| Thomas Sankara |
|Born||21 December 1949|
Yako, French Upper Volta
|Died||1987-10-15 (Age 37)|
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
As president, Sankara called for a united Africa to stand against the "neocolonialism" of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and in 1985 joined Fidel Castro in his call for the creation of a common front of Southern countries against crippling debt repayments.
Prince Johnson, a former Liberian warlord allied to Charles Taylor, told Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that it was engineered by Taylor. The French DGSE and the CIA are strongly suspected of having a hand in the coup.
In October 2021, fourteen men are going on trial charged with murder.
Compaoré promptly set about reverting Sankara’s revolution. He reinstated many officials who had lost their jobs and overturned most of Sankara’s radical reforms. Burkina Faso once again became an obedient client of the World Bank and the IMF’s development programs.
Sankara’s life and anti-colonial legacy continue to inspire anti-imperialist and Pan-African movements across Africa and beyond. A charismatic yet notably humble figure, Sankara is often referred to as the Ché Guevara of Africa. 
On this day in 1987, Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso, was murdered in a foreign-backed coup d’etat.
Sankara was a socialist revolutionary and pan-Africanist. He came to power four years earlier during the Burkinabé revolution. Inspired by the worker-led Madagascan uprising he had witnessed serving as an army officer, Sankara immediately launched programmes for social, ecological and economic change.
Sankara lowered his official salary and sold off the government’s fleet of luxury cars, replacing them with the cheapest available alternative. He eschewed privileges not afforded to the rest of the Burkinabe people.
Sankara vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in just a few weeks. His literacy campaign increased the number of people who could read from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987. In his first year alone, Sankara planted 10 million trees to halt the spread of desertification — a campaign that has since inspired Africa’s Green Belt.
On the anniversary of the revolution, Sankara renamed the country from the French colonial name Upper Volta to Burkina Faso ("Land of Incorruptible People"). He opposed all forms of foreign domination — including the neocolonial systems of debt that continue to suffocate the world today.
Sankara smashed Burkina Faso’s feudal land ownership monopolies and gave land directly to peasants. This redistribution programme was so successful that wheat production more than doubled during his presidency and moved the nation toward self-sufficiency.
Sankara believed that “he who feeds you, controls you”, and all of his successes were achieved without reliance on foreign aid. Burkina Faso would not be imprisoned by the world’s imperialist powers. It would not depend on the ‘good grace’ of the coloniser. Sankara saw foreign aid for what it was: a new system of control, a new method of exploitation.
At the 1987 summit of the Organisation of African Unity, Thomas Sankara warned that he would not live to attend another meeting if Burkina Faso were alone in resisting its debt obligations. Months later he and 12 others were murdered by a hit squad.
This month, 34 years after Sankara’s death, a trial has opened into his assassination. Former president Blaise Compaoré, Sankara’s former comrade and the man who led the coup which toppled his presidency, is charged with complicity in murder. Compaoré fled from Burkina Faso when his regime collapsed in 2014. He is now a citizen of the Ivory Coast, whose authorities have denied Burkinabé’s extradition requests since 2016.
Whilst his murderers may have escaped justice for three decades, Thomas Sankara’s legacy lives on and remains a testament to the immense power of revolutionary change in our societies.
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- "On this day in 1987, Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso, was murdered in a foreign-backed coup d’etat"