Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (21 December 1949 – 15 October 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan-Africanist pragmatist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.
During his time in office he did not go for any foreign aid or loans, saying “He who feeds you, controls you.
He refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes.
He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-women motorcycle personal guard.
When asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”
An accomplished guitarist, he wrote the new national anthem himself. He was only 37 years at the time of his death.
For the 4 short years he ruled over his people, he defied imperialism and showed Africa what could be accomplished by effectively allocating the nation’s mineral wealth and resources to benefits its people, shattering the imperialist lie that Africa could not survive without foreign aid.
Thomas Sankara exemplified what it meant to be a selfless leader with no interest in material gain. He lived a simple and humble life even as he commanded an entire army and ruled over a nation.
In a world in which its ruling elite are worth millions (if not billions) of dollars whilst their people starve and struggle just to make a living, Sankara, when he was assassinated by the CIA and French Secret Service, only had a few hundred dollars, a guitar, a bicycle, and a broken down freezer to his name. Though he is no longer with us, his ideas live on in the hearts and minds of the African people!
“You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot kill an idea.”