Thomas Sankara: The Burkinabè revolution is not a replica

Jun 11, 2023

Women dressed in Faso Dan Fani', traditional Burkinabè fabric woven from cotton referenced in the interview. Photo: Olivier Montel. Reprinted with permission from

Liberation School introduction

This is the first English translation of an interview with Thomas Sankara by Ivoire Dimanche, initially released online in French under the title “The Burkinabè Revolution Is Not the Copy of Any Other Revolution.” Published in the journal’s July edition that it, the exchange originally took place on June 14, 1987. Four months later, Sankara was assassinated.

The interview is notable for its broad subject matter, including Sankara’s vision for socialist transformation and pan-African program, his thoughts on cultural matters and anti-racism, some in great detail [1]. It also offers a revealing portrait of Sankara’s humor and humanity. The translation below begins just after the introductory exchanges between Sankara and the journal’s representative.

This is the sixth installment in Liberation School’s Thomas Sankara translation project, in collaboration with, an online platform dedicated to archiving work on and by the great African revolutionary. As always, we express our gratitude to Bruno Jaffré for providing us with the right to translate this material into English for the first time.

Ivoire Dimanche introduction

Mr. Thomas Sankara, the head of the Burkinabè state, met us on June 14th, in the Presidential Palace of Burkina Faso. During two hours, from 12 to 2 PM, the PF (as one calls him in his home) responded without shying away from all the questions that we were burning to ask him.


Ivoire Dimanche: How do you situate the Burkinabè revolution in the immense panoply of present revolutions existing throughout the world?

Thomas Sankara: The revolution is a component of the movement of humanity towards transformation, which is a scientific and historical demand. But the Burkinabè revolution also represents one variety of this movement with its specificities and its nuances.

It is necessary to say straight away that the Burkinabè revolution is not the copy of any other revolution. Certainly we apply the scientific principles which govern all revolutions but the Burkinabè revolution is not the replica of other revolutions.

Revolutions to come will not be the copy of the Burkinabè revolution. Lenin said, “each will go to the revolution on the path which is appropriate for him.” We are in the revolution on the path which is best adapted to our environment and to our sociology.

I.D.: Diverse political experiences here and there in Africa show that the military path is not a panacea. In what way does the Burkinabè revolution distinguish itself from other military revolutions?

T.S.: I agree with those who say that military power is not a panacea. In fact, the temptation is easy, when there is social chaos, to turn to the army as the sole site [milieu] where national salvation can still be perceived as a demand and a necessity of struggle.

It’s not bad that a body of this nature can exist. But we do not believe that the army can be the best solution because the army without the people is not an army.

The army with the people is not the army if it confines itself to ostracism or to an isolated sphere. The walls of the barracks must fall…

It is necessary that the military discovers that the social order that they are asked to protect is an order that represses them or represses the people. We say that a soldier without political and ideological formation is a potential criminal, at the mercy of the oppressive power in place.

Burkinabè power is not a military power. One meets as many civilians as military people in the government. And the military men who are in the government consider themselves first of all as elements of the people. The people have defined their enemy within the country as that of outside Burkina Faso: it is imperialism. It is against that which we must struggle. In this struggle, it is the position of everyone which matters. If you are in the camp of the people, it doesn’t matter what outfit you wear or what professional environment you belong to. It is the same if you are against the people.

Moreover, Burkinabè power isn’t a military power.

It is a revolutionary power that puts out a call [fait appel] to men from all backgrounds. It takes as its sole criterion [one’s] position with regard to the people and [one’s] class position.

I.D.: At first glance, a military coup appears as a mandate snatched from the people. It is as if one day the guard of your house turned toward you and gave you the order to give up your house to his benefit, in the name of some “revolution.”

T.S.: In Burkina Faso we haven’t made a military coup d’état in the sense of a conspiracy of some military officers who rebelled, took arms, and overthrew the constitutional power in place.

