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Remembering an African hero: 10 quotes from Thomas Sankara

On this day Africa lost one of its most illustrious sons, Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara, who was assassinated in 1987. Sankara, a military captain, Marxist revolutionary, and pan-Africanist led Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Here are his 10 memorable quotes.



A true humanist, fervent Pan-Africanist, iconic revolutionary, Sankara was unapologetically an anti-imperialist stalwart, and proponent of women’s rights. His legacy continues to inspire a generation,  and he remains one of the most extraordinary and charismatic African leaders, who strongly believed in African unity, the African liberation struggle, it’s social and economic freedom.

Captain Sankara led Burkina Faso from August 1983 until his assassination in 1987. In four years, he transformed the country from being a poor country, dependent on foreign aid, to an economically independent and socially progressive nation.

We celebrate the legacy of one of Africa’s heroes and remember the words he left us with in his quest to see the liberation, unification and development of Africa.


1. “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”.

2. “Debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa. It is a reconquest that turns each one of us into a financial slave.” Speaking at an OAU summit, 1987.

3. “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”. From an interview with Swiss Journalist Jean-Philippe Rapp, 1985.

4. “I want people to remember me as someone whose life has been helpful to humanity”.

5. “Our country produces enough to feed us all. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in our spirits the attitude of beggars”. From Thomas Sankara Speaks: the Burkina Faso Revolution: 1983.

Thomas Sankara. Photo: AFP

Thomas Sankara. Photo: AFP

6. “We are not against progress, but we do not want progress that is anarchic and criminally neglects the rights of others”.

7. “Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights…Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them”. Quoted from ‘The revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women’ speech, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, International Women’s Day commemoration,  March 8, 1987.


8. “The patriarchal family made its appearance, founded on the sole and personal property of the father, who had become head of the family. Within this family the woman was oppressed”. International Women’s Day commemoration, March 8, 1987.

9. “Her status overturned by private property, banished from her very self, relegated to the role of child raiser and servant, written out of history by philosophy (Aristotle, Pythagoras, and others) and the most entrenched religions, stripped of all worth by mythology, woman shared the lot of a slave, who in slave society was nothing more than a beast of burden with a human face”. International Women’s Day commemoration,  March 8, 1987.

10. “The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky”. Quoted in “We are Heirs of the World’s Revolutions”: Lessons from Thomas Sankara, Akinyemi Adeseye, May, 2010

Source: Selected interviews, speeches, essays and books