columnBy Ousman Sillah
Yesterday, 15 October, 2007, marked exactly 20 years since Thomas Sankara, the young valiant and visionary President of Burkina Faso, was assassinated in a counter-revolutionary military coup by renegade soldiers headed by the then Captain Blaise Compaore. Sankara and twelve of his aides were murdered by this cowardly bunch who hastily dumped him and his fallen comrades in arms in a shallow mass grave in the outskirts of Ouagadougou in an attempt to obliterate their memory and honour. However, in the unfolding events following the news of the assassination of Sankara and the ignoble move to make him obscure, the youths went out in their droves in the streets of Ouagadougou and the other major cities of Burkina Faso thus demanding for a more fitting and honourable burial for Thomas Sankara and his comrades. The cowardly traitors, headed by Blaise Compaore, Henry Zongo and Jean Baptiste Lingani, who were terribly frightened as to how this ignominious project would end and waiting on the fringes to take flight should the coup d'etat fail, were left with no option in the face of this mass challenge and defiance but to accede to the popular demand and gave Sankara and his gallant aides a more fitting burial with separate graves.
Thomas Sankara was born on the 21 December 1949 in Yako in the then Republic of Upper Volta (now changed to Burkina Faso by Sankara). He entered military preparatory school Ouagadougou in 1966 and graduated in 1969. In 1970 he went for further training at a military academy in Antsirabe, Madagascar. He attended another training session at a parachute school in 1972 in Pau, France. It was while in France that Sankara became exposed to critical political views that helped to shape his progressive outlook.
Following his return to Upper Volta, Sankara became well known and widely respected. In 1976, he was made to head the new National Training School for Commandos in the Southern city of Po near the border with Ghana. He again attended a military training course for parachuters in Rabat, Morocco, where he met with Blaise Compaore for the first time.
The military staged a second coup in which General Sansoule Lamizana was ousted by Colonel Joseph Ki Saye Zerbo. In a letter sent to Zerbo, Sankara refused to join the military government and protested for the announcement made appointing him as Secretary to the President in charge of information. He subsequently accepts the post but on a temporal basis.
In April, 1982, Sankara resigned from the military government and was arrested and sent to the remote town of Dedougou to await court martial. Another coup in November headed by Col. Gabriel Some Yoryan ousted Zerbo and in which a military doctor, Commandant Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo, became President. Sankara and colleagues did not participate in the coup.
Sankara was made prime minister in January 1983. In May a coup was effected by Some Yoryan and Ouedraogo in which Sankara was arrested and imprisoned in Ouahigouya.
It was in August 1983 that Compaore and the supporters of Sankara, in a sustained resistance, freed Sankara from house arrest. Sankara became President and head of the National Council for the Revolution (CNR) and calls for the formation of mass Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.
In the ensuing four years that followed, Sankara, through both theory and practice, had demonstrated to the whole world his capacity and qualities as a visionary, principled, honest, modest, committed, enlightened, genuine, courageous, dignified leader, who selflessly dedicated his life to the service of not only the people of Burkina Faso but the marginalized, oppressed and the dispossessed people all over the world, 'the wretched of the earth'.
Sankara is known for making numerous apt statements that reveal the thoughts, true character and personality of this genuine servant of the people. He is being remembered for having said that "a soldier without political education is a virtual criminal," "power must be conquered by a conscious people," etc. He was in genuine solidarity with the women, workers, peasants, the youths and the elderly. Sankara was a true Pan Africanist whose stand and unflinching support for African unity is unambiguous.
Today there has evolved a strong international movement, which is perpetuating the legacy of Thomas Sankara. This civil society movement or coalition has mobilized activists from Mexico, Europe and Africa on a trail that passed through many countries and later converged in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.Yesterday, this coalition in commemorating the 20 anniversary of cowardly murder of Sankara had held street marches, concerts and later a mass rally in honour of this heroic son of Africa.The activities where attended by Mariam Sankara, the widow of Thomas, who returned from exile to grace the event.The Brazilian President is also visiting Burkina Faso, a trip which reporters said could not have been more timely to honour Sankara.
The democracy loving and progressive looking Gambians, in particular, and Pan Africanists and just humanity, in general, are partaking of this commemoration to Remember THOMAS SANKARA who will always be positively remembered together with the likes of Che, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Mandela and a pantheon of true champions of the cause of the people who lived and died for them defending the rights and interest of the poor, disenfranchised and oppressed .