Paperback Edition ISBN: 978-0-8214-2126-0 RIGHTS: world except SADC
Electronic Edition ISBN: 978-0-8214-4507-5 RIGHTS: world except SADC
160 pages · 4.25 × 7 in., 12 photos
Publisher: Ohio University Press (November 4, 2014)
Series: Ohio Short Histories of Africa
Thomas Sankara, often called the African Che Guevara, was president of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, until his assassination during the military coup that brought down his government. Although his tenure in office was relatively short, Sankara left an indelible mark on his country’s history and development. An avowed Marxist, he outspokenly asserted his country’s independence from France and other Western powers while at the same time seeking to build a genuine pan-African unity.
Ernest Harsch traces Sankara’s life from his student days to his recruitment into the military, early political awakening, and increasing dismay with his country’s extreme poverty and political corruption. As he rose to higher leadership positions, he used those offices to mobilize people for change and to counter the influence of the old, corrupt elites. Sankara and his colleagues initiated economic and social policies that shifted away from dependence on foreign aid and toward a greater use of the country’s own resources to build schools, health clinics, and public works. Although Sankara’s sweeping vision and practical reforms won him admirers both in Burkina Faso and across Africa, a combination of domestic opposition groups and factions within his own government and the army finally led to his assassination in 1987.
This is the first English-language book to tell the story of Sankara’s life and struggles, drawing on the author’s extensive firsthand research and reporting on Burkina Faso, including interviews with the late leader. Decades after his death, Sankara remains an inspiration to young people throughout Africa for his integrity, idealism, and dedication to independence and self-determination.
Ernest Harsch is a research scholar at the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. He worked on African issues at the United Nations for more than twenty years and is the author of South Africa: White Rule, Black Revolt.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. “Another way of Governing”
2. The Forging of e Rebel
3. Onto the Political Stage
4. The State Reimagined
5. Mobilizing the Nation
6. Development for the People
7. A Foreign Policy of One’s Own
8. The Last Battles
9. “Is It Possible to Forget You?”
Except an anthology of speeches, “Thomas Sankara speaks”, until now no book in English did exist on the revolution (1983-1987) which drastically changed Burkina Faso. This pocket book which is a useful and rather thorough synthesis was long overdue. Two chapters are devoted to the life of Thomas Sankara, his leader, who by his vision, his moral discipline and energy influenced greatly the revolution.
Then the author focuses on describing the main guiding principles and achievements : reforms of the State, women’s rights, aim of food self-sufficiency, self-sustained economy, the active participation of the people, national independence, activism in foreign policy.
The book benefits from interesting incidents related by the author who had criss-crossed the country at the time. He met Thomas Sankara several time.
In a chapter, entitled “the ultimate battle”, he recounts the political arguments which opposed self-declared marxist organisations. We know that Sankara did not want to enter in a cycle of repression and exclusion, preferring a debate and a party in which various political leanings could be expressed as long as they adhered to the DOP (discours d’orientation politique).
But he asserts that political differences have been the cause of the assassination, ignoring recent testimonies by several comrades-in-arms of Charles Taylor, adding weight to the allegation that it was an intermational plot. Some even suggest that the CIA was involved.
If he had mentioned it, maybe a debate could have arisen in the U.S. leading to call for declassifying official documents, indeed even a congressional inquiry, as in France, though still without result.until now.