CaptainThomas Sankara (December 21, 1949 – October 15, 1987) was the leader of Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta) from 1983 to 1987. He came to power in a coup masterminded by BlaiseCompaoré. While noted for his personal charisma and praised for promoting health and women's rights, he also antagonised many vested interests in the country.
Thomas Sankara was the son of Marguerite Sankara (died March 6, 2000) and Sambo Joseph Sankara (1919 – August 4, 2006), a gendarme. Born into a Roman Catholic family, "Thom'Sank" was a Silmi-Mossi, an ethnic group that originated with marriage between Mossi men and women of the pastoralist Fulani people, the Silmi-Mossi are among the least advantaged in the Mossi caste system.
The Mossi states were created about 1500 A.D., when bands of horsemen rode north from what is now northern Ghana into the basin of the Volta River and conquered several less powerful peoples, including Dogon, Lela, Nuna, and Kurumba. These were integrated into a new society call Mossi, with the invaders as chiefs and the conquered as commoners. The emperor of the Mossi is the Moro Naba, who lives in the ancient and contemporary capital, Ouagadougou. In the centuries between 1500 and 1900 the Mossi were a major political and military force in the bend of the Niger River and were effective in resisting the movements of Muslim Fulani armies across the Sudan area of west Africa.
A.The Mossi Kingdoms, sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Mossi Empire, were a trio of powerful states in modern-day Burkina Faso. Each state possessed similar customs and government, but were ruled independently of each other. At times, the kingdoms fought amongst themselves or united in the face of Muslim aggression from the north in Mali.
B.The descendants of the conquered farmers (nyonyose) honor nature spirits that provide them with supernatural power to control the weather, disease, crop failure, and general well-being. Among the most important religious celebrations are annual sacrifices to honor the memories of the royal ancestors, when each and every male head of a household reaffirms his dependence on the benevolence of the chief and his ancestors for health and well-being of his family.
C.The Mossi kingdoms all survived until the late 19th century with the coming of the French. The Tengkodogo kingdom, first of the Mossi states, was ironically the first to be conquered by the French in 1894. The Yatenga kingdom, not desiring the same fate as Tengkodogo, signed a protectorate agreement with the French in May of 1895. Wagadougou was conquered and placed under protectorate status in September of the same year. Complex of independent western African kingdoms (c. 1500 – 1895) around the headwaters of the Volta River, within present-day Burkina Faso and Ghana. Though tradition held that their ancestors came from the east, perhaps in the 13th century, the kingdoms' origins are obscure. The Mossi people harassed the empires of Mali and Songhai and vied for control of the Niger River. From c. 1400 the states acted as trading intermediaries between the forest states and the cities of the Niger. They remained independent until the French invasions of the late 19th century.
D.The Mossi states were, however, strong enough to survive wars with the Muslim empires of the great bend of the Niger River, to their north. The Mossi are noted as the major—if not the only—Sahelian states to withstand the spread of Islam in the region. Mossi forces, like those of the other states around them, raided the stateless peoples around their perimeters for slaves. As a result of the loose nature of Mossi states and their weak military basis, there was also conflict between them. At the time of the French conquest, the oldest—but smallest and weakest—Mossi state, Tenkodogo, was engaged in a war of mutual raids with a chiefdom to its north, which in turn was a dependency of a buffer state on the edge of the largest Mossi kingdom, Ouagadougou.
E.As in the past, the Emperor needs the support of his Nyon-nyonse (or gnon-gnon-sse) subjects to fully exercise his power. The Nyon-nyonse is the peoples who lived in Mossi-controlled regions before the Mossi.Mossi society is divided vertically into two major segments: the descendants of the horsemen who conquered the peoples on the Mossi plateau are called the Nakomse (“people of power”), and all Mossi chiefs come exclusively from the Nakomse class.
In traditional Mossi culture, the land was not owned, but rather used by the family. The elders decided how the land would be divided for use by different households. This system holds true today, however, the government technically owns all of the land. Within the cities and larger villages, the land is divided into sections and those who pay the taxes on the land can own it and even have the right to sell it. The rights of individuals are mostly determined by the individual's family. If one wants to move or build some place else, they must get permission from the family elder. The rights of women are even more restricted than the rights of men. However, basic human rights are supposed to be guaranteed by law, but this is not always be the case, particularly in more remote areas. Burkina Faso has a system of law, which is modeled after the French system. However, in rural areas, if one is caught stealing or caught for some other minor offense, punishment can be carried out through vigilante action. This can result in people being beaten, even to the point of death. However, as crimes become more serious, the local chief or the police will handle them. Communication between the Mossi is usually oral with stories and proverbs being popular teaching aids. People tend to spend a lot of time in market situations talking with other people. This is how news typically travels in community settings, it is surprisingly fast. Radios are becoming more and more popular among the younger generations. Even television sets are emerging in some cities and towns. However, news from the outside world is sparse.
From medieval times until the end of the 19th century, the region of Burkina Faso was ruled by the empire-building Mossi people, who are believed to have come up to their present location from northern Ghana, where there still live the ethnically-related Dagomba people. For several centuries, the Mossi peasant was both a farmer and a soldier; as the Mossi Kingdoms successfully defended their indigenous religious beliefs and social structure against forcible attempts to convert them to Islam by Muslims from the northwest.
