Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary – Ernest Harsch

About Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

Thomas Sankara, often called the African Che Guevara, was president of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, until his assassination during the military coup that brought down his government. Although his tenure in office was relatively short, Sankara left an indelible mark on his country’s history and development. An avowed Marxist, he outspokenly asserted his country’s independence from France and other Western powers while at the same time seeking to build a genuine pan-African unity.

Ernest Harsch traces Sankara’s life from his student days to his recruitment into the military, early political awakening, and increasing dismay with his country’s extreme poverty and political corruption. As he rose to higher leadership positions, he used those offices to mobilize people for change and to counter the influence of the old, corrupt elites. Sankara and his colleagues initiated economic and social policies that shifted away from dependence on foreign aid and toward a greater use of the country’s own resources to build schools, health clinics, and public works. Although Sankara’s sweeping vision and practical reforms won him admirers both in Burkina Faso and across Africa, a combination of domestic opposition groups and factions within his own government and the army finally led to his assassination in 1987.

This is the first English-language book to tell the story of Sankara’s life and struggles, drawing on the author’s extensive firsthand research and reporting on Burkina Faso, including interviews with the late leader. Decades after his death, Sankara remains an inspiration to young people throughout Africa for his integrity, idealism, and dedication to independence and self-determination.


This is a non-fiction Biography of Burkina Faso’s President Thomas Sankara. Who took over the country via a bloodless coup in 1983, he ruled for 4 years up until 1987.

The first part of the book reads like a eulogy. It’s narrated in third person. The writer gives an account of people’s experiences and interactions (including his) with Thomas Sankara. Reading this book got me thinking that this guy Sankara was born in the wrong country and at the wrong time. Perhaps if he was born in a first world country he would be a famous world leader. That said, with the little resources that his country had, he managed to make significant changes and impact the lives of people in his country. This he did in such a short time.

As said earlier, he took over the country through a coup. Even though majority of the population preferred him, he was not democratically elected. He however as a friend pointed out, did not instigate the coup.

At the time of his rule, Burkina Faso had no systems in place to take the country to the next level, in terms of development. I kind of got the feeling that his decisions on issues about the country were disorganized. He really tried hard to show that the aspect of servant leadership to a majority of leaders who did not appreciate this kind of leadership. He also did not have like-minded people in his administration who shared his passion and vision. A highly recommended book for anyone who would love to understand the history of Burkina Faso and Thomas Sankara.


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