Thomas Sankara ladies and gentlemen

This time I blame Hopewell Chin’ono. He tweeted that the only military coup in African history that actually brought about something positive was the one involving Thomas Sankara.

And as I was researching his life, I came across the following, got excited, thought of something I would share this with on a Friday afternoon. No one came to mind (obviously) so here it is on my blog post that you and 5 other people will read.

Just read what this military man did as an African president.

  • 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 well-off public servants (including his own) and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and first class airline tickets.
  • He opposed foreign aid, saying that ‘He who feeds you, controls you’.
  • He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity against what he described as neocolonialist 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.
  • 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 well-off 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 Burkinabés.
  • As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a refrigerator, and a broken freezer.

Oh wait, there’s more

  • He was known for jogging unaccompanied through Ouagadougou in his track suit and posing in his tailored military fatigues, with his mother-of-pearl pistol.
  • When asked why he did not 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.

He was no saint, by no means. But no one can deny that this man was an African president cut from a different cloth to what we have now.

It is unfortunate though that he was assassinated in 1987 by the same man, Blaise Compaoré, who had helped him get into power in 1983. Blaise Compaoré then took up power and ruled Burkina Faso as a dictator until 2014.

  1. Thomas Sankara’s wikipedia page

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