Convicted killer Blaise Compaore
A military court in Burkina Faso on January 6, 2022 handed a life-sentence to former president Blaise Compaore for his role in the October 1987 assassination of Thomas Sankara, a Pan-African hero who advocated African unity and self-reliance in production and economic development.
Sankara’s mantra for Burkina Faso and Africa was “Let’s produce what we consume, and consume what we produce.”
Can you imagine how so much better off Africa would be if every country was governed by a leader like Sankara instead of the corrupt puppets now misruling the continent and destroying the lives of millions of Africans.
Compaore now lives in exile in neighboring Ivory Coast. He is married to an Ivorian and he’s taken up citizenship there. Compaore was tried in absentia and it’s unlikely he will be extradited to serve the sentence without global pressure. An online petition launched by Black Star News demands that he extradited to face justice for the heinous crime he was involved in.
In 1983, Thomas Sankara burst to the front-line in the African struggle for liberation from neo-colonialism and Western domination of Africa’s resources, and by extension, its politics, when he seized power. The takeover was actually spear-headed by fellow soldier, and his supposed right hand man, Compaore.
The young Revolutionaries quickly moved to use political power to transform the country by getting the citizens at the grassroots involved in politics. This is something lacking in most African countries where politics is the preserve of the corrupt ruling class, the petite bourgeoisie who conduct fictitious rigged elections. They go through the motions as a pre-condition for support by their neocolonial overlords in the West and by the IMF and World Bank.
Sankara formed formed grassroots committees for the defense of the revolution throughout the country. Ordinary people were able to participate in determining their destiny. They were able to elect leaders, they participated in the construction of schools, clinics, decent homes, roads, and a railway line.
Sankara said if the Burkinabe, as the citizens were called, wanted any evidence of neocolonialism, all they had to do was look at their plates. If they were consuming imported foods, then they were living in a neo-colonial state. After the government conducted land reform, the grassroots mobilized and food production soared. Within three years Burkina Faso was food self-sufficient.
Sankara condemned patriarchy. Women were appointed into important positions and also recruited into the army. Forced marriages and female genital-cutting was condemned.
Sankara was ahead of the game compared to leaders in other African countries, in Europe, and in the United States, when it came to the environment. He encouraged the planting of millions of trees to fight erosion through desertification.
Sankara encouraged production of everything domestically including clothes, which boosted cotton and textiles production, and tailoring. This in turn created tens of thousands of jobs, including for women, and a multi-million dollar industry.
When Sankara visited the U.S. to address the UN General Assembly in 1984 he was denied a White House visit with Ronald Reagan because he wouldn’t let American diplomats read his speech in advance. Sankara said “Harlem is my White House” and he went to address supporters uptown.
In Harlem, Sankara spoke about the need for unity between those engaged in struggle against imperialism in Africa and in diaspora. He spoke fondly of having met Maurice Bishop the revolutionary leader of Grenada in 1983. He said in order to avoid any more assassinations, like that of Bishop by agents of imperialism, then those in the resistance needed to organize better.
Sankara touched the third rail of imperialism when at the July, 1987, conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union (AU), Sankara urged all African countries to collective renounce the burdensome foreign debt owed to the Western countries and the World Bank that weighed down their economies. He explicitly said if Burkina Faso made the demand alone he wouldn’t be alive to attend the following year’s OAU summit. He said the enemies of Africa wouldn’t be able to assassinate 54 presidents.
The other African leaders betrayed Sankara. They didn’t issue a communique endorsing his proposal. Three months later, on Oct 15, 1987, Sankara and many of his colleagues were assassinated by other soldiers, led by Compaore, by now an agent of French imperialism.
Compaore then imposed a reactionary regime until he was overthrown in 2014.
Now Burkina Faso faces many other challenges, including from violent militants from the north. This has displaced more than one million people, disrupted agricultural production, and led to starvation. The instability contributed to the latest military take-over in January, 2022.
Perhaps there’s hope for Burkina Faso. The new military rulers invoked the memory of Sankara when they seized power. They also allowed the trial of the accused killers of Sankara and his compatriots to continue.
Our mission now is to get Compaore extradited to face justice in Burkina Faso.
Editor’s note: To demand that Ivory Coast extradite Compaore to Burkina Faso please follow the link to this petition.