By Moses Machipisa
15 October 1987 Africa lost young revolutionary and visionary leader who left a model of youth leadership that is worth learning from.This is my tribute to him. Rest in Power Captain Sankara.
At just 33 Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara was thrown into the arena in 1984 through a bloodless coup. Young and charismatic Sankara came into the scene in a time of hopelessness and opression. Sankara was a doer, a practical man who sought to bring practical solutions to the challenges that his people were facing.
The first order of the day was to change the name of the country from the colonial “Upper Volta” to Burkina Faso which meant “Land of the upright people. ” This action was intented to lay a new foundation for a cultural shift for the nation that Sankara envisioned. Sankara had seen the rampant corruption that plagued the government elite siphoning resources away from development innitiatives. Sankaras immediate action was to nip government flamboyance. He auctioned the expensive luxury cars that officials used and replaced them with the cheapest cars of that time. Sankara took bold actions to clean government of corruption.
Sankara had realised that for Burkina Faso to be truly independent it had to be food secure. He reasoned that “He who feeds you controls you” and at the time Burkina Faso was a net importer of food. Sankara started a radical agricultural revolution. This revolution saw land being redistributed to the landless peasantry from the feudal Lords coupled with agricultural education programs. In just 3 years Burkina Faso was now exporting agricultural produce.
When Sankara entered into the Arena there was a lot of infant mortality. This was mainly because of low vaccination. Sankara was very concerned about the health of his people and always insisted that healthy minds require healthy bodies. To this end Sankara began one of the biggest vaccination campaigns on the continent . He started Mass vaccination campaigns which saw 2.5 million being vaccinated against measles and meningitis in a short space of time
Sankara in comparison with progress of other African nations was far ahead his time in regards to girl child and women empowerment. Sankara abolished expulsions of pregnant girls from school. He banished female genital mutilation and also promoted girl child education. Sankara also empowered women by elevating women into top posts in government. He was also a proponent of change in the Labour markets by introducing equal pay for women.
“In the ministries responsible for education, we should take special care to assure that women’s access to education is a reality, for this reality constitutes a qualitative step toward emancipation. It is an obvious fact that wherever women have had access to education, their march to equality has been accelerated.” – Thomas Sankara
Sankara also undertook daring infrastructure development programs such as building of roads and railways. Although there was no sophisticated machinery fo him to undertake such bold projects Sankara utilised the only resource that he had – the people. Sankara inculcated the values of Patriotism among his people who in turn took it upon themselves to work on National development programs.
Sankara was not only passionate about his country alone. He was a Pan-Africanist at heart. He championed the cause for African countries to be self sufficient giving practical examples of what he was doing in his own country. Sankara was also an activist against debt repayment to colonial powers by African countries. He spoke his mind freely in defiance to neo- colonialism and the economic exploitation of Africa.
For the Three years that Sankara was in power in Burkina Faso he laid out a clear template of how Africa can pull herself out of poverty my through a pragmatic approach. Sankara will always be remembered for the legacy of self reliance and African solidarity.Due to his ideas that were far ahead of his time and his defiance of colonial powers, Sankara made many enemies and was subsequently assassinated in 1987.
Sankara still remains a towering beacon of hope to an increasingly growing number of African youth of today. He was a practical man that sought to change the destiny of his people. He did the deeds.
Moses Machipias is a thought leader behind the ideology of Youthnism an Current Global Thinkers Forum Mentee. He is an Alumni of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Youth leadership Training and an Alumini of capernaum Scholar. He is also a member of Activista Zimbabwe