Thoma Sankara - The People's President

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On December 21 1949, Marguerite Sankara, a young lady from the then Upper Volta gave birth to a calm baby boy. She named him Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara. For several years every day, he arose early in the morning and attended primary school in Gaoua. Upon completing, he proceeded to and high school in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country's second city.

At the tender age of 34 in 1983, Thomas Sankara became the president of Upper Volta. One of the first things that he did was to change the country’s name to Burkina Fasso.

Later in the mid-eighties, Thomas Sankara refused to accept the ‘norm’ of African presidency being synonymous with riches. He continued living the same simple life he had lived before he became president and demanded the same from his cabinet ministers. He was not just being sentimental when he said severally that ‘I want people to remember me as someone whose life has been helpful to humanity.’

Throughout his presidency, he promoted women’s rights with passion. Sankara's government included a large number of women. Improving women's status was one of Sankara's explicit goals, an unprecedented policy priority in West Africa. His government banned female circumcision, condemned polygamy, and promoted contraception. The Burkinabé government was also the first African government to publicly recognize AIDS as a major threat to Africa.

Monsieur Sankara could strum the guitar with the same poignant melody with which he spoke. When he wasn’t plucking the warm guitar strings or chatting with the masses, he could be found on his motor bike rambling along the streets of Ouagadougou. It was in the midst of this rumble of the motor, roar of the people and awakening lull of the music that he said sadly that, ‘I can hear the roar of women’s silence.’

Thomas refused to keep quiet in the midst of the injustice that was swarming his country and continent. He loathed corruption with a passion, promoted reforestation and embraced policies that would enhance both education and health. Under his tenure, even when Kenya’s Wangari Maathai was not yet immersed in tree planting, when there was no billion tree campaign, Sankara oversaw the planting of ten million trees.

In 1984, one year into his vibrant presidency, Sankara changed the country’s name into Burkina Faso, meaning "the land of the upright people" in Mossi and Djula, the country’s two major languages. He didn’t stop there but went on to give the country a new flag and new national anthem - Une Seule Nuit

Contre la férule humiliante il y a déjà mille ans,
La rapacité venue de loin les asservir il y a cent ans.
Contre la cynique malice métamorphosée
En néocolonialisme et ses petits servants locaux
Beaucoup flanchèrent et certains résistèrent.
Mais les échecs, les succès, la sueur, le sang
Ont fortifié notre peuple courageux et fertilisé sa lutte héroïque.

Et une seule nuit a rassemblée en elle
L'histoire de tout un peuple.
Et une seule nuit a déclenché sa marche triomphale
Vers l'horizon du bonheur.
Une seule nuit a réconcilié notre peuple
Avec tous les peuples du monde,
A la conquête de la liberté et du progrès
La Patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons !

Nourris à la source vive de la Révolution.
Les engagés volontaires de la liberté et de la paix
Dans l'énergie nocturne et salutaire du 4 août
N'avaient pas que les armes à la main, mais aussi et surtout
La flamme au coeur pour légitimement libérer
Le Faso à jamais des fers de tous ceux qui
Çà et, là en poluaient l'âme sacrée de l'indépendance, de la souveraineté.


Et séant désormais en sa dignité recouvrée
L'amour et l'honneur en partage avec l'humanité,
Le peuple du Burkina chante un hymne à la victoire,
A la gloire du travail libérateur, émancipateur.
A bas l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme!
Hé en avant pour le bonheur de tout homme,
Par tous les hommes aujourd'hui et demain, par tous les hommes ici et pour toujours!


Révolution populaire notre sève nourricière.
Maternité immortelle du progrès à visage d'homme.
Foyer éternel de démocratie consensuelle,
Où enfin l'identité nationale a droit de cité,
Où pour toujours l'injustice perd ses quartiers,
Et où, des mains des bâtisseurs d'un monde radieux
Mûrissent partout les moissons de væux patriotiques, brillent les soleils infinis de joie.


English translation

Against the humiliating bondage of a thousand years
Rapacity came from afar to subjugate them for a hundred years.
Against the cynical malice in the shape
Of neo-colonialism and its petty local servants.
Many gave in and certain others resisted.
But the frustrations, the successes, the sweat, the blood
Have fortified our courageous people and fertilized its heroic struggle.

And one single night has drawn together
The history of an entire people,
And one single night has launched its triumphal march.
Towards the horizon of good fortune.
One single night has brought together our people
With all the peoples of the World,
In the acquisition of liberty and progress.
Motherland or death, we shall conquer.

Nourished in the lively source of the Revolution,
The volunteers for liberty and peace
With their nocturnal and beneficial energies of the 4th of August
Had not only hand arms, but also and above all
The flame in their hearts lawfully to free
Faso forever from the fetters of those who
Here and there were polluting the sacred soul of independence and sovereignty.


And seated henceforth in rediscovered dignity,
Love and honour partnered with humanity,
The people of Burkina sing a victory hymn
To the glory of the work of liberation and emancipation.
Down with exploitation of man by man!
Forward for the good of every man
By all men of today and tomorrow, by every man here and always!


Popular revolution our nourishing sap.
Undying motherhood of progress in the face of man.
Eternal hearth of agreed democracy,
Where at last national identity has the right of freedom.
Where injustice has lost its place forever,
And where from the hands of builders of a glorious world
Everywhere the harvests of patriotic vows ripen and suns of boundless joy shine.



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DJ Bwakali

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