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Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara (1949 - October 15, 1987), born in Yako, Upper Volta now Burkina Faso, was a charismatic left-leaning leader in West Africa. He was sometimes nicknamed "Tom Sank". He was considered by some to be an "African Che Guevara".

A captain in the Upper Volta Air Force, he was trained as a pilot. He was a very popular figure in the capital of Ouagadougou. The fact that was he was a decent guitarist and liked motorbikes may have contributed to his charisma.

Sankara was appointed Secretary of State for Information in 1981 and became Prime minister in 1983. He was jailed the same year after a visit by Jean-Christophe Mitterand ; this caused a popular uprising.

A coup d'état organised by Blaise Compaoré[?] made Sankara President on August 4, 1983, at the age of 33. The coup d'etat was supported by Libya which was, at the time, on the verge of war with France in Chad (see History of Chad).

Sankara saw himself as a revolutionary and was inspired by Cuba and Ghana's military leader, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings[?]. As president, he promoted the "Democratic and Popular Revolution" (RDP Révolution Démocratique et Populaire).

His governement included large number of women. His policy was oriented toward fighting corruption, reforestation, averting famine, and making education and health real priorities.

Improving women's status was one of Sankara's explicit goals, that was unprecedented in West Africa. His governement banned female circumcision, codemmned polygamy, and promoted contraception.

The Burkinabé government was also the first African government to claim that AIDS was a major threat for Africa.

In 1984, on the first anniversary of his accession, he renamed the country Burkina Faso, meaning "the land of upright people" in Mossi[?] and Dyula[?], the two major languages of the country. He also gave it a new flag and wrote a new national anthem.

On october 15, 1987 Sankara was killed in a coup d'état organized by his former colleague Blaise Compaoré.

A week prior to his death Sankara addressed people and said that "while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas."

  • Writings :
    • L'émancipation des femmes et la lutte de libération de l'Afrique (Women's Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle)

Preceded by:
Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo[?]
President of Burkina Faso[?] Succeeded by:
Blaise Compaoré[?]

See also: History of Burkina Faso

External links:

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