Who killed Thomas Sankara?


Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaoré (that’s him above posing in between Michelle and Barack Obama at the UN a few years ago), is receiving some mixed PR right now. The Telegraph in the UK has said that even with a murky past, Compaoré may be shaping up to be West Africa’s chief negotiator in regional conflicts. Some sources remain non-plussed. Peter Dorrie argues in African Arguments that Compaoré may be helping to “resolve” conflicts that he’s already benefitted from. Some in France, however, are hoping to stir this up even more. 

A few weeks ago a French MP, André Chassaigne, announced he would press the French National Assembly to create an inquiry commission to investigate the 1987 assassination of Thomas Sankara. Chassaigne, a member of the Communist party (yes, it is significant that he is not from the ruling party or the main, conservative, opposition party), is following up on a letter written by 12 Burkinabe MPs in 2011, who’d asked for the commission.

Sankara, who was the president of Burkina Faso for four years until his assassination on October 15, 1987, brought in a tremendous amount of reform in a short period. Literacy and vaccination programs were launched, and Burkina Faso was nearly completely self-sustaining. Compaoré, who some implicate in Sankara’s assassination, came into power immediately after.

It is worth repeating what Chaissaigne told journalists in regards to his proposition to the Assemblée Nationale of France:

France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination…I believe that France, which today claims to behave differently towards Africa under what I personally would call a virtuous circle, must tell the truth…We cannot leave the people of Burkina Faso, and more broadly speaking, the peoples of Africa in the dark about what really happened.

Meanwhile, Compaoré’s government is in a bind about recommending a national hero to the African Union as part of the organization’s 50th anniversary this year. Basically each country has to recommend one person. The only one outstanding is Burkina Faso’s nomination. There’s no doubt Sankara’s name deserves to represent Burkina Faso at the AU celebrations. While Compaoré gave Sankara a national honor in 1991 (along with three others), his regime is clearly embarrassed as well as skittish about honoring someone held in such esteem by large sections of the population — especially the youth — as well as beyond Burkina Faso’s borders.

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21 thoughts on “Who killed Thomas Sankara?

  1. ”who some implicate in Sankara’s assassination” – what kind of mealy-mouthed tomfoolery is that? And what sort of callow interns do you have churning out the fluff, these days? This statement alone (also the photo – and the non-ending of your piece) is a disgrace.

  2. Reblogged this on The More Things Change and commented:
    Of note: French Communist Party MP Andre Chassaigne telling journalists “France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination … I believe that France, which today claims to behave differently towards Africa under what I personally would call a virtuous circle, must tell the truth.” Chassaigne will be pressing the French National Assembly to create a commission of inquiry into Thomas Sankara’s assassination in Burkina Faso in 1987.

  3. I agree with Eliot. Poorly researched, copy pasted from different places. Sorry, Africa is a country, but maybe football and music is really the only thing you know about.
    And writing “Burkina Faso was nearly completely self-sustaining” -what are your sources, what are the statistics, the data that supports such an broad statement? While I am no fan of Blaise Compaore, Sankara was not performing miracles in this very very poor African country.
    Sankara has been made more of a hero that he really was. He was also, after all, a military man and a politician. While I regret not seeing him finish what he started, none of us could claim that his reign couldn’t have also ended badly.
    For many people he is a symbol of fighting against imperialism, similarly to that of Che Guevara, but there is more depth and complexity to him (also some bad), than that of an image on a sticker or a T-shirt.
    Do your work, AIAC, you’re loosing your credibility.

    • “in this very very poor African country”? Actually, Burkina Faso is an agriculturally wealthy country but that is not what we are taught to believe. The people have been kept starved by the Governments whose constituents are France and other European countries who own economic wealth depends on Burkina Faso’s lack of economic wealth today. Similar for Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and many South American Countries. Thomas Sankara was more than “just a military man and a politician”. Because politicians do not create space for equality, justice or freedom for all rather they most often repress all of these necessities while ensuring economic wealth and stability for a few elite. Much like in the US or any other so called First World Country or Third World country. The concern should not be about T-shirts, Che or stickers etc…. we should give Burkina Faso’s people more credit for valuing the actions and sacrifice that Thomas Sankara took upon himself to uplift his country not knock it down and dismiss it. It is easier to dismiss an accomplishment than to value and accept its profound influence and impression.

  4. I am not quite sure what you all are complaining about. The article is about the quest for an inquiry to find those responsible for Sankara’s death – that is the title. It was not about the success or failure of Sankara – so not sure which statistics you want researched and quoted. The issue of Sankara’s death is one of importance – not about Sankara himself – but the extent to which outside figures manipulated the feature of Africa. Not least because it was also a crime.

