Sunday, 2 November 2014

Former president Sankara ghost hangs over Burkina Faso turmoil.Drive Hot News

 Former Burkina Faso president
Former Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara. Photo by Agencies 

Ouagadougou- In the early hours of a night in 1987, one of Africa’s youngest leader, Thomas Sankara, was murdered and quietly and quickly buried in a shallow grave.
Now, the man widely believed to be behind it, Burkina Faso’s president, has watched as his parliament was set ablaze by furious protesters who want him gone.
Many of the protesters say the history of the slain 1980s leader partly inspired them to rise against Blaise Compaore, who has been in power for 27 years and was trying, by a vote in parliament, for another five.
Though some see Sankara as an autocrat who came to office by the power of the gun, and who ignored basic human rights in pursuit of his ideals, in recent years he has been cited as a revolutionary inspiration not only in Burkina Faso but in other countries across Africa.
In the weeks before the current chaos, Al Jazeera spoke to people in the capital, Ouagadougou, and found many who predicted that Sankara’s memory, and Compaore’s attempt to seek another five-year term, may soon spark an uprising.
At the time of his assassination Sankara was just 37 and had ruled for only four years.
But his policies, and his vision, are still cherished both by some locals who were around when he was in power and, significantly, by many young people who were born since his death.
His killing was the fifth coup since the nation won independence from France and the main beneficiary was Compaore, who quickly took his place.
Naming a nation
Until that night, the two had often been referred to as best friends.
Although there is less poverty now than back then, a growing number of Burkinabés had, in recent years, started to feel that Sankara’s nationalisation policies may have made the perpetually arid nation a more prosperous and self-reliant place than it is today.
“Sankara wanted a thriving Burkina Faso, relying on local human and natural resources as opposed to foreign aid,” retired professor of economics, Noel Nébié, told Al Jazeera.
“And starting with agriculture, which represents more than 32 per cent of the country’s GDP and employs 80 percent of the working population, he smashed the economic elite who controlled most of the arable land and granted access to subsistence farmers. That improved production making the country almost self-sufficient.”
Initially known as the Republic of Upper Volta, after the river, in 1984 Sankara changed the country’s name to Burkina Faso, meaning Land of the Upright People, and he soon made that name the symbol of his nationalisation crusade.
Some say the fact he authored his nation’s name has kept his memory alive.
“When you wake up in the morning and you remember you are a Burkinabe, you automatically recall the person who thought up that local name and stamped it on us,” Ishmael Kaboré, a 47-year-old lawyer in Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera.
“At first, people felt the name Burkina Faso was odd, awkward and far from the modern and foreign names other countries were bearing in Africa.
“But they realised after his death that Sankara wanted to give us a unique and special identity that tells our history and depicts our character,” Mr Kaboré said.
Sankara was a determined pan-Africanist, whose foreign policies were largely centred on anti-imperialism. His government spurned foreign aid and tried to stamp out the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the country by adopting debt reduction policies and nationalising all land and mineral wealth.