back to the 15th century when the Ninsi tribes inhabited the area. According to the Larlé Naba, the holder of the Mossi Empire‘s secrets, the city founders were in constant conflict with neighboring people until 1441, when they were forced to seek the protection of the Mossi Emperor Zoungrana, who was then living in Tenkodogo. In 1441Wubri, Zoungrana‘s son, and an important figure in Burkina Faso‘s history, led his tribe to victory. He then renamed the area from “KombemtingaorKumbee-Tenga“, as the Ninsi had called it, to “Wogdgo” which meant “Come honor me“.

Mossi Cavalry
Mossi cavalry, ca 1800s

It is this appellation which has evolved to “Woghodogo,” then Ouagadougou from the French. Others say that the name was changed by Wubri from “Kombemtinga” to “Wage sabre soba koumbem tenga“, meaning “head war chief’s village“.  The city then became the capital of the Mossi Empire in 1441 and the permanent residence of the Mossi emperors (Moro-Naba, Mogho Naaba) starting in 1681 with Naba Sanem. The Moro-Naba Ceremony is still performed every Friday by the Moro-Naba and his court to this day. The French made Ouagadougou the capital of the Upper Volta territory (basically the same area as contemporary independent Burkina Faso) in 1919.

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The Mogho Naba, king of the Mossi people at court in Ouagadougou, ca 1910 (Source: AdireAfricanTextiles.blogspot.com)

The name was originally « Woogrtenga » and « Wogodogo » to mean « where we receive honors, respect».  Ouagadougou grew around the imperial palace of the Mogho Naaba. Being an administrative center of colonial rule, it became an important urban center in the post-colonial era. First the capital of the Mossi Kingdoms and later of Upper Volta and then Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou became a veritable communal center in 1995. Affectionately called Ouaga by most, it is the center of the African film festival, FESPACO.

Ouaga2000 Memorial
Ouaga2000 Memorial – Ouagadougou today

So if you visit Ouagadougou, remember that you are visiting the original land of the princes, and the place where we receive honors and respect. Isn’t it a name worthy of the capital of the land of the upright people (Burkina Faso)? Enjoy the video below about Ouagadougou.

 

African Women and Revolution

Winnie Mandela_5
Winnie Mandela

Very often history books suffer from amnesia: they forget women’s contributions to revolutions. History acts as if the men had been all alone, as if only men were there, as if only men stood against injustice.

When people talk of the struggle for independence in Africa, and around the world, only the great men are cited. As one browses from country to country, only men are cited, as if women had been silent spectators. Do you think apartheid would have collapsed without the critical and vital input of women? Do you think without Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s name would have been anchored in our heads today? What do you think these women were doing while their husbands were in prison? History wants us to think that they were ‘just’ raising children as if that was not an enormous contribution already, but in the case of Winnie Mandela and countless others, they took up the fight, and were jailed, harassed, beaten, and humiliated by the system (some were even raped). Yet today, the world acclaims only the men! And when a woman raises too strong a voice, then she is vilified, told that she acts like a man, or is an ‘angry’ woman. How could you face injustice day after day, and just keep quiet? There comes a time when, as Bob Marley says, “You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…” people will rise up!”

Thomas Sankara family
Mariam and Thomas Sankara, with their children

I am so sick of the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” I think it is again quite sexist, and should rather read, “ALONGSIDE EVERY GREAT MAN IS A GREAT WOMAN.” Raising children, and pumping somebody’s ego after a day’s fight, taking up the fights, and then keeping the men’s memory so that the world does not forget them, are no easy fit; these are extraordinary fits. Alongside Nelson Mandela, there is Winnie Mandela. Alongside Thomas Sankara, there is Mariam Sankara. Alongside Patrice Lumumba, there is Pauline Lumumba. Alongside Felix Moumié, there is Marthe MoumiéRosa Parks had to be defiant and sit in the front of the bus, for the movement to be taken over by Martin Luther King Jr.; without her part in the fight, there would have been no movement!

Ernest Ouandié, Marthe Moumié, and Abel Kingue in Geneva after Felix Moumié's death
Ernest Ouandié, Marthe Moumié, and Abel Kingue in Geneva after Felix Moumié’s death

It is our duty to remember this, and to claim it. The world and history wants us to think that men are the only ones in the world, when we know that 50% of the world’s population is female; men are not the only ones fighting for independence, liberation, freedom, revolution, democracy, … Can one make a revolution without the remaining 50%? NO! It is our duty to remember Women’s contributions to history, and stop the global historical amnesia!

