Last night someone suggested we write a piece about self help or personal responsibilities. Funny enough, the first person that came to my mind (for some reason) was Thomas Sankara!! While waiting for the self help and personal responsibility article to materialise, please allow me to share with you the following piece.
I have heard of Thomas Sankara's work for a long time now. Actually, when talking to an older generation of Africans; one cant help but sense that he was one of those mythical figures. To those who are not very familiar with Sankara; the following are some of the highlights attributed to him during his leadership in Burkina faso.
- He was the first African president from a French colony country to challenge their foreign policy.
- Before Thomas Sankara, Upper Volta was the name the French had given Burkina Faso. When Sankara took over at the tender age of 33, He renamed the country to Burkina Faso meaning land of the "Upright Man".
- His foreign policy was centred on anti-imperialism or afro-imperialism and he immediately refused foreign aid and through his leadership Burkina Faso become one of the (if not the) only country in Africa to ever feed itself in less than four years.
- He was widely renown as the father of "women emancipation" by becoming one of the first presidents in the world to promote women rights. He made it possible for women to enter the work force and take on ministerial positions and join the military; something that was unheard of then. Further, he outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy during his short time as President. Something that was unthinkable in early 80s.
- He was the first African president to refuse that his Picture be displayed in all public places and private businesses citing that there was 7 million Sankara's (7 million meaning the population of Burkina Faso)
- He reduced hefty salaries of all public servants, his own salary and forbid the use of expensive chauffeurs and 1 st class airline tickets by bureaucrats with expensive tastes.
- He opposed foreign aid saying that "he who feeds you, controls you".
- He called on all African nations to refuse to pay their foreign debt. He argued that poor nations and the exploited people of the world did not have a duty to repay money to the rich and those who had exploited them.
- He refused to use air conditioning in his office stating that such luxury was not available to every citizen.
- He lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer. He is known to have been the poorest president while he lived and on his death.
- He launched a nation-wide public health campaign ‘Vaccination Commando’ which in a period of only 15 days in November 1984, completed the immunization of 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles. A world record to date.
- Sankara was also a renowned environmentalist. He planted over ten million trees to halt the growing desertification of the Sahel and established an ambitious road and rail construction program to “connect the nation together. THE SPEECH OF THOMAS SANKARA VIDEO”