Book Review: Thomas Sankara, An African Revolutionary

Killed this month in 1987, we review a short book of the life of this powerful revolutionary and president. What insights can it bring to the current revolution sweeping Burkino Faso?

If you want to understand what is going on in Burkina Faso, a good place to start is Jacana’s pocket biography of Thomas Sankara by Ernest Harsch. The book, published in November 2014, written in a very easy reading style will give you an understanding of several things. For one, you will understand why women are playing a crucial role with their spatulas in helping to resist the recent coup. You will see what has motivated the coup plotters and why they are intent on preserving their privileges. You will also get a glimpse of what can be achieved with the masses through simple political will and determined leadership. Finally and most importantly, you will understand, despite his very short rule, why Thomas Sankara is an African icon. It takes you through his life from his childhood, revealing defining moments that led him to the military, his thirst for knowledge, his desire to share through teaching and his passion for Africa, all which led to his leadership of an impoverished country. In politics, you are not selfless without adverse consequences, it would appear and you can link events in this book to current events in Burkina Faso. It is the story of one man but you also want to read this book because it answers a lot of questions about francophone West Africa.

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More about Thomas Sankara:

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