 

Thomas Sankara in His Own Words

Sankara_We are heirs of the worlds revolution
“We are heirs of the revolution” by Thomas Sankara

If you take a walk around Ouagadougou and make a list of the mansions you see, you will note that they belong to just a minority. How many of you who have been assigned to Ouagadougou from the farthest corners of the country have had to move every night because you’ve been thrown out of the house you have rented? To those who have acquired houses and land through corruption we say: start to tremble. If you have stolen, tremble, because we will come after you”. March 26, 1983 

Aid to Burkina Faso must serve to strengthen not undermine, our sovereignty.” August 1984

Any African Head of State who comes to New York must first pass through Harlem. This is why we consider that our White House is in Black Harlem.” October 2, 1984

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

We propose that the structures of the UN be changed to put an end to the scandal surrounding the right to vetoOctober 4, 1984

The greatest difficulty we have faced is the neocolonial spirit that exists in this country. We were colonized by a country, France that left us with certain habits. For us, being successful in life, being happy, meant trying to live as they do in France, like the richest of the French.” March 17, 1985

Sankara_Women's liberationWe have to work at decolonizing our mentality and achieving happiness within the limits of sacrifice we should be willing to make. We have to recondition our people to accept themselves as they are, to not be ashamed of their real situation, to be satisfied with it, to glory in it, even.1985

We need the new school and the new teaching to 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 october 1986 Appel de Gaoua on the quality of education.

We too are actors in the international arena, and we have the right to choose a political and economic system true to our aspirations. We have the duty to fight for a more just and more peaceful world, regardless of the fact that we have neither large industrial cartels nor nuclear weapons”. August 27, 1987

It is always at the side of a woman that we become men again, and every man is a child for every woman.” March 8, 1987

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

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

“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

I have told myself, either I’ll finish up an old man somewhere in a library reading books, or I’ll meet with a violent end, since we have so many enemies. Once you’ve accepted that reality, it’s just a question of time. It will happen today or tomorrow.October 8th, 1987

One week after Thomas Sankara made this last remark, he was murdered.

Homeland or death, we will triumph!

These quotes can be found in the book “Thomas Sankara speaks” by Pathfinder Press (1988).

Declaration of Mrs. Mariam SANKARA for the 30th Anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s Assassination

Thomas Sankara family
Thomas and Mariam Sankara with their children (Source: MyAfricanow.com)

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Mrs. Mariam Sankara to write this letter, and for her family as well; but to think of the joy they must have felt when Compaoré was booted out of power brings satisfaction, and not tears; to think of the joy they must have felt to know that the Burkinabe people are now rising up, and that a light might now be shed about their husband, father, son, and brother’s assassination to bring them closure. I raise my hat to them, and I thank Mariam Sankara and her entire family, for having lent us  Thomas Sankara, for our enlightenment. They made so much sacrifice while he was alive, and now that he is gone, the least we can do, is to express our profound gratitude and support: THANK YOU, and AFRICA will always be with you, and cherish the memory of one of his greatest sons, Thomas Sankara.

Below is the declaration made by Mariam Sankara on the 15 October 1987, this is from ThomasSankara.net. Enjoy!
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Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Mesdames, Mesdemoiselles, Messieurs, Chers amis,

L’assassinat du Président Sankara et de ses compagnons, le 15 Octobre 1987, a interrompu une expérience de développement originale et prometteuse de l’histoire de l’Afrique contemporaine.

Je tiens à vous remercier pour votre soutien à toute la famille Sankara et à moi-même  ainsi que pour votre fidélité à la mémoire du Président Thomas Sankara.

A travers sa politique, Thomas a défendu, en donnant lui-même l’exemple, les valeurs essentielles telles que l’intégrité, l’honnêteté, l’humilité, le courage, la volonté, le respect et la justice.  En mobilisant les différentes composantes de la société, il s’est battu, de façon acharnée, contre la dette, pour le bien être de tous les burkinabè, la promotion du patrimoine culturel burkinabè et l’émancipation de la femme. Il a incité ses concitoyens à se prendre en charge pour vivre dignement. Bref, il a refusé  la soumission au diktat des plus puissants de ce monde, a pris la défense des plus faibles et des plus défavorisés.

