On Friday, October 28th, 2011
Guy Marius Sagna
It is almost a quarter of a century since Thomas Sankara disappeared. In the pantheon of the brave sons of Africa assassinated by the former colonists and their African accomplices, he joins people like Lumumba, Um Nyobé, Félix Moumié, Osendé Afana, Ben Barka, Outel Bono and Pierre Mulele. But today, now that Africa needs the Sankarist spirit of action more than ever, Guy-Marius Sanga wishes more people looked to Sankara as a role model
Across Africa the people, from Tunis and Ougadougou to Burkina Faso and Senegal, are fighting to force regimes to step down. The people are trying to rise once again from the slumber that made Senegalese communist activist Lamine Arfang Senghor say: ‘Blacks have been asleep for too long. But beware Europe! Those who have slept a long time will not go back to sleep when they wake up. Today, blacks are waking up.’
These people, as in Senegal, are legitimately in search of a collective way out from under-development. Dissatisfaction is widespread; people are saying: “I’ve had enough!”. In 2011 these people, who have seen their flesh branded with semi-colonial red irons, by 50 years of betrayal and the false promises of elites, , are now engaged in a process of questioning and rejecting that is tackling corrupt power head on.
The people have lost faith in their managers, the elites and the political class. That’s why it’s important to remind them that Africa has not only given birth to the likes of Bokassa, Mobutu, Houphouët, Senghor, Habré, Bongo, Eyadema, Ahidjo etc; it also gave birth to others, like Sankara, this son who was brutally taken on 15 October 1987, 24 years ago today.
It’s important to know that if today people have suffered for 50 years under leaders like Traoré, Diouf, Biya, Wade, Compaoré and Déby, it is because the worthy sons of Africa, of whom Sankara is the last in a long list, were assassinated by the former colonial powers and their African accomplices.
Um Nyobé assassinated in 1958. Félix Moumié assassinated in 1960. Osendé Afana assassinated and then decapitated on 15 March 1966. Mehdi Ben Barka, the Moroccan, disappeared in Paris on 29 October 1965, whose body has never been found. Outel Bono the Chadian assassinated on 26 August 1973 in Paris. Pierre Mulele assassinated on 2 October 1968. Mulele’s death was certainly the most cruel. While he was still alive, the fascist Mobutu dictatorship ripped off his ears, cut off his nose, amputated his arms and then his legs, before throwing the rest of his body into the Congo river in a sack.
These men were all assassinated by US-Afrique and Franc-Afrique; one agent Bourgi is still active today in French politics. A man who not only transferred funds to different members of his network, but also killed in Africa.
What did these men, among them Sankara, do, to all be assassinated in the days before and after independence, by a hideous and monstrous imperialism?
Sankara unmasked and denounced imperialism: “We encourage aid that stems from a desire to help. But in general, assistance and aid policy serves only to disrupt us, to enslave us, to disempower us. Debt is a cleverly organised reconquest of Africa, (…) so that each one of us becomes a slave to finance. It is a system that knows exactly what to offer. (…)These are good opportunities for investors. Debt is neo-colonialism, in which the colonisers have turned themselves into technical advisors, and they are the ones who propose these sources of funding to us.’ To put an end to this policy and regain independence, Sankara suggested a break with subjugation. ‘ We must proclaim that there can be no salvation for our people unless we turn our backs completely on all the models that they have tried to sell us for 20 years. There can be no development for us without this rupture’.
He set out and put in place a new way of doing politics, one that served the people rather than being self-serving, like the parasitic African proconsuls who stand in the way of development: ‘Popular Tribunals of the Revolution (TPR) were set up to judge publicly the misappropriation of public funds, the trials were public and broadcast on radio and television. The guilty were condemned to return the money stolen. The new way diminished the lifestyle of political leaders: Sankara and all the ministers drove a Renault 5. The luxury government vehicles were sold to build schools in villages. Ministers and officials on business travelled economy class and stayed in less expensive hotel rooms. Ministers received salaries at their starting level. Outcome: The budget, which had a one million deficit in 1983, had a two million surplus by 1985.
The past 50 years have shown, through the case of Sankara and other members of the Pantheon, that imperialism is more likely to forgive an attack against 38 out of 39 articles in a constitution than one thirty-ninth of its interests in Africa. ‘Streamlined imperialism’ looked for any way to stop the ‘wheel of history’, including the assassination of political leaders. It’s impossible to understand the current situation in our countries and political classes without a glance at the rear view mirror of history.
The natural course of endogenous development was arrested several times in Africa, by slavery, colonisation and semi-colonisation. And Sankara’s assassination was a way to nip development in the bud. Ironically, it is the lies of the assassins’ media that impose grids of racist readings on a supposed congenital inability of blacks for self-development and democracy, which they say could never be applied in Africa! The height of tragedy is that there are African elites who echo these claims!
That is why it is necessary for young people, women, ordinary people, the working classes, Pan-Africanists and revolutionaries to know Sankara’s name and his work and ideas. Beyond the extraordinary admiration his name evokes, particularly among the youth, there is also a fundamental issue: Know to understand; understand to act; act to change; change to escape under-development.
The attachment of youth and the people to Sankara contrasts with the attitude of our leaders and the political classes. Which political parties brief their members on Sankara’s story? Which political organisations celebrate Sankara in their training programmes? Who teaches the vision and action of Sankara? Who has a photo of Sankara in their home? Isn’t this significant that most of our ruling classes make no reference to Sankara?
What is the opposite of Sankara? It is a poltician who will live on taxpayers’ money, who will enrich himself on the back of the taxpayer, who thinks it is normal that because he is a leader, he should live in luxury that he wouldn’t have had as an ordinary person, who will act as an accomplice of big capitalist powers against the people.
The new type of leader our people are hungry for will be like Sankara, or will not be at all. In the face of the pessimism, fatalism and low self-esteem imposed by the domination of colonial and neo-colonial ideology that insists that Sankara is unique and impossible to replace, we say that Sankara is the logical outcome of imperialism that inevitably bring son the resistance of the people, and therefore inevitably creates Sankaras.
Sankara is an antibody created by our suffering continent sick with the cancer of imperialism: ‘(…) Every man, big or small,(…) is the sum and product of all the people in the womb in which he comes to life’, said Salvador Madariaga.
Thus was written the first 50 years of our independence. The first year of the second 50 is full of hope that history will be rewritten by the youth and by the people.
On the 24th anniversary of the Sankara’s assassination ‘there is an urgent need to revisit these historic events in the light of regressive changes that plague the African continent, black people and oppressed people in general, not only as historians but also to rearm a young generation of Africans wondering about the catastrophic fate of Africans and especially on the perspectives and alternatives that will renew social progress and national independence in Africa. It is to this reflection on the history of the struggle and on the future that you are invited.’(Fodé Roland Diagne, cité par Ferñent).
Guy Marius Sagna
* Guy Marius Sagna is a member of Ferñent/ Mouvement des Travailleurs Panafricains-Sénégal