Here we were experiencing a crisis situation which lasted for a month. It was necessary therefore to choose one’s camp. On one side, the regime in power with its allies and military forces. On the other, all those civilians and military forces who were against this power.

Evidently, in a test of force of this type, there is a need for arms and military action plays an important role. This military action is generally more easy for the military forces in so far as it is in the domain of their profession.

But above all, it is the position vis a vis the people and their class position which was important. Besides, the military forces which returned to Ouagadougou to take power were not so numerous.

So, if it was nothing but a simple question of the balance of military force, they would have been losers. In reality, the people mobilized themselves spontaneously before the soldiers arrived.

This therefore was not a military coup d’état. We wrested power from the regime in power, despite the help of their national and foreign allies because we were being threatened with invasion from other armies, from other powers.

I.D.: From other armies? From other powers? Can you be more precise?

T.S.: Just after May 17, 1983, when certain comrades were arrested and imprisoned, the [former] regime made a call to some regimes around us. Even the secretary general of the ANAD (Accord of Non-Aggression and of Defense of Countries of the Economic Community of West Africa and of Togo) came here repeatedly.

We also know that some powers from outside Africa had been involved in struggling against the “Libyan menace”. Naturally, presented from this angle, the thing [i.e. counter-revolutionary intervention] would appear acceptable, because nobody, Burkinabè or not, would ever be able to allow their country to be invaded by another.

Therefore, as soon as they brought up Libya, there were some subjective reactions, which were understandable [given the people’s desire to defend their homeland]. In truth, we had discovered some plans which implicated neighboring states.

There was a plan to invade the Po base [site of a garrison that sits astride a major highway from Ghana to the Burkinabè capital of Ouagadougou], to neutralize certain elements and to eliminate others.

I.D.: Let’s return to the revolution. Can one truly be revolutionary in a country like yours?

T.S.: Yes, above all in a country as poor as mine.

I.D.: And yet certain thinkers say that the revolution in poor countries, notably African countries, will be a food revolution or it won’t be a revolution at all. What do you think about that?

T.S.: There are some sentimentalist visions of the revolutionary. A revolution is nothing but food related because what is food? It is a product of labor…

We have not reached production sufficient to feed ourselves because our increasingly poor lands have not been regenerated and because we are not well organized. To better organize ourselves, we have to struggle against the laws which rule life today; we have to break the straitjacket of archaic methods to acquire good technology and all the modern methods… Look at cotton, coffee, and cocoa in our country: billions have been dedicated to the study of these products because they are exported. On the other hand, bananas, cassava, and rice have never been the object of such attention, because they don’t interest outsiders…

Is the Ivorian maize producer also assured of selling his product like Dutch cattle farmers or French wheat producers? Therefore, whether one begins the revolution through the food side or another thing, in all these cases, the main point is that it is necessary to pose the problems of the relations between the elements of the society. Who benefits from this or that policy?

I.D.: You speak of people, of relations of force between the elements of society. Yet the trade unions are protesting your regime more and more. For proof, [see] we can look to the recent arrest of M. Soumane Touré, secretary general of the Burkinabe trade union confederation. You know, moreover, that, in the past, the trade unions have constituted a real power in Burkina Faso [1].

T.S.: The trade unions, because of the past, have constituted a real power. It is true. I know something about it because… (He does not finish his sentence).

But, for us, it is a matter of really knowing who protests the revolutionary government [le pouvoir]. We make a clear distinction between elements of a trade union management who are able to oppose the state and the rest of the workers.