Imprégnés de ces valeurs et de ces idées, vous avez, à travers l’insurrection populaire des 30 et 31 octobre 2014, mis fin au régime dictatorial de Compaoré. Cette insurrection a permis au peuple de reprendre la parole pour exiger, entre autres, la fin de l’impunité, la réouverture du dossier de justice sur l’assassinat de Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons, celui de Norbert Zongo et tant d’autres.

BurkinaFaso6
Flag of Burkina Faso

La décision prise au Burkina Faso par les autorités de la transition de rendre enfin justice à Thomas Sankara a suscité un immense espoir au Burkina, en Afrique en général et dans le monde. Mais on est toujours dans l’attente de la justice.

La requête de la société civile et des familles est claire. Nous voulons connaître au plus vite les commanditaires et les exécutants de cet assassinat et ceux des autres crimes.

Retarder la quête de vérité, c’est jouer le jeu des assassins de Thomas Sankara et de ses compagnons. Ne pas rendre justice, c’est refuser une sépulture digne pour Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons, c’est empêcher les familles de faire leur deuil.

C’est la raison pour laquelle, le peuple burkinabè et ses amis doivent rester mobilisés et relancer la campagne pour que trente ans après, justice soit enfin rendue à Thomas Sankara et à ses compagnons.

Chers compatriotes, notre famille salue votre initiative visant à ériger un mémorial à la mémoire de Thomas Sankara.

Thomas Sankara and Mariam
Thomas and Mariam Sankara on their wedding day (Source: Africanglobe.net)

Nous sommes attachés, comme nombre de nos compatriotes,  à la défense et à la sauvegarde de la mémoire de Thomas Sankara. Je tiens à saluer cette initiative de la société civile, conduite par l’association CIMTS (Comité International pour le Mémorial Thomas Sankara). Ce projet de Mémorial bénéficie du soutien populaire. Une démarche consensuelle et inclusive devrait permettre de réaliser un ouvrage de qualité qui témoignera de la vitalité des idées de Thomas et de ses fidèles compagnons de la révolution du 4 Août 1983. Toutefois, la famille tient à ce que ce mémorial ne soit pas construit dans l’enceinte du Conseil de l’Entente qui rappelle de douloureux souvenirs en raison des assassinats et des tortures qui ont marqué ce lieu.

Sankara_We are heirs of the worlds revolution
“We are heirs of the revolution” by Thomas Sankara

Avec toutes ces volontés de valorisation de la mémoire de Thomas observées à travers le monde, on se rend compte avec le temps que Thomas Sankara était un visionnaire. Conscient des actions des détracteurs de la révolution, il savait qu’il était incompris parce qu’il était en avance sur son temps. Il dira alors : « tuez Sankara, des milliers de Sankara naîtront ». Ceci est devenu une réalité. On constate aujourd’hui que la jeunesse s’imprègne de ses idées progressistes pour transformer la société.

Trente après sa disparition, la pensée de Thomas reste vivante et d’actualité.

Encore une fois, je vous félicite pour votre mobilisation et pour votre fidélité à la mémoire du Président Thomas Sankara.

30 ans de résistance !

30 ans d’impunité !

Rendez enfin justice à Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons ainsi qu’à toutes les victimes des crimes impunis !

La patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons !

Je vous remercie.

Mariam Sankara

Montpellier le 15 octobre 2017

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, thomassankara.net; 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 thomassankara.net. For the full article, check out Full facts about Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso . Enjoy the video below!

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Guevara_1
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

BurkinaFaso6
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.

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.

The Faso Dan Fani: Woven Cloth of the Homeland

Flag of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso

Today we will be talking about the Faso Dan Fani, known as Burkina Faso‘s national cloth. For starters, the Faso Dan Fani means “woven cloth of the homeland” (pagne tissé de la patrie). All the words are Dioula: Fani = cloth/wrapper (pagne), Dan = woven (tissé), Fasohomeland (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.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

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].”

Faso Dan Fani
Faso Dan Fani

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.

Model wearing Faso Dan Fani (Ecodufaso.com)
Model wearing Faso Dan Fani (Ecodufaso.com)

Today, the Faso Dan Fani is seen as a symbol of national pride, and people are starting to wear it again. Check out ThomasSankara.net to learn more about it, and this article “Faso Dan Fani: what if Thomas Sankara was right?” and this article on AfriqueFemme.com. Enjoy!

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.”

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