The descendants of the conquered farmers (nyonyose) honor nature spirits that provide them with supernatural power to control the weather, disease, crop failure, and general well-being. Among the most important religious celebrations are annual sacrifices to honor the memories of the royal ancestors, when each and every male head of a household reaffirms his dependence on the benevolence of the chief and his ancestors for health and well-being of his family.
Spirituality (Attitude towards ancestors)Ancestors are believed to have reached a better place from which they can influence life on earth. They can help or punish their descendants depending on their behavior. Ancestors are the judges that have the power to allow a descendant to enter the "pantheon of the ancestors". If an ancestor chooses to deny entrance, the soul of the disavowed one is condemned to run at random for all eternity. Because of these beliefs, Mossi swear by their ancestors and by their land; and when they do (only in extreme situations), it is more than symbolic — it is a call to imminent justice.LandLand is related to the ancestors, being a path by which one can access the ancestors. Even today, this notion still gives a unique value to land in Mossi thought. Land is considered to be much more than simple dust and has a spiritual dimension to it. The Mossi believes that life depends on his land and it is essential for the family identity.FamilyFamily is also an essential cultural element of the Mossi, who hold collectivism in high regard. Individualism does not exist in traditional Mossi culture: one’s actions and behaviors are always taken to be characteristics of one's family. They must always ask an elder in order to do something. As a result, all are expected to act in their family's name; thus, the family is the smallest entity in the Mossi society. Heritage is patrilineal, passed down from a father to his sons. However, when a man has no sons, women can inherit from their husbands and even from their father. HierarchyHierarchy is a fundamental and pervasive concept for the Mossi culture. The family is organized like a kingdom with its king — the husband and father, his advisor — his wife, and the people — the children. Aunts and uncles also play a role by helping in the education and raising of Mossi children.
The Mossi have continued their ancient but traditional religion which is based on ancestor worship and the family. Almost everything that takes place within the Mossi culture is based around the family. Within the Mossi culture, family is patriarchal, meaning father based or typically the oldest man in the family known as the "Vieu." Everyday common decisions are made by each individual father, but the Vieu makes the important ones. If serious problems arise, a group of men may gather to discuss the issues until they reach a reasonable decision. If anyone is offended by another person, forgiveness comes after a long discussion with the elder and whoever was offended.
Modern Day Mossi Mossi society is divided vertically into two major segments: the descendants of the horsemen who conquered the peoples on the Mossi plateau are called the Nakomse (“people of power”).
As the Mossi people's history has been kept by oral tradition. Yet, historians assign the beginning of their existence as a state to the 11th century. The Mossi were able to conquer vast amounts of territory thanks to their mastering of the horse, and created a prosperous empire and kept peace in the region until the beginning of colonialism. The expansion of the Mossi States was stopped in the 19th century with the initiation of intensive colonization by the French.
August 4, 1983 witnessed a popular uprising in one of the poorest Western African country of the Upper Volta, thus ushered in potentially one of the most far-reaching revolutions in African history. The leader of this revolution was Thomas Sankara who became the president of the new revolutionary government at the age of thirty-three. Upon the triumph of the revolution the country was renamed Burkina Faso.Sankara has become a symbol to all those who were inspired by the Burkinabe revolution and who are committed to the total liberation of Africa and indeed of all humanity the world over. For the purpose of this pamphlet we will confine ourselves on his thoughts on women’ s emancipation.Thomas Sankara, putting his case before thousands of women, moved from the point that the revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women.He further charged that nothing whole, nothing definitive or lasting could be accomplished in Burkina Faso, as long as women are kept in condition of subjugation, a condition imposed in the course of centuries by various systems of exploitation.You are our mothers, life companions, our comrades in struggle and because of this fact you should by right affirm yourselves as equal partners in the joyful victory feasts of the revolution. We must restore to humanity your true image by making the reign of freedom prevail over differentiations imposed by nature and by eliminating all kinds of hypocrisy that sustain the shameless exploitation of women.“The status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them. It is evident form this account that the struggle against women oppression is a struggle that belongs to all humanity. Thus it is the fight for gender equality, which is interwoven with class and national questions. The generation of giants like Thomas Sankara have pointed to the correct path - that the liberation of women is not an act of charity but a pre-requisite for the triumph of any revolution.
On October 15, 1987 Sankara was assassinated in a counter-revolutionary coup that destroyed the revolutionary government and thus destroyed the acceleration of the program of change in that country. Ironically, a week prior to his death Sankara addressed people about the slain Cuban revolutionary leader, Che Guevara and said that "while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas."
The History of Thomas Sankara and the Burkina Faso People.
Afrikan Study Group Long Beach(ASCAC)Thursday 29 April 2010<br />Continuing Presentation Series<br />Thomas Sankara<br />The Upright Man / The History of Burkina Faso / An film and discussion on the Burkina Faso Revolution.<br />Presented by <br />Mshujaa Baker / Kwesi Osafo / Mzuri Pambeli<br />