Thirty years ago, the leader of Burkina Faso’s revolution, Thomas Sankara, was cut down in a hail of bullets — a bloody end to a turbulent yet charismatic life that today has gained cult status in Africa.
The young army captain who took power in the deeply poor nation in 1983 has been nicknamed “Africa’s Che Guevara,” a monicker that reflects his anti-imperialist convictions almost as much as the way he died.
“Kill Sankara and thousands of Sankaras shall be born,” he is said to have declared in 1987. Just a few months later he would be assassinated as he headed to a government meeting.
Born on December 21, 1949, at Yako in the dusty north of what was then Upper Volta, the future officer was 12 when his homeland attained independence from France.
Once in power after an August 1983 coup, Sankara would rebaptise the country Burkina Faso, or “land of upright men”, and introduce progressist policies that distanced his regime from other former colonies in what France regarded as its backyard in Africa. Read more