Thomas Sankara

President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (December 21, 1949October 15, 1987) was the leader of Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta) from 1983 to 1987. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup d'état led by Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987, sometimes believed to have been at the instruction of France.


  • I would like to leave behind me the conviction that if we maintain a certain amount of caution and organization we deserve victory. ... You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. ... We must dare to invent the future.
    • From 1985 interview with Swiss Journalist Jean-Philippe Rapp, translated from Sankara: Un nouveau pouvoir africain by Jean Ziegler. Lausanne, Switzerland: Editions Pierre-Marcel Favre, 1986. In Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983-87. trans. Samantha Anderson. New York: Pathfinder, 1988. pp. 141-144.
  • While I was in Moscow, while I was in the Soviet Union, they made us visit many historical places, many museums but also the "city of stars" [Star City], where the Soviets train their cosmonauts. They showed us the spaceships, I confess it's impressive. Soyuz, Saliut, Mir, etc... They know a lot of things. They no longer speak to the Earth, they already speak to the Moon. Then, as usual, they asked me to sign the golden book. I signed it, of course! They asked us to go and admire this and that. We admired, of course! They asked us to bow before the statue of Yuri Gagarin. We have bowed. Obviously! And with that they considered the visit over. No, I told them, it's not all comrades yet, wait! Everything is fine, we are happy. We congratulate you, it is scientific progress. And when all this is at the service of the peoples, it will be truly wonderful. But I would like to ask you one thing... Two places. It is necessary that you have two places to form the Burkinabè. We also want to go to the Moon... [laughter and applause] We want to go up there! Cooperation must therefore begin. And we mean it seriously. We want to send people to the Moon. So there will be the Americans, there will be the Russians, some other countries... But there will also be Burkina [Faso]...
  • The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph.
  • We must recognize today that it is normal for the wealthiest to be the greatest thieves. When a poor man steals it is merely a theft, a petty crime -- it is solely about survival and necessity. The rich are the ones who steal from the treasury, customs duties, and who exploit the people.
  • Capitalism is the arsonist of our forests.
  • We must choose between champagne for a few or drinking water for all.
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