But it was not all sunshine. Sankara estranged France because of his diplomatic and political ties to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. His Comités de Défense de la Révolution, which he used to enforce his reforms sometimes came to resemble little more than armed thugs roaming the countryside."It's really a pity that there are observers who view political events like comic strips. There has to be a Zorro, there has to be a star. No, the problem of Upper Volta is more serious than that. It was a grave mistake to have looked for a man, a star, at all costs, to the point of creating one, that is, to the point of attributing the ownership of the event to captain Sankara, who must have been the brains, etc."--Thomas Sankara
That was the day that Sankara was overthrown in a bloody coup d'état organized by none other than his old friend Blaise Compaoré. Fighting broke out in Ouagadougou and, in the end, Thomas Sankara and twelve other officials were dead.
Compaoré cited deteriorating relations with neighboring countries as his motive for the coup, and claimed that Sankara's death was an accident. Others disputed this, vociferously. On the surface, the facts promote suspicion. Was the coup really motivated by concern for Burkina Faso, or was it a power grab by Compaoré? And what about Sankara's death? Was it murder?
Compaoré's professional history seems to indicate that he has learned to advance via quick, unexpected strikes. On the other hand, I spoke with one Burkinabé who suggested that Compaoré merely beat Sankara to the punch, that Sankara was planning a strike against Compaoré, whom he viewed as a political rival.
|Project Ouagadougou 2000|
The truth, if there is any definitive truth, is probably lost forever, even to those who witnessed events firsthand. The romantic figure of Thomas Sankara, man of the people, revolutionary, idealist, is now etched in history. His fall seems tragic and unnecessary. But as a friend of mine who served in the Peace Corps in west Africa said, "It's the African way."