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Thomas Sankara, the ‘African Che Guevara’ Who Tried to Save Burkina Faso from French Imperialism

Thomas Sankara (Dec. 21, 1949 – Oct. 15, 1987)

  1. Thomas Sankara was dubbed “Africa’s Che Guevara” after leading a successful coup d’état against the corrupt government of Burkina Faso in 1983.
  2. Formerly known as “Upper Volta,” Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso, meaning “Land of Upright People.”
  3. Sankara was a Pan-Africanist who aimed to create a self- and economically-sufficient population by driving out rampant government corruption.
  4. He also helped to relieve his nation from dependence on its former French colonizers and other foreign aid.
  5. Sankara’s foreign policies were centered around “anti-imperialism, with his government eschewing all foreign aid [and] pushing for odious debt reduction,” according to his biography.
  6. Meanwhile, his domestic policies focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, promoting public health and prioritizing education.
  7. Sankara fought for environmental protections and worked to bring an end to female genital mutilation, commonly referred to as FGM.
  8. As a promoter of women’s rights, he also worked to appoint women to high positions within Burkina Faso’s government.
  9. Sankara was assassinated, along with 13 other officials, on Oct. 15, 1987. All were fatally wounded by a barrage of bullets.
  10. His killing was masterminded by his former close ally, Blaise Compaoré, who had the support of the French.

Thomas Sankara is part of our Black Rebel series for Black History Month.

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