Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, as a close reading of Frantz Fanon’s decolonization theories suggests, was an inevitable revolutionary. Sankara evidenced and ultimately turned the contradictions of the colonial system against itself.
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The twentieth-century political upheaval that formally liberated Africa from European colonialism often evokes images of exponential mass struggle—droves of citizens spilling onto the streets, weapons in hand, eradicating colonial infrastructure locale by locale. Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, dubbed the ‘Che Guevara of Africa’, is one of the most significant African leaders that championed the call for self-determination. Revered for his charismatic and captivating speeches, his legacy of amicableness coupled with his fierce anti-imperialism rhetoric has given rise to ‘Sankarism’ in contemporary Burkina Faso.
Sankara sought to forge a national identity that transcended ethnic, class and gender differences which had been exacerbated by the exploitation of indigenous Burkinabè society. He hoped that by transforming national consciousness, the Burkinabè would be able to become materially self-reliant. Sankara’s rhetoric and pedagogy effectively placed the small, landlocked country on the international stage and ultimately unsettled France (and the United States). Ironically, the educational and cultural experiences that would inform Sankara’s approach to decolonization were afforded to Sankara as the son of a colonial guard and a descendant of the dominant ethnic group, a direct result of the colonization of Burkina Faso—it was the colonial machine that equipped Sankara with the tools to be employed in service of the Burkinabè revolution...
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