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Sankara, an enlightened leader from Mother Africa

In its skeletal country profile of Burkina Faso, the BBC News says it is “a poor country even by West African standards”, and it has “suffered from recurring droughts and military coups.” In 2020 the country, which is about 12 times the size of Belize, had a population of 18.6 million and a life expectancy of 59, men, and 61, female. Formerly a French colony, it became independent in 1960.

The enlightened leader I’m spotting the light on today, Thomas Sankara, seized power in Burkina Faso in 1983 “and adopted radical left-wing policies but was ousted by Blaise Compaore, who went on to rule for 27 years before being ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.” Thank you, BBC.

The ouster of Sankara goes back nearly 40 years…but there isn’t anything ancient about it. If we look around the world today, we see the mighty powers of the world still hard at work, trying to get leaders of the materially less-well-off countries to do their bidding, and using local agents to undermine those ones who refuse to be compliant.

Whoa, I’m not in support of coups, but because Burkina Faso had a history of violent change of leadership since independence, you’d have to be on the innards to pronounce on legitimacy as regards the will of the people. I won’t be the one to look at the book’s cover and tell you about the quality of the contents. There’s some who would, and if that’s not ignorance, then you’ve got a witness for hire.

Putting aside how he came to power, Sankara changed the country’s name, from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso — the “land of honest men.” Sankara, aka Africa’s Che Guevara, selected 600 young people and sent them across the Atlantic, to school in Cuban universities to learn about the system in that country that has made it a shining light in our part of the world. Don’t listen to any foolishness; our American friends don’t dare remove the cruel embargo on Cuba, because every sensible government south of the Rio Grande will do what Robert Kennedy said he would do if he lived in our part of the world: turn a little left of the right’s laissez faire.

I’ve said it before; capitalism is a financial system that’s without equal for wealth creation. When babies come out of the womb, they are greedy, selfish little animals, a perfect fit for the dog-eat-dog world. Most societies try to wean out the greed and selfishness from their little citizens, but capitalist societies try not to introduce traits of caring and sharing where it concerns earning. Their citizens are encouraged to be ruthless in going after material wealth, which, in excess, they worship.

Greed is not always a big sin. Those who want can have all the trappings they want; yap, they can brag about their fancy cars and big houses and fat bank accounts. But only when ALL the children have quality food, clothing, shelter, educational opportunities, and medical care. Have all the excess in the world, but only AFTER the basic needs of the people, especially the needs of the children, are taken care of.

The exemplary Mr. Sankara, much respect to him, saw the great virtues in Fidel’s Cuba and decided to emulate it. In the AFP story, “Broken dreams: Burkina’s orphans schooled in Castro’s Cuba”, told by Stephane Barbier and Armel Baily, we learn that most of the students selected for the program, which Sankara said “would steer the country to a new dawn”, were orphans or from disadvantaged families. That great vision and their exciting future were wrecked when the assassins gunned down Sankara. If you want to learn more about how most of these youths’ lives were broken or destroyed, you can type out the title of the story at the beginning of this paragraph in your Google search.

It would satisfy more than the gossip gene to find out the why of Compaore, his terrible betrayal, what the motive was for his participation in this coup that turned back the progress of Burkina Faso.

Sankara’s widow said the French masterminded his assassination. The story we have says he had “adopted an anti-imperialist foreign policy which challenged the dominance of France”, and he had “called for a united Africa to stand against what he called the ‘neo-colonialism’ of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. He was once quoted as saying: ‘He who feeds you, controls you.’”

Had the capitalists sold Compaore the lie that Sankara’s socialist vision was a dead end street? If you’re living in a dirt poor country, how could anyone get you to swallow such nonsense? Hmm, that’s not that farfetched. There are Belizeans who believe that big foreign investors are the answer to our problems. That’s nonsense, and unromantic too. We don’t need any rich man to ride in and save us; all we need is a system that is dedicated to addressing the basic needs, before it allows people who dream of million-dollar yachts and mansions to have their run.

The USA, the so-called capitalist capital of the world, is really a lot more socialist than we are. Their system is not as compassionate as the one Europeans and Canada practice, but they have a permanent safety net for people who are out of work. According to a Wikipedia page on the topic, “federal and state social programs include cash assistance, health insurance, food assistance, housing subsidies, energy and utilities subsidies, and education and childcare assistance.” Such a country can afford to allow aspirants for great wealth to work at satisfying their personal ambitions, because the needs of all are taken care of.

Countries such as ours have much work to do before we can afford greedy individuals the license to pursue luxury. Only a misguided country will encourage the passions of the greedy before it addresses the essentials of the needy.

Chebat not to blame

I see public employees are not happy with the Ministry of Health and Wellness’s vax mandate, scheduled to be effected soon. There’s a lot of ire aimed at the minister, but he’s not the guilty party. It’s because of the massive increase in cases, and the guilt there goes to persons who disrespect the physical distance, mask wearing and other protocols…and reject the vax too.

Some Wikipedia notes on Sankara

His political enemies say everything on the Wikipedia page about Sankara isn’t gospel, but these excerpts deal only with his achievements, not how he got his country there:
Sankara refused aid from the IMF (we are told that the modern IMF is reformed), and while he welcomed aid from other sources, he “tried to reduce reliance on aid by boosting domestic revenues and diversifying the sources of assistance.”

“His domestic policies were focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, prioritising education with a nationwide literacy campaign and promoting public health by vaccinating more than 2 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles, which saved the lives of 18,000 to 50,000 children annually. His government focused on building schools, health centers, water reservoirs, and nearly 100 km of rail, with little or no external assistance. Total cereal production rose by 75% between 1983 and 1986.

“Other components of his national agenda included planting over 10 million trees to combat the growing desertification of the Sahel, redistributing land from private landowners, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents and establishing a road and railway construction programme. On the local level, Sankara called on every village to build a medical dispensary and had pharmacies built in 5,384 out of 7,500 villages. From 1982 to 1984 the infant mortality rate dropped from 208 per 1,000 births to 145. School attendance under Sankara increased from 6% to 22%. Moreover, he outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. He appointed women to high governmental positions and encouraged them to work outside the home and stay in school, even if pregnant.”

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