Only a few union leaders protest the revolutionary government. I’ll say it again: a few leaders. Well, I understand them because, in the situation currently, in the revolutionary development of the movements in Africa, we are going to have basically the intellectual petite bourgeoisie as an organizing element of our revolutions… And yet, it is necessary that the interests of this petite bourgeoisie correspond to those of the people. There are those (some petit bourgeois intellectuals)  who accept placing themselves in the same gear as the people. There are those who refuse to change…

And so, before long, you will see some young intellectuals hold committed positions (they are not necessarily demagogues because they are able to be sincere in their positions) but they don’t understand how far to carry the demands of the transformation…

Here, in Burkina, when a few people go on strike to raise their salary, we acknowledge their sincerity, even when they speak in the name of the people. But many people forget that their 300,000 FCFA [African Financial Community Franc, the currency used by several West African states of the former French empire] salary is the equivalent to the salary of 200 to 700 people. The rest of the people, in whose name they pretend to speak, can’t earn 25,000 F in a year… Well, to raise a salary of 25,000 FCFA to a salary of 300,000 F, is a demand that cannot represent a legitimate fight for the rest of the people.

Touré Soumane is a well-known trade unionist in our country. I know him personally but I will avoid saying here all that I had done for him while he went to prison…

I.D.: It’s not the first time?

T.S.: He spent a long time in prison. And each time, he left thanks to me…

If Touré Soumane was so right, why did the people not rise up to support him? The trade unions would have had to organize a strike… Finally, it isn’t necessary to worry, there are some individuals who get in the way of the revolution and the revolution deals with them. That’s it.

I.D.: And the intellectuals, the cadres who have fled Burkina Faso? The HCR (the High Commission on Refugees) has counted a number of them.

T.S.: It is normal that they flee. I am an officer: I earned a certain salary in the army before; I lost this salary because of the revolution; and if I wasn’t engaged in the revolution, I also would have fled. I know that, thanks to what I lost today, to what other comrades lost, we have built 7,500 primary health centers for the peasants. We have more than 12,000 classrooms. The graduation rate rose from 10% to 20%. We built roads, dams, housing, etc. There is therefore a choice to make: either we continue to spend more than 60% of the budget for 25,000 civil servants (that’s .3% of the population), or we decide to look at the rest of the masses…

It’s up to the government to know who it works for. The people flee because the country imposed on them new conditions of life to which they are not accustomed. I understand it, but they also understand that we have chosen to serve the people.

Moreover, I recognize that the HCR does useful work in helping them. But I also ask them to think about the people who are suffering and the scrawny children with ballooned stomachs, pictures of which we are shown everywhere and who are here in the millions. It is necessary that those in power finally concern themselves with them.

When we ask those who eat bread and butter to lose the butter so that some others might have at least a few crumbs of bread, I don’t see how this fight could be criticized.

I.D.: You have purged the civil service of a certain number of cadres (engineers, judges, etc.). Isn’t this bloodletting harmful to the smooth operation of the revolution, when we know that in developing countries competent and qualified cadres aren’t legion?

T.S.: What do you prefer? A wealthy cadre with great qualifications who doesn’t serve the people or a cadre of limited technical competencies but who is devoted to the people? A cadre who is not devoted to his people is a useless, if not harmful, cadre… It is not necessary to have this cult of the diploma because the diploma all alone does nothing…

The diploma must not be a decoration which raises the person who has acquired it to the heights of the sky.

This isn’t contempt for intellectuals. On the contrary, we need intellectuals.

However, we do not want bad intellectuals, that’s to say those who think of nothing but themselves, those who refuse to go to their villages because they hate their parents…

An intellectual who doesn’t know the realities of his country and who knows what life is like in New York, Paris, or London better than in Bouaflé [a city in the central Ivory Coast] or any Ivorian village, this intellectual is useless or even dangerous. That person is a technical assistant who only works in his country, while his spirit is elsewhere…

I.D.: Your desire to see power descend to the base has led you to create the omnipotent and omnipresent CDR (Committees for Defense of the Revolution). Doesn’t the concentration of power in the hands of the CDR risk, sooner or later, harming the image of the revolution through abuses, even overflowing or sabotaging the central power?

T.S.: The CDRs are not omnipotent. Moreover, we have punished quite a few bad ones… It is true that the CDR exercises popular power. A deep pit exists between those who, and they are unfortunately very numerous, are accustomed to the concentration of power in the hands of people chosen through elections, through coup d’etats… and those who are used to popular power…

In Burkina Faso, the people are beginning to accustom themselves to popular power. This [popular power] has policies that are shocking because they are new but without the CDR, we would never be able to do what we have done. Wherever there is a revolution, there will be popular power. Here, we call that popular power CDR.

