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Thomas Sankara

Jean-Claude Kongo and Leo Zeilig
Thomas Sankara
ISBN: 978-0-7969-2517-6
2017/227 pages
Voices of Liberation
Distributed for HSRC Press

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His image is unmistakable: with beret and broad grin, Thomas Sankara's picture is pasted on run-down taxis and seen on the walls of local bars throughout Africa. Known widely as the African Che Guevara, Sakara was Burkina Faso's president from August 1983 until October 1987, when he was killed in a military coup led by Blaise Compaoré. His revolutionary ideas for African self-reliance made him an icon to many of Africa's poor, and he remains immensely popular to this day.

In Thomas Sankara, Jean-Claude Kongo and Leo Zeilig trace Sankara's life in the context of major events in Africa's history; present and contextualize a selection of his speeches, broadcasts, and interviews; and reflect on his legacy, including the 2014 overthrow of President Compaoré in a popular uprising.


Jean-Claude Kongo, a Burkinabé journalist and social activist , was an enthusiastic supporter of President Sankara and active in the events that overturned the Compaoré regime in 2014. Leo Zeilig conducts research on African politics and history, specializing in radical transformation and change on the continent since independence.


  • Introduction.
  • Sankara and French West Africa.
  • Colonization.
  • Towards Decolonization in Upper Volta.
  • Independence Until 1980: A Strange Freedom.
  • Mining and Industry: Fragile Beginnings.
  • Class and Independence.
  • The First Republic.
  • Trade Unions.
  • 1966–80: Increasing Tension Within the State.
  • 1980–83: Prelude to Revolution.
  • Sankara Takes the Stage.
  • Factions Find Form.
  • The Revolutionary Years.
  • Society and Its Contradictions.
  • Revolutionary Paralysis.
  • Taking On Vested Interests.
  • The Unions.
  • Struggle for a Bright Future.
  • The Political Orientation Speech.
  • Our White House Is in Black Harlem.
  • Dare to Invent the Future.
  • Save Our Trees, Our Environment, Our Lives.
  • The Revolution Cannot Triumph Without the Emancipation of Women.
  • We Can Count on Cuba.
  • You Cannot Kill Ideas: A Tribute to Che Guevara.
  • Remembering Sankara: The Past in the Present.
  • The Sankara Touch Inside Burkina Faso: Homeland or Death!
  • Sankara's Revolution Seen From the Outside.
  • The Ghost of Sankara Eclipses Blaise Compaoré.
  • After Blaise Compaoré: The Clashes and Hopes of the Political Transition.
  • Unpicking Revolution: Sankara’s Elusive Revolution.
  • Ideological Clarity.
  • Postscript: From Sankara to Popular Resistance.