Thomas Sankara has been hailed as a revolutionary par excellence who was dearly devoted to creating a new Burkina Faso. He met a rather gruesome end to his short-lived presidency, but Burkinabes have immortalized his legacy.
His legacy in Burkina Faso is not dead. It is very much alive, and his ideas are finding resonance with the young population. From being the face of an uprising against tyranny, to having a statue erected in his honour, people in Burkina Faso have made it a point that Thomas Sankara’s legacy is alive.
In 2014, Thomas Sankara was the face of the popular uprising against the regime of Blaise Compaore. Protesters rose in roaring unity to oppose the plans by Blaise Compaore to amend the constitution so that he could extend his 27-year rule beyond November 2015. Those uprisings marked a sharp resurgence of interest in Thomas Sankara. In the face of a ruthless, unforgiving and insensitive regime, Thomas Sankara made a lot of sense. He was an inspiration.
Youths mobilized their sense of defiance around Thomas Sankara, as a source of stoic inspiration. Fast-forward to 2019. A bronze statue in honour of Thomas Sankara is unveiled in Ouagadougou. This is an event that formally cements Sankara’s contributions and influence in the Burkina Faso’s political discourse. The statue shows Sankara “in his army fatigues, ready to take a step forward with his arm raised and his face to the horizon.” This symbolizes the kind of leadership that Burkina Faso needs, as well as the rest of the continent.
In 2016, the International Memorial Committee for Thomas Sankara was launched. It is deeply committed to restoring Sankara’s legacy and keeping it alive. It wants to find answers that shed light on the assassination of Thomas Sankara as well as being engaged in projects that keep his legacy alive.
There are concerted efforts to keep Sankara’s legacy alive, and this is something the young generation of Burkina Faso is relating with. There is a great enthusiasm and admiration for Thomas Sankara and the ideas he propagated. But there are worries that the sanctification of Thomas Sankara will lead to a new generation “overlooking the realities of political leadership.”
Thomas Sankara was assassinated in 1987, together with his 12 other comrades. Blaise Compaore was at the forefront of this horror, and he immediately took power after Sankara had been assassinated. Compaore was once a close ally of Thomas Sankara. The 1987 coup killed a leader who had vision, and who wanted to lead Burkina Faso on a path of economic self-reliance. He was vociferously against neo-colonialism, and always rejected aid from the West.
The good thing is that Burkina Faso is keeping his legacy alive, and Sankara is not only inspiring those in Burkina Faso alone, but people on the rest of the continent.