I.D.: More than a million Burkinabès live in the Ivory Coast. Do you consider them an army in the service of the revolution?

T.S.: No and no. I think of them as Burkinabès who, if they are sufficiently soaked in the ideas of the revolution, will be able to serve it well. To serve the revolution well is to serve Burkina Faso while respecting the Ivory Coast and Ivorians. To serve the revolution is to show Ivorians that the revolution is love between the people of the whole world. Thus our countrymen who are in the Ivory Coast have to commit themselves to building the revolution by saying that they serve an eternal people. The Ivorian people will pass into the mists of time.

I.D.: Who is the head of state that you most admire in the West African region?

T.S.: … I hope it’s ok with you that I do not answer because I would not like to classify heads of state. Moreover, my subjective appreciation is not important. The fact that I admire a head of state does not have any kind of importance. What is it that his people think of him? What is it that my people think of him? That is the most important thing. If my people think that such or such head of state is good, that’s how it must be for me.

I.D.: Where are you with the integration policy between Burkina Faso and Ghana under Jerry Rawlings?

T.S.: Our integration policy is advancing at a great pace. It is in the process of overcoming the clearest difficulties: the language problem, the structural problem, the economic problem, etc.

We will also discover some new difficulties that will be overcome. We have some texts which are in preparation.

But the most important thing is that Burkinabès and Ghanians be aware that this integration is necessary.

This is not an affair between two individual people…

I.D.: How do you justify your recent decision to protect the Burkinabe market against foodstuffs coming from neighboring countries? This seems, at first glance, to be against the spirit of the CEAO (Economic Community of West Africa).

T.S.: (Laughs) … My approach resembles that of others.

I.D.: That is to say?

T.S.: That is to say that I protect the Burkinabè market, as others protect their markets. Convinced that we are able to conquer the market of others, we must at the very least organize our own market. This is not to say that we are against other countries’ products. We simply want Burkinabès to live by their own means. Indeed, the products which come from the Ivory Coast are very much enjoyed by Burkinabès. Personally, I enjoy them very much but do the majority of Burkinabès have the means to procure them? No. Well, if the Ivory Coast is ready to lower the prices of their products so that they are within reach of all the Burkinabès, then I don’t see any objection. But I know that the Ivory Coast is not able to do that because the producers have spent a lot of money to achieve these results and they need to earn more to be able to keep producing. They are obligated to sell them at a price which only the rich Burkinabès are able to access…

In these conditions, it would be better that we place Burkinabès on equal footing. That is why we have made this decision, while waiting to see our resources grow.

If the Ivory Coast makes bananas, pineapples, and other products which interest Burkinabès, why would the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso not agree to consume only the fruits produced by each other? Why would the Ivory Coast not accept beef only from Burkina Faso, so that, we too, would buy nothing but products coming from the Ivory Coast? You are usually in a suit…

I.D.: That’s because I was coming to see you…

T.S.: Thank you for this sign of politeness… But this cloth that you wear is not made in the Ivory Coast… [Ivory Cost] President Houphouet was right to take a stand against low prices of raw materials. But if the people no longer want to buy our raw materials, we consume them. If the Ivory Coast decided to wear nothing but Burkinabè cotton, I would agree to only consume the coffee and the cacao coming from the Ivory Coast. That would be great, no? What do you think of that?

I.D.: Perhaps it would be good.

T.S.: (Laughing)… Unfortunately, there are non-Ivorian and non-Burkinabè products which hamper us…

You have enough means in the Ivory Coast to make a vehicle assembly line. And if all Africans agreed amongst themselves to only buy cars made in the Ivory Coast, that would give many jobs to Ivorians… How many tons of cheese do you import to the Ivory Coast every year? We are able to produce these cheeses here, in Burkina Faso, with milk…

You make champagne from pineapples… It is excellent, I congratulate the Ivorians who had this idea. If all Africans decided to only buy Ivorian champagne, the other makers of champagne would never allow this… Let’s be clear, let’s consume our products among ourselves and you will see that things will go very well.

