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Vol. 78/No. 42      November 24, 2014

Fall of Burkina Faso gov’t
spurs discussion on Sankara
Mass protests throughout Burkina Faso, initially called to prevent President Blaise Compaoré from amending the constitution to extend his 27-year rule, drew hundreds of thousands into the streets, forcing Compaoré to flee to Ivory Coast Oct. 31. Celebrations took place in several African cities, as well as Paris, Montreal and New York.

Gen. Honoré Traoré, army chief of staff, declared himself head of state. But after another round of popular protests, a group of junior officers led by Army Lt. Col. Isaac Zida took over Nov. 1, promising to hand over power to a civil government. Street mobilizations ebbed.

On Nov. 9 opposition party representatives, religious leaders and others called on Zida to form a 90-member transitional parliament with 10 military representatives, 40 from opposition parties, 30 from “civil society” and 10 from other parties, including Compaoré’s.

Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa where 72 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day, is the second-largest cotton producer in sub-Saharan Africa and fifth-largest in gold mining. The mining industry has exploded in the last 30 years, with nine industrial-scale gold mines, owned by British, Canadian, Australian and other companies, employing more than 6,000 workers.

The mobilizations that ousted Compaoré opened the door for a fight for political space by peasants, workers, craftsmen and their allies. They stimulated renewed interest in the 1983-87 Burkinabè Revolution led by Thomas Sankara, a communist leader of the highest caliber. What marked him most was his confidence in the revolutionary capacities of workers and peasants to overthrow imperialist exploitation, transforming themselves in the process, and take control of their own destiny.

Sankara was assassinated in a coup organized by Compaoré in the interests of those — in Burkina Faso and abroad — whose property and class domination were threatened by the revolutionary mobilization, solidarity and internationalism of the popular masses.

The Sankara-led revolution captured the attention of revolutionary-minded workers and young people around the world. The recent overthrow of Compaoré has opened a discussion of Sankara’s political legacy and how to build a revolutionary party capable of taking power, in Burkina Faso and elsewhere.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth, an international anti-imperialist youth organization, issued a statement of solidarity with the citizens of Burkina Faso Nov. 3. “WFDY adds its voice to those of the youth organizations in West Africa and calls on our comrades in Burkina Faso to stand firm in defense of peace, freedom, and constitutional protections embodied in the universal declaration of human rights. We stand with you side by side as brothers in the struggle.”  
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