Thomas Sankara : An Upright Man

 
Often upon learning of our business and attempting, hesitatingly, to read our name, folks ask “Sankara, what does that mean?”. This article is an attempt to shed light on that very question, to explain the name Sankara and all that it denotes. A name holds a lot of value and purpose, for us at Sankara this is especially true.
 
 

I invite all you curious supporters of ours to read on, if you have any questions or comments please post them here or email us; we’d be glad to answer them.
We begin the story of a man, his accomplishments and end with both his untimely fate and the mission we have undertaken in his name. Thomas Sankara, throughout his short-lived life, was dedicated to changing the colonial mentality inherited in his nation through years of oppression and exploitation. When he was born the country was called the Republic of Upper Volta, a name chosen by the former colonial powers, which designated a certain proximity to the Upper Volta River. Shortly after he became president in 1983, he changed his country’s name to Burkina Faso which means “Land of the Upright People”. It was this principle — that of dignity and unity — which fuelled much of his efforts in his years as head of state; he was an avid anti-imperialist who wanted to bring about solidarity and pride in his people — the Burkinabe.
During his short reign, Sankara cut ties with foreign development aid, reformed land use policies in an effort to obliterate famine and initiated a nationwide literacy campaign for the young and old alike. Thomas Sankara was a revolutionary thinker and a truly remarkable man. He wanted his people to be pioneers; who actively participated in the reclamation of their country and identity.

Thomas Sankara believed wholeheartedly in gender equality and worked tirelessly to advance the rights of Burkinabe women and girls during his presidency. He even wrote a book entitled “Women’s liberation and the African freedom struggle” to expand on his personal and political ideologies on gender equality in the development of Africa. Sankara believed that in his generation, and allow me to paraphrase here, men were raised thinking that simply because they were men they were superior. He fought hard to change that mentality. He made the 8th of March la Journee des Femmes or “reverse roles day”. On this day, men were made to do all of the things women did daily.

Within the time of his presidency he also favoured local production of clothes and food; he wanted to enrich and empower his nation first and foremost. In his eyes any outstanding relationship to France, the former colonial power, was akin to the relationship of a vassal to his master. The land of Burkina Faso was rich enough to serve its entire population; the nation could support themselves. Sankara also implemented national sport for all ages; he and his aides participated weekly to keep fit and healthy.

Sankara, a pan-africanist, saw beauty and boldness in his people. People are, after all, the most precious resource in a nation. He did not favour any one class of people; he favoured hard work. With Sankara as president, the economic elite were plucked out of their lofty lifestyles and national unity was formed through the shared experience of dignified standards of living for all. Sankara himself rode a bicycle and any government cars were minimalist as were salaries for government personnel. True to the nationalist spirit of Sankara, international development aid was avoided as was dependency on the International Monetary Fund. Connections between Burkina Faso and World Bank were severed early on as well. For the young and dedicated revolutionary, relying on external aid had a huge cost: human pride and dignity.


Sadly his rule was cut short by an abrupt but thoroughly planned assassination at the hands of his own personnel and, it is founded by some and speculated by others, at the hands of France. At the time of his assassination, Thomas Sankara was just 37 years old and had only ruled for four years. He was killed during a coup d’etat on the afternoon of October 15, 1987. His murderer? Often cited “best friend” and right-hand man, Blaise Campore. In the eyes of other African presidents, European interests and longstanding historic relationships, Sankara threatened many important alliances in West Africa, his example was just too dangerous.
Just one week before the team of bullets struck him dead, Sankara had said :

“While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”

Sankara rode a bicycle everyday and lived a very modest life; at the time of his death he had $350 in his bank account. This is because the Burkinabe always came first for Thomas Sankara; their ticket to true freedom could only be created through reorganizing the system which had failed them for so long. The Burkina Faso of today is certainly far from where it could have been, had Sankara stayed in power to see his ideas to fruition.


We will be debuting a few projects in sub-Saharan Africa in the domains of food security, women’s empowerment and equity, and education. All of these projects will be in close resemblance to the revolutionary ideas which, sadly, cost Sankara his life. We will be contributing a part of all proceeds, of food and goods, to these projects. They will take place in Western Africa, home of Thomas Sankara.
As progress is made we will be sure to inform you as it is by your contributions and your support that we will be able to make a difference together

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