“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness “is one of the quotes Captain Thomas Sankara would be remembered for. A young African leader who came into power by overthrowing the present government of Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).
But one quote that will stand out from the rest is this “ he who feeds you controls you “ a fearless statement that he stood firm with, throughout his four years as the president of Burkina Faso, one would say it was the foundation under which his government was built.
Born on the 21st of December 1949 in Yako, Upper Volta, Sankara was the third of ten children to Joseph and Marguerite Sankara. His father, Joseph Sankara, a gendarme was of mixed Mossi – Fulani (silmi- moaga) heritage while his mother, Marguerite Kinda was of direct Mossi descent. He spent his early years in Gaoua.
Sankara attended primary school at Bobo –Diolasso and excelled in French and Mathematics. He opted to join the army while his parents wanted him to become a priest.
His political tenure was admirable. One of the best Africa ever had. He ruled Burkina Faso only for 4 years but changed it from a poverty-ridden country to a rich country at the time. He had a dream to make Upper Volta a first world country.
His first changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright man.
He planted over ten million trees to combat the growing desertification, redistributed land from feudal landlords to peasants, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents, and establishing a road and railway construction programs with the help of the citizens who provided labor.
He outlawed FGM, forced marriages and polygamy as well as appointing women to high government positions and encouraging them to work outside the home and stay in school, even if pregnant.
He reduced the salaries of government Ministers and made them drive regular cars. At one time, he went to work riding on a bicycle. He provided vaccines against polio, misles, meningitis at a time when people from other African countries were dying. In a week, over two and a half people were vaccinated.
One thing that stood out in his leadership was how he cutter pulled Burkina Faso from poverty. He encouraged people to produce their own food and said that Burkina Faso was capable of feeding its own people and there was no need to depend on foreign aid, thus his famous quote ” he who feeds you, controls you.”
In the four years in power, Burkinabes produced food to feed its population and even exported some to other countries
They wore their own clothes as a way of promoting their industries. The education sector had grown. The agricultural sector was booming. Access to quality health care rose.
Captain Thomas Sankara had set the pace for other African leaders. Africa could rise on its own. Africa could feed its people without depending on the west. Africa was rich. The message was out there but the west was watching how events were unfolding with a clear eye. Burkina Faso was a threat to colonialism.
His strong stand against the west made him accumulate more enemies than friends. He had a strong stand against imperialism. He often reminded African leaders that we could do without colonialists. He hated colonialists.
He encouraged African leaders not to pay debts to the west saying it made us look like beggars. He termed debts as an offering. Why would they lend you money if they knew very well you could not pay back the loan? They had a hidden agenda.
The upright man had a vision for Africa. A united Africa. A continent that could produce its own food, make its own medicine, produce its own clothes for its citizens to wear, with its currency. He wanted Africa for Africans but they listened to him not.
Look at the sad state of affairs on this continent. Currently, China is controlling the whole of Africa. Neocolonialism is slowly taking root in our continent. We are their subjects. Our country is in debt. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the richest country in Africa but its citizens are poor. DRC is always at war. Civil unrest is the order of the day.
Nigeria, Libya, and South Sudan are rich in oil but surprisingly, there is war in these countries. People are fighting among themselves and the Genesis of the problem is not known.
They give us sickness and then treat us. Some of these diseases are only found in Africa, name them ebola ….They make us hungry and then feed us all in the name of foreign aid.
They make us fight among ourselves and then bring in troops in the name of peacekeeping mission and go much further to bring mediators to unite us, while they exploit our resources. That’s the tragedy of Africa.
A Pan Africanist is quoted saying that we are an Africa that cannot tell its own stories. We wait for the BBC and CCN to tell our stories. We even don’t support our teams, at weekends all that trends are the EPL matches, we don’t even support our local teams like Gor Mahia, AFC leopards, Mamelodi Sundowns, Yanga, and Simba of Tanzania. When we are sick, we seek medication abroad and come back dead. Africa is a cemetery.
If only he were to be alive, who knows, Africa would have been great. The revolution spirit died but his legacy still lives on. We will live to remember you, the upright man.