It was 34 years last Thursday, (October 15th, 2021) that Thomas Sankara was killed as Military Head of State of Burkina Fasso. In this piece, the author takes another look at it all.
By Abdulkadir Isah
On that day, thirty four (34) years ago, ‘aidocrats’ assassinated Thomas Sankara; an act that halted both the control of Burkina Faso state by ‘a popularly supported coup’ catalyzed by revolutionaries on the one hand and the re-orientation of the seized state to a non-capitalist paradigm of development.
Blaise compare, the local representative of the ‘aidocrats’, stated that “Sankara jeopardized foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighboring Ivory Coast” and his immediate task, therefore, was the reversal of the nationalization carried out by Sankara as well as overturning all policies of Sankara. He quickly “rejoined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to bring the desperately needed ‘funds to restore’ shattered economy”.
Sankara, who became the president of the Republic of Upper Volta at the age of thirty three (33) had a very clear vision and mission as:
- On ascension, he promptly launched programmes for social, ecological and economic change;
- His foreign policies were centred on anti-imperialism;
- He rejected aid from organizations such as the International Monetary Fund but welcomed aid from other sources.
- As he tried to reduce reliance on aid, he strove to boost domestic revenue and diversified sources of assistance
- The domestic policies he fathomed focused on preventing famine and pivoted on agrarian self sufficiency and land reforms;
- He prioritized education and promoted national literacy campaign plus public health.
- He planted over “10 million trees to combat the desertification of the Sahel, redistributing land from private land owners, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents and establishing a road and railway construction programme”.
- The government “focused on building schools, health centres, water reservoirs with little or no external assistance”.
- He “called on every village to build a medical dispensary and had pharmacies built” in 5,384 out of 7,500 villages;
- From 1982 to 1984 “infant mortality rate dropped from 208 per 1,000 birth to 145” while “school attendance increased from 6% to 22%, etc.
Going by the paradigm of his development, he has every justification for renaming his country from the “French colonial name Upper Volta to Burkina Faso” (Land of Incorruptible People) with its peopled being called Burkinabe (upright people).
What the rise and assassination of Thomas Sankara represents in the context of the anti-imperialist and national liberation endeavour especially in this epoch in which great powers regarded their “states as well-formed, highly developed, bureaucratically, vividly can be summarized thus:
- Leaders have the power to influence events, define new institution and adopt approaches that will extricate them from the talons of International Finance Capital, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the World Trading System, and local agents who are controlling the state and implementing precarious policies eroding nation state autonomy and sovereignty.
- Though leaders operate within the confines of national capacities, resources and be responding to powerful forces within and outside the countries, their recognition of this reality is a fact that will greatly guide their nation state building task and thus, provide propitious environment for mutual and peaceful co-existence amongst the citizenry. Appreciating capacities will greatly reveal the context of how obsolete the extant state is becoming.
- Man makes his own history but not out of conditions he chooses by himself;
- It is not enough to have ideological conviction, there ought be an agency – a collective power driving it processes through a coherent programme that verified the situation and circumstance of the country; clear definition of the contradiction of the epoch; recognition too, the task to be pursued are historical driven; etc.
What is discernible in the assassination of Sankara is how it explains the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah after publishing his Rhodesia file as well as the assassination of General Murtala Ramat Muhammad after his famous “Africa has come of age” speech at the Addis Ababa O.A.U summit.
Invariably, these are signals of what should polarize our politicians and their economic development concern for our countries. It is either we become subservient to neo-liberalism and compromise our sovereignty or choose to collapse on secondary contradiction and deny ourselves the resolution of the appropriate historical tasks sophisticated imperialism has posed for us. It is in the interest the agents of the New World Order that sovereign and autonomous nation-state are weakened; direction of economic development is market driven hence de-responsibilize the state; and inevitably exist “in a precarious realm in which sovereignty in effect is shared” sequel to this, the depth of “poverty and extent of aid dependency” paves ways for” foreign states and agencies to become heavily involved in many aspect of our domestic policy and reduce us to a beggar nation characterized with conflicts based on primordial cleavages.
The best way to celebrate Sankara is appreciating what defined his methods and style of governance and championing the paradigm of opting out of Neo-literalist economic policies. The challenges and tasks are vivid. The appropriate thing, therefore, is choosing to resolve our contradiction through dialectical cognition.