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the lion king?
When Thomas Sankara was killed after four years as President of Burkina Faso, it was at the orders if not at the hands of one of his oldest friends, now President Blaise Compaoré. Echoes of Shakespeares Julius Caesar as much as Disneys The Lion King. Why should we care about this particular African tragedy?
We should care because the revolution Sankara led between 1983 and 1987 was one of the most creative and radical that Africa has produced in the decades since independence. He started to blaze a trail that other African countries might follow, a genuine alternative to Western-style modernization and, like other radical African leaders such as Patrice Lumumba and Amilcar Cabral, was shot down as a result. Whereas his murderer, still in power eight now twenty years later, has pursued self-enrichment and politics as usual and has been fêted by the West for his compliance.
An incorruptible man
of a revolution
4 Aug 1984 All land and mineral wealth are nationalized. The countrys name is changed from the colonial Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, words from two different local languages meaning Land of the Incorruptible.
22 Sept 1984 A day of solidarity: men are encouraged to go to market and prepare meals to experience for themselves the conditions faced by women.
Oct 1984 The rural poll tax is abolished.
Nov 1984 Vaccination Commando. In 15 days 2.5 million children are immunized against meningitis, yellow fever and measles.
3 Dec 1984 Top civil servants and military officers are required to give one months pay and other civil servants to give half a month to help fund social development projects.
31 Dec 1984 All domestic rents are suspended for 1985 and a massive public housing construction program begins.
1 Jan 1985 Launch of a campaign to plant 10 million trees to slow the Saharas advance.
4 Aug 1985 An all-women parade marks the anniversary of the Revolution.
10 Sep 1985 The mounting hostility of the regions conservative regimes is revealed at a meeting in Yamoussoukro, Côte dIvoire.
Feb-Apr 1986 Alpha Commando. A literacy campaign in nine indigenous languages involves 35,000 people.
End of 1986 A UN-assisted program brings river blindness under control.
15 Oct 1987 Sankara is assassinated in a coup détat along with 12 aides. His body is unceremoniously dumped in a makeshift grave which quickly becomes a shrine as for days thousands of people file past it to pay their respects. Popular feeling forces the new regime to give Sankara a decent grave.
assessment of Sankara
An eminently corruptible man
of a rectification
Nov 1987 The Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the local bodies which had replaced traditional élites, are abolished.
1988 Salaries of civil servants, reduced under Sankara, are increased and the special tax that forced them to contribute to health and education projects is scrapped.
Dec 1988 A World Bank report lauds the unusually high standards of financial management in Burkina Faso during the revolutionary years while noting the increasing incidence of corruption since Compaorés takeover.
Sept 1989 Lingani and Zongo attempt to oust Compaoré in a coup and are executed.
Dec 1989 31 Sankara supporters are detained without trial for over a year. Lecturer Guillaume Sessouma dies during torture.
Dec 1990 The draft constitution guarantees freedom of association and expression and property rights. It provides for an elected President and National Assembly.
Early 1991 A structural-adjustment package is agreed with the IMF, involving privatization and liberalization of the market.
May 1991 All political prisoners are released.
Dec 1991 Blaise Compaoré wins the presidential election. This is not surprising since he is the only candidate 73 per cent of the electorate do not vote.
1993 The IMF lends Burkina $67m for 1993-5 on condition that it continues implementing free-market policies.
June 1993 An official presidential visit to Paris establishes Compaoré as Frances favourite ally in West Africa.
Jan 1994 The CFA franc is halved in value in relation to the French franc at the insistence of Paris and the IMF.
March 1994 Compaoré tightens his control, sacking the prime minister to install a loyalist.
assessment of Compaoré
There is no real opposition. Politics here means who will give money. People who want to become ministers or deputies look to develop themselves first and the country after they all know the Western way of life, they want everything easy. Politics is just a means of becoming rich and giving you a big car. And Blaise gives money to opposition groups so they will divide and, voilà, no opposition. Another Sankara simply couldnt arrive out of the current democratic landscape.
Thomas Sankara, 1985
See also this information on Thomas Sankara from the Wikipedia
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