Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary is a novel written about the plight of the African revolution based on the life of Thomas Sankara and the revolution in Burkina Faso. The book is authored by Ernest Harsch,  a research scholar at the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. Harsch is a well known and experienced author who has worked on African issues under the United Nations for a considerable time. He is also the author of South Africa: White Rule, Black Revolt.  Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press and is the first English-language book that illustrates the life of Sankara and the struggles he went through in his tenure as the president of Burkina Faso. It has a length of 163 pages covering different subjects related to history and Africa.

Plot Synopsis

The author devotes the first two chapters in accounting for the life of Sankara.  He talks of the Sankara’s life starting from the schooling days, life in the military, and his political career and government post. Afterward, the book then shifts focus and accounts for the primary guiding principles and the achievements of Sankara. It explains the different reforms of the state under his reign. The author talks of Sankara’s advocacy on equality and women rights, food self-sufficient Burkina Faso, national independence, and activism in foreign policy. The book presents Sankara as a leader whose was focus was on changing the political and leadership landscape set by the previous regimes. This is the sole reason why he came up with economic and social policies whose focus was on the use of the country’s resources rather than depending on foreign aid. Thomas Sankara served as the president of Burkina Faso from the period between 1983 and 1987. Due to his charismatic nature, Sankara is commonly referred to as the African Che Guevara. His policies and practical reforms across Burkina Faso made people from Burkina Faso and across African to love him. However, just like any other visionary leader, Sankara found opposition from a section of the population and a section of his government. This led to a military coup, and he was assassinated on 15 October 1987, bringing down his government. During his short tenure in office, Sankara asserted Burkina Faso independence from France. He was also the force behind building a genuine Pan-African unity. Contrary to views of many scholars and vocal leaders, Ernest Harsch asserts that the assassination of Sankara was as a result of political difference within his government and not an international plot.

The theme of African Development

To a large extent, the central theme in the Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary is African development. The book presents a man who is determined to steer forward the development of political consciousness among African people.  It also presents Sankara as an enthusiastic leader interested in helping not only Burkina Faso citizens, but also African people in towards grasping control over their own lives. For Africa to develop economically, the author through the perspectives of Sankara points out that it is imperative for African to cut its dependence on foreign aid and focus on using the continent’s resources. As a continent, Africa has a lot of resources. The problem is that Africans do not make use of these resources. In this regard, they resort in seeking foreign aid which according to Sankara is a burden to Africans. As highlighted in the book, Sankara was aware that the three challenges that Burkina Faso was facing were the issue of education, health, and unemployment. This was not an issue of only Burkina Faso and probably is not an issue of only Burkina Faso, it is an issue used to face and probably facing the whole of Africa. In essence, these three are the pillars of socioeconomic development. Ernest Harsch notes that Sankara was of the idea that the resources within African are enough to build and better schools, build and equip health comics, build public works. As an avowed Marxist, Sankara was of the idea that building a genuine pan-African unity would help to foster the socio-economic development of the region to a high level.

Critical Review

Being the first English-language book describing the life of Sankara the struggles of African leaders towards developing their countries, the book is a total fascination. The fascination comes from reading about led a leader who lived a humble and straightforward and led a revolution to free his citizens. From reading the book, it is evident that the struggles African go through will only end the moment Africans will decide to put them at a standstill. Just like Sankara, I believe that Africa has all that it takes to be economically stable.  The only problem is that most Africans have been indoctrinated into the notion that they cannot do without foreign aid. Like Sankara, I believe that Africans should have the belief that using what they have and believing in themselves could result in massive changes. This book evokes emotions to the reader by the fact that as a leader who meant well for his people, he ended up being assassinated by people who could not thrive in a system of integrity. It is sad that a leader who fought for a free nation could not live enough to see Burkina Faso and African at large prosper. This book helps the reader to understand why the ideology of Sankara is still much alive and why they are still widely admired throughout Burkina Faso, African and across the world.