I.D.: You recently broke a long lease with the Ivory Coast at the level of the RAN [a state owned railway company jointly run by the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso]. You are also accused of playing the role of trouble-maker inside of Air Afrique [a multinational airline corporation serving West Africa]. Finally, what is your conception of inter-state communication which, in your opinion, is also a factor of development?

T.S.: Ah no, I did not break the lease with the Ivory Coast. On the contrary, it is the Ivory Coast who sent a minister to me to inform me of the separation. It is the Ivory Coast which took the initiative; therefore, we were unable to refuse. Quite the contrary, we have always wished that the RAN exist (under its old form)… Moreover, on the level of Air Afrique, we are disrupting nothing.

I.D.: However, you accepted the setting up of the Point-Air route to Ouagadougou and at the last summit of Niamey (Niger) it seemed that you were the only one who was opposed to the decision of the other heads of state to entrust to the Ivory Coast the mission of saving the multinational.

T.S.: (Laughing, laughing) How many states are there in Air Afrique?

I.D.: Is this a riddle, comrade president?

T.S.: OK… But if you count it up you will see… With regards to Point-Air, Ouagadougou to Paris costs less than Ouagadougou to Dakar (by Air Afrique). Is this normal? By what means does Point-Air manage to make that flight cost less? It is by a will of democratization. Of course they also defend their interests…

How many times has Air Afrique slashed prices due to Point-Air? Do you not like to travel more quickly and cheaply? We hope that Ouagadougou to Paris, by plane, could return to the same price as a taxi from Plateau to Vridi [two neighborhoods in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast]. We prefer gbaca planes [Translator’s note: the term is unclear in French], let’s hope that they are safe and arrive on time.

And then Burkina Faso is very poorly served, how many companies do we have here? In Abidjan, you are right to not complain because you have many companies. From here, to go to Paris, we are often obligated to fly to Abidjan… Therefore someone must solve this problem for us. You do not experience the problem of isolation. Should you experience it, I am sure that you would do as we do, if not worse than us…

Nevertheless, if Air-Afrique agrees to have everyday flights from Ouagadougou to all the destinations to lower its prices, so much the better. In Burkina Faso, ministers only travel in economy class. This is not because we don’t know about the existence of first class on planes but because we can’t afford it. Well, if we find a class more economical than the economy class of Air-Afrique, we will take it. We fly our ministers on Point-Air because it is more economical. Myself, I have already taken it to Addis Ababa. It is truly economical for our poor country.

I.D.: You have privileged relations with the head of state of Libya. What is your input in the reconciliation process which has started with Chad?

T.S.: The problem of Chad quite simply saddens me greatly as an African and as a person. I am truly saddened to know that an African country has such problems. When a tense area is born somewhere, there is always some risk that it will spread to embrace the whole region. Thus if one is able to stop it, he does it quickly.

We considered that it was our right, in view of the links that we have with Gaddafi, to speak a certain way with him. I ask that you understand that he did not want to hear much of what I had to say to him. It is simply necessary to know that, if our relations with Gaddafi can be useful to Africa, we will never hesitate to use them. That is what we tried to do. We have benefited from the presence here (in Ouagadougou) of Goukouni Oueddei and Acheikh Ibn-Oumar [leaders of competing pro-Libyan factions in the Chadian Civil War] to speak to the current leaders of Chad. Contrary to what is said about us in the press, we have never tried to reconcile Goukouni and Acheik… Our object has been to reassure the Chadian and Libyan authorities. On this point, we have been very satisfied. Unfortunately, there are some things which cannot be shouted from the rooftops and since our goal was never to work for our own glory, we will not say exactly how things have happened.

I.D.: The OUA (Organization of African Unity) is not working. What are your comments?

