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Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man In following social activists in their fight against corruption, one comes across Thomas Sankara, the world’s poorest president. In 1987, his salary was $450 a month and his most valuable possessions included a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer. Sankara refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes…
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Download file to see previous pages This was the man that was assassinated at the orders of his best friend, Blaise Compaore, who then took over presidency of Burkina Faso. The Revolution that Sankara led during his term as president, between 1983 and 1987 was one of the most creative and radical that Africa has produced in the decades since independence. He set Africa on a path, a genuine alternative to Western-style modernization. Burkina Faso: The Land of Upright People. Upper Volta had always been a very poor country in West Africa and was not known for anything specific outside that region until Thomas Sankara overthrew the country’s corrupt military leadership in 1984 and renamed the country Burkina Faso, translated which means “Land of Upright People.” Sankara then embarked on a political course that amounted to a “third way” which did not necessarily correspond to big power interests. As soon as he took office, he reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of chauffeur-driven Mercedes and 1st class airline tickets. Like many revolutionary leaders, he banned unions, a free press, anything which might stand in the way of his plans for the immediate and radical transformation of society. The film shows how Sankara called for the scrapping of Africa’s debt to international banks and to their former colonial masters. He also preached economic self-reliance. Sankara’s very best idea was to teach the villagers that it was not enough to live with what they got in wages each month. He encouraged them to get by with the minimum and give the rest for the development of the country instead of always asking for aid from overseas. He shunned World Bank loans and promoted local food and textile production. There’s a classic scene in the documentary where he had the whole Burkina delegation to an Organization of African Unity (OAU) meeting decked out in local textiles and designs. Subtitled from French, director Shuffield allows Sankara’s charisma and dedication to Marxist ideals come through in many original filmed speeches to his people. Multiple close-ups of Sankara’s smiling face often reveal an intense yet approachable character. When he tells his people that: “The one who feeds you induces his will upon you” one can sense that this was a leader of the people who whole-heartedly believed in a vision of self-sufficiency and a refusal to “afro-pessimism.”  Shuffield has picked compelling footage that portrays Sankara’s earnestness, integrity, morals, and humor. An unwavering commitment to his leftist ideals, his people and his country are made indelible through a linear montage of interviews, news clips, and videos both old and new during Sankara’s time as leader and after. As a result, we see those who worked with him, those who benefited from his policies, and those who opposed him both in his own country and world leaders abroad. In an interview with a member of his party reflecting on Sankara’s regime, he lends insight into the reason that Sankara had the ability to say things many other leaders would not; because he never saw himself as a god, and he never saw any leaders of any other country as one either. He was a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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