“Don’t shoot, you cannot kill ideas!”
Surrendering Cuban revolutionary, after the failed attack against the Moncada garrison.
Within hours of Thomas Sankara’s assassination, the French government sent messages of congratulations to the coup leadership. But the job was not as yet done. Sankara’s family is harassed, their homes raided and personal belongings removed. His papers and documents disappear from all state archives and government offices. State television and radio stations were ordered to change programming and begin to dragging his name through mud, broadcasting stories about his corruption, and spreading rumors of his siphoning of money from the state exchequer. His social and public works programs are immediately halted. His companions and colleagues are jailed if not killed. His personal history and political ideas are re-written and re-cast, as history itself is employed to remove his presence from the minds and consciousness of the country’s people. Soon, all official evidence of Thomas Sankara, his political imagination, and his social programs are removed. The people who attempt to resist this erasure, they too are silenced: media is repressed, journalists are fired or killed, public discussions and political gatherings outlawed, student groups broken up, activists jailed and in some instances, killed outright.
The nation is stunned into submission, still in shock at the realisation of what has just happened. A young, intelligent, confident and determined son of the land, someone who dreamed of snatching the country from the clutches of colonialism, had been gunned down and erased with surprising ease. But the attempts at erasing Thomas Sankara’s legacy will fail. Each generation of Burkinabé will pass on Sankara’s imagination, hopes and ideals to the next. The people will read him, speak him, write him into prose, poems, film and art, sing songs about him, study him, and absorb his social and political spirit. And each generation will wait, and prepare, for the moment when what was so brutally lost will once again be claimed. And that moment came, some twenty-seven years later, when the people rose up, and toppled the dictatorship of Blaise Campoaré – the man who murdered Thomas Sankara, and thought that he was strong enough to murder his spirit too.
Image: Chez Francoise – former residence of President Blaise Campaore, which was ransacked shortly after the events of November 30, 2014. Open to the public, a group of young men act as guides and tell visitors stories about the lavish lifestyle of the President and his family. Guides: (from left to right), Nikiema, Delma, Maxim and Baga. Ouagadougo, Burkina Faso.