    Sankara was no great economist. He was there for 4 years only and by the third year, things were getting very rough. You want to guess what would have happened had he been there for 8 years or 12 years then you would need a crystal ball, not data. You need to look a Yoweri Musoveni who criticised African leaders for staying in power too long when he was young and is doing exactly that right now to realise you never know how things could turn out. Maybe Sankara would be a dictator today like Ghadaffi or maybe or maybe he would have matured into a great leader and democrat and given up power and be held in the same regard as Mandela. We don’t know. All we know is that Sankara had a very appealing vision for Africa and his country. It was the right vision – to be free of aid, to trade on equal terms, to manufacture & process and add value to own raw materials instead of selling raw materials and giving away the value. We know he believed in the pride of his people and of Africans. We know his vision was right but we know his execution was somewhat poor and immature after the second year – he was in his 30s. We know he really fought for his people and we know he angered very powerful western forces. He was Chavez with less resources and leadership skills or Kagame with less leadership and economic skills. How he would have got on with his plans after the 4th year is nothing more than guessing. We do know that Blaise has been there for 25 years. We have data on Blaise achievement in Burkina Faso. How does he fair compared to Sankara’s 4 years?

    • I was saying that we do not have data proving that during Sankara’s time Burkina was nearly completely self-sustaining, which the OP was suggesting.
      And while the title suggests something, the article tries to sweep in different directions, without much depth.
      One of the things that Sankara was wrong about was the so called ‘traditional powers’, e.g.he decided that Mogho Naaba (the traditional Mossi ruler in Ouagadougou) should start paying electricity (which they never did before) and he cut their supply when they failed to do so. He tried to build in equality in a society that is inherently hierarchical, I loved his ideas (but I am a happy child of socialism, most Burkinabé are not). These were the important people who ended up being against him, not just the Western donors and former colonial power.
      I do not disagree with any of what you are saying about not knowing what longer stay in power may have done for him, but what I was saying was, the post was flimsy. The kind that AIAC normally makes fun of when posted elsewhere.

  5. It’s no coincidence that Sankara was killed after this speach: He had found out the western capitalistic Ponzi Scheme of the International Banksters. I m not Burkinabe and even west african, I am a capitalistic businessman who like honest profit and fruits of my labour but Sankara was totally right and was the only intelligent African President ever lived. Ask yourself who killed Patrice Lumumba? Who killed John F Kennedy and his brother? Who killen Abraham Lincoln and why? It was all about MONEY which is translated to POWER. People need to be educated about history, economics and geopolitics before they can connect the dots of what really is going on in the world. Money Talks and bull shit walks!

  6. Here is the speech which was the REAL solution to REAL independence of African and by that matter the salary slaves of Europe and America. Colonialism in Africa never ceased it just transitioned and changed faces from visible military colonialism to invisible ECONOMIC colonialism.

  7. Prins: While that is certainly a great speech in the time of neo-colonialism, the questions and problems have changed since then.
    On a personal note I’m tired of these commissions investigating Sakara’s death, Lumumba’s death…There is no closure to be had from knowing who killed them now, and to be honest, I’m not sure that closure is what is needed. Certainly not now that figures like Sankara have been adopted into the ‘hall of fame’ of the so-called revolutionaries of today.

    • However much we write hagiographies of these killed-before-their-time revolutionaries, their glorified memories are necessary to remind us that there’s another way. No space currently exists for such a leader in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    • I think the point with these commissions is to keep the memory of Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lamumba, SAlvador Allende, Malcolm X and others intact, alive and affective as part of the conversation. If this were not true then their complex values philosophies would probably not be seen as problematic or a threat to many Governments or corporations.

  8. What a shame that Africans always have to go to Massa.The French are the conspirators in Sankara’s death,they supported his murder for their own cause and now you are asking the enemy to convene a Commission of Inquiry!Shame on all you Burkinabes.
    The president should have been tried a long time ago for Sankara’s death as most people seem to think he was complicit in Sankara’s death.But who calls for the French Devils involved in Sankara’s death to be tried?Why don’t you my friend?
    Fellow Africans! Do not be mislead.White people are the authors of all the coups in Africa and where ever they see fit for their cause to be advanced especially if it is economic or strategic.
    The French are as wicked as any other group of white men so do not appeal to them because they are demons and cannot be redeemed.For Blaize,I believe it is high time Africa sets up its own Truth Commission and possibly a Court of Justice.
    This brings me to the point of President Kenyatta.Does African people try white people for their crimes against humanity? Yet we accept white authority over us lock stock and barrel.This nonsense must stop.
    Africa is for Africans and we must settle all our problems not take them to the people who created them in the first place.

  9. What you all must know is that good people dont last long,because the enemies will always rise up against them,thomas sankara was a good man and a freedom fighter,though in the process of fighting for freedom he offended many people in one way or the other,but his intensions whey good ones ,his soul will forever rest in peace for he faught a good fight.every freedom requires a sarcrifice and that he did.REST IN PEACE MY MENTOR.

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