T.S.: Where is it not working?

I.D.: Countries no longer pay their contributions. The settlement of the Chadian conflict slipped through the fingers of the OUA. The Lagos Plan of Action [to reduce Africa’s reliance on the West] remains stuck on the drawing board.

T.S.: I do not know if the OUA was working so well before. I don’t think so. Therefore we are faced with a continuous breakdown. It will stay this way until the problem of unity is resolved.

I.D.: How can it be resolved?

T.S.: We must speak the same language. We must know that the African people need this unity. Borders between people do not exist; they ignore passports and identity cards.

We, the leaders, have to understand this to descend to the level of the masses… We have to understand that our states have been divided so that they could be dominated. It is not for nothing that some foreign powers force Africans to vote for such or such candidate…

It is because we are manipulated from outside. It is because we do not want to denounce all that divides us. It is imperialism. We are no longer paying contributions to the OUA because we do not have enough money.

At a pinch, we would still be able to sacrifice some state visits to have something to pay the OUA. But it would also be necessary to reduce the budget of the organization so that we would no longer have so much to pay…

Above all, we must know that African Unity is first of all a struggle against that which divides us and that which comes from without. We say in our country that water never spoils. It only begins to spoil when a foreign body falls into it.

Africa was one but it is a foreign body which has divided it. We therefore have to combat the class enemy, the bourgeoisie, who wants to divide us and exploit us.

I.D.: What do you think of the sentencing of Bokassa [former president and self-proclaimed emperor of the Central African Republic]?

T.S.: If this occurred in Burkina, I would have known what I was going to do. But the decision belongs to the Central African people and I don’t know what they are going to decide. In all cases, Bokassa took acts which, as Africans, shame all of us.

When Bokassa did them, there were people behind him. They encouraged him. These people were Central Africans and non-Central Africans. It is those [people] who must be judged. Whether we condemn Bokassa, whether we execute him or not, this is a separate problem.

Why haven’t those who were behind him been judged? Why have they not been condemned in the same way as him? It is not Bokassa himself who mined the diamond, cut it, and placed it on his head to crown himself emperor.

There is someone who made the crown and a plane which transported it. Governments sent representatives to applaud Bokassa at the moment of his coronation. Where are all those people today? They are co-responsible for all that they made him do or all that he did not refuse to do…

If the Central African people do not have the foresight to condemn them also, tomorrow, there might be another Bokassa under another shape in Central Africa, in Burkina Faso, or elsewhere.

I.D.: What is the Burkinabè debt level?

T.S.: Regardless if it is a good year or a bad year, we pay 19 billion FCFA. This is very low but we estimate that it is already too much for us. But the best thing about not having a debt problem is to not go into debt. We must reduce the lifestyle and the consumption that we are offered.

I.D.: What advice do you give to countries which are very indebted?

T.S.: I advise them to not pay them. It’s not normal to pay debt. And to not pay, it is necessary that we be together, because we are not able to resist in isolation.

We say don’t pay the debt because those who demand it from us are the same ones who encouraged us to take out [debt]. They sent us councilors and technical assistants…

Debt must be thought of as a game in a casino for the lottery.

It is good when you win; and when you lose, too bad for you. As face to face (whites) they were winning, they said nothing [Translator’s note: this gambling metaphor is incoherent in the original text]. They didn’t even think to make a special fund for the day where the problem of payment of the debt would arise. Now that they lost, they also must accept the rules of the game.

In every case, if we accept paying debt, we will also have to go back a long way. We will see who must pay whom. President Houphouet said not to pay and we are in agreement with him…


I.D.: You have decided to make official the “Faso dan fani” [the traditional dress of Burkina Faso]. Revolution or thirst for authenticity?

T.S.: No… it’s not a thirst for authenticity, because there are some authentic stupidities. We have done it because we want the development of our country.

Our country produces lots of cotton and if we cannot sell it to a foreigner to make money, it would be better if we consume it.

