A Brief Book Review: Thomas Sankara Speaks- The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983-1987

When I first heard about the late revolutionary Thomas Sankara from Burkina Faso I was instantly fascinated. Why had I heard about political figures like Margaret Thatcher (yuck) and never Sankara? Well besides eurocentrism and racism it is perhaps because his revolution was unfortunately cut short by his assassins. Like Mandela, Guevara, and many more I hope to further research, he led a united group of people towards goals of liberation, decolonization, and freedom through Marxist and anti-imperialist ideology. Today, if you have the awesome chance of meeting someone who actually knows Sankara, they will most likely know him for his extremely progressive views on Women’s Liberation, especially in his famous speech “The Emancipation of Women”. His views were not only progressive but revolutionary and completely trailblazing in the world of African and global politics.

This book provides a little introduction and chronology of Sankara and the events that surrounded his time in leadership, but mainly it just recounts some of his most famous and pivotal speeches and interviews. We get to hear about his basic theory surrounding the construct of his ideal military to what kinds of books he liked to read. His theory on not only how a revolution should take place, but the realities of life in an actual occupation revolution are invaluable and freeing. The way he was able to verbally articulate extremely complex topics was some of the most inspiring thinking I’ve ever been encouraged to do. His opinions on things like how neocolonialism can hide in a disguise as “foreign aid” were not only brilliant, but often the first of their kind. In a way he was like a militant Che Gueverra who got to govern his own land, his own people. And we can see now with the extreme poverty that has followed Burkina Faso since his assassination that if only his ideals were to be implemented in the long-run, would Burkina Faso be an example of a formerly terrorized colony turned into an example of a state with total class-equity. 

Perhaps later I will dive deeper into the specifics of his speeches and interviews but for now I can list a couple of my favorite points. My first favorite point was surprisingly his approach towards the military. As someone who has only recently been radicalized and has grown up with primarily liberal views, the military is definitely a complex subject that I constantly aim to wrap my head around. The idea that the military is inherently apolitical is something we in current day American politics don’t talk enough about, it was refreshing to read about his theory regarding this and gave vocabulary to ideas I did not know how to articulate. His views on women’s liberation were also extremely valuable. The constructs he saw in society in which women’s oppression is so greatly tied to the same capitalistic and imperialistic connotations that hurt the whole country of Burkina Faso is revolutionary. He saw the oppression of women as a systemic failure of the systems he was already fighting against, something that even our most left-leaning politicians today fail to do. I truly could say his theory on women’s liberation matches that of the best. 

So why is it important to learn about the leader of a revolution for a couple years in a country so small and far away? Because Thomas Sankara can teach anyone the basics of liberation against oppressive systems. He, like those who are famous in History, shows a true conscience against systems that have always and will always enable oppression and death in this world. His story cannot and should not be ignored. History will not remember him because he wasn’t like Mandela in the way he could appeal to even the imperialist themselves, but he shouldn’t have had to do that. Instead we should remember a man who called right and wrong as he saw it, who wasn’t scared of a system like communism that could free his people, when capitalism had kept them in shackles for so long.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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