I.D.: Ouagadougou will soon house the Institute of Black People. Today, “Black people” is a problem. Ultimately, coming from the mouth of a head of state, it could refer to the “négrisme” of François Duvalier.

T.S.: We want to avoid all these pitfalls because we do not want to start a racist fight. We want to lead Black people to define ourselves so as to unite ourselves… We want to lead Black people and white people to speak frankly about all which they have in common or all which makes them different to finally arrive at the conclusion that they are equal. The IPN (Institute of Black Peoples) therefore will be driven by Black people and non-Black people…

I.D.: Soccer player, jogger, soccer referee, guitarist, yogi… You project the image of an anti-conformist president. Is this due to a particular conception of life?

T.S.: I think that we can only be useful in life if we try to control the different elements around ourselves and if we try to control ourselves. A man who does not control himself will not provide himself with the maximum of his abilities. Each of us is a bundle of energy, of intelligence, of intuition. We can only succeed if we come to control ourselves… I consider sports as one of the exercises which can allow man to forge a character for himself and to control himself… Sports develops confidence in oneself and shows man that he has sharp limits but that he can continuously push them back.

I.D.: If you were asked to paint a portrait of yourself, what would you say in a few words?

T.S.: It is difficult to be upstairs and see yourself passing in the street… There are generally three images of man: we are what we think we are, we are what others think that we are, and we are what we are.

The ideal is that these three images are clearly superimposed [and align]. Sometimes I think that I am more or less than I am. So it is difficult for me to define myself without others defining me.

I.D.: So what kind of man would you like your Burkinabè comrades and all Africans to one day think of you as?

T.S.: I want them to  think of me as a man who led a life useful for all. I would not like to be a man who fought for himself, but a man who fought for all others and with others to win with them.

That is the ideal image that I hope one holds of me. Therefore I have to work to lose my faults and gain more [positive] qualities.

I.D.: I’m all done with [questions], comrade president. Would you like to add anything else?

T.S.: First I would like to congratulate your newspaper, Ivoire Dimanche. It is a beautifully made newspaper which looks very good. I say this as a reader.

One finds there columns and articles of practical utility. In this sense, you do useful work. I do not say that all is perfect in the newspaper. There are some things which can be criticized and some things which can be made better.

I hope that Ivoire Dimanche brings the African people together more by also speaking about other countries. I hope that it might open up other perspectives in the struggle that we have to take on to succeed… By the way, what happened to [soccer player] M’Bemba?

I.D.: M’Bemba?

T.S.: The one who left here to go play in your country.

I.D.: Ah! Touré M’Bemba… He is here.

T.S.: Does he give you satisfaction?

I.D.: Yes, he scores lots of goals.

T.S.: We have many athletes who have passed through Burkina Faso to play in the Ivory Coast. It is positive. This leads us to know each other better, to appreciate each other better and to love each other better.

Thus I will seize the occasion that you offer me to underline that the Burkinabè people and the Ivorian people are brother peoples and all which can bring them closer together must be preserved.

I.D.: Thank you, comrade president.

T.S.: I hope that you will return here another time.

I.D.: Surely…

T.S.: Yes, I would also like to say that your newspaper is not distributed here because the distributor does not pay the newspaper owners. This is why Africa International stopped giving him his newspapers. But it turned out that people said that it is us who censured it. We have never censored newspapers as long as Burkina Faso has existed. We authorize all newspapers, even those which criticize us.


[1] For background on Thomas Sankara, see Curry Malott, “Thomas Sankara: Leadership and Action that Inspires 71 Years Later,” Liberation School 21 December 2021, available here.
[2] The five in the series are: “We Didn’t Import Our Revolution,” “Thomas Sankara on the Founding of The Black Institute,” “Apartheid is a Cancer That Must be Exterminated,” “The courage to criticize imperialism,” and “Two Years After the Revolution.”
[3] Before the final seizure of power M. Soumane Touré was among those arrested by the old regime, days after students and children marched demanding Sankara’s release from prison.