this writing is dedicated to S`bu Zikode, founder of Abahlali baseMjondolo
It is 30 years since Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara was assassinated. Why after all this time is this man loved so much? Why more than any other person , is he held up as our symbol of African liberation, our symbol of hope and our symbol of human dignity? Why does he remain our moral and spiritual guide?
Thomas Sankara was president of Burkina Faso for 4 years.In that brief time he made a miracle. He turned one of the poorest countries in Africa into a success.
That success was an economic success, an economic miracle. But it was the human success, the happiness of the nation that created the economic success.
Sankara`s economics was contradictory to the world, it was unique. His model of economics was the opposite of everything that is taught in places like Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. His economics was instead, like that of Franklin D Roosevelt who built up America after the Great Depression of the 1930s. Roosevelt would talk over the radio to the American nation in what became known as the `fireside chats`. Here he would inspire people with his vision of destroying poverty and making America great.
Roosevelt, like Sankara, loved his nation. And like Sankara, Roosevelt understood the value of the physical economy, the value of infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways, ports, the value of national banks that exist to serve the nation by issuing credit for investment in a country’s future, the value of production, manufacturing and above all the value of the human being as the center of an economic system – an economy that is not monetarist; an economy that is not based on money but on man.
Roosevelt had learned his economics from one of the founding fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton who was the first Secretary of the US Treasury. It was Hamilton who revolutionized the free world with his system of national banking where each country has sovereignty/control over its own currency. Hamilton created a new kind of economics which is called the credit based American System of Political Economy. Wall Street and the City of London do not believe in its principles, they can only see the world in terms of paper money, they are monetarist. Thanks to Lyndon LaRouche China is believing more and more in Hamilton`s system which is why China is a success.
Roosevelt made a new law in America in 1933. The law was a banking act that separated the banks . Investment banking and commercial banking were sepatated .That law was called the Glass- Steagall Act. Roosevelt made Glass- Steagall because it was the commercial banks of Wall Street that caused the terrible Great Depression in America and Europe in the 1930s. The law was removed in the 1990s. Wall Street, America`s commercial banking center, has destroyed America`s real wealth and burdened it and much of the world with debt because it has used the nation`s investments to speculate/gamble.
Speculative banking is part of the system of economics that is taught by the West. It is money that is invented and not based on physical assets like gold. Speculative banking runs on currency exchange.It is trading worthless paper money on the world stock markets.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank operate a debt based monetarist system that has never benefitted Africa or any part of the developing world; it benefits a political elite and a handful of anti-human criminal bankers.
Sankara understood the criminality of the financial system.
In 1987 at the OAU Summit in Addis Abeba Sankara gave a speech which became known as `La Discours sur La Dette`. In his speech Sankara explained the financial system to the African leaders.He said that the imperialists` financial system was like a casino.
The banks that run the casino are the big banks of Wall Street and the City of London. These are banks such as Goldman Sachs, Citi Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, Barclays, Standard Charter,and Deutche Bank of Europe and many others.It is a casino full of money launderers, gamblers, villians and thieves, economic hitmen.
This is the financial system that makes kings of the few and impoverishes the many. It supports a feudal system where 80% of the people in the world are too poor to own anything. It enslaves us with debt. On a national level Africa has spent the last 60 years enslaved by IMF debt. The IMF is run by the big banks who lend the money.
The IMF operates with the ideology of Adam Smith who was an economist in the 1700s. His economic thinking is that government should not have a say in trade policies that a state`s business deals should be conducted by private financiers, businessmen.
Private finance should not even be allowed near government, let alone run it as it does in the West.
“Under the ideological cover of free-market policies, the IMF, through its structural adjustment programs (SAPs) of the 1980s, demanded the removal of any state involvement in the economy. Its diktats included eliminating subsidies, liberalizing financial institutions, privatizing 90% of state-run corporations, and shrinking the work force of the civil sector. The result was to further drive down fledgling economies, and to end even the limited investment in infrastructure. But the most evil intended effect of the SAPs, along with the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was to utterly destroy agricultural sectors and the capacity to feed the people of a nation through their own labor. (Even under the boot of direct colonialism, this was never accomplished.) As a result, since the mid- 1980s, virtually all African nations have been dependent on food produced outside their borders for their very existence“Source: Lawrence Freeman, 2009 
“Imperialism is a system of exploitation that occurs not only in the brutal form of those who come with guns to conquer territory. Imperialism often occurs in more subtle forms; a loan, food aid, blackmail. We are fighting a system that allows a handful of men on earth to rule all of humanity,” said Thomas Sankara.
Thomas Sankara understood that the big banks are run by a cartel, by a handful of oligarchs that can never have enough money and power. This cartel operates under other names and disguises such as the Bilderberg Group, G7 (Group 7), Club of Rome, Club of Paris, Club of the Isles and more recently Club de Madrid. It is called a capitalist system . But it is not free and fair capitalism because this cartel sets the prices for oil and gold.They manipulate the markets. It is really monopoly capitalism because the cartel have a monopoly on everything in the world.
Starting in the 1990s this imperialist cartel began operating what is called globalization. Globalization is basically that anything and everything is for sale to the highest bidder.It is how commercial banks get their hands on state assets, how private investors get to own state services like electricity and water supply; how private corporations can own a nation`s mineral reserves (and pay virtually no tax due to liberalized economic practices).It was a simple procedure for the IMF to ruin African states through debt and then force then to sell off state assets through a process of privatization.Globalization wants the world and humanity run as a business model, it is called the New World Order.
Globalization of African economies has made kings of the political elite and impoverished the many.
Sankara said that you can see imperialism by looking at your plate of food, by how much of it imported.
“Some people ask me: But where is imperialism? Just look into your plates; you see imported corn, rice or millet. This is imperialism. No need to look any further………………………Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us; thus beguiling us and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political and cultural affairs. We choose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being“, said Thomas Sankara.
Globalization has `globalized` the world food market. It has made it impossible for African farmers to compete with mass produced grains. It has encouraged the farming and export of non-essential food and discouraged any form of self-sufficiency in staple foods.
Sankara stopped all but essential imports and concentrated on building up the domestic economy. In less than 4 years Burkina Faso and its 7 million citizens were self sufficient in food and self sufficient in cotton and in textile production.
Raising the standard of living for the people was his priority, to feed, to medicate , house and provide productive employment. Like Roosevelt in America Sankara set about developing the infrastructure. Building roads and railways not only provided employement it connected everyone, even those in remote rural areas were not forgotten. The new infrastructure transformed trade as farmers could take produce and livestock to market, travel was quicker and easier with a new vast road network that connected every region of the country. Infrastructure is the platform for trade. Roosevelt called his vision the New Deal. Sankara did the same and called his the Battle of the Rail. As the IMF refused to loan for this the population laid down hundreds of kilometers of railway by hand.
Sankara refused to run Burkina Faso according to the globalist economic model. He refused to run his country as a business model where profit and loss sheets do not reflect the well being of people, where GDP is taxable income instead of human dignity; and where the necessities of a dignified life, home, food, water, electricity are part of the profit system.
Maybe this is why he is still so loved. He put his people before profit. The dignity of their living standards was the profit!
For Africa to continue learning from Sankara then his revolution against the globalist system must be re-kindled. There is no better time than now for the nations of Africa to come together as suggested by Sankara, and to unite in the development of Africa`s physical economy. With the help of China, we can build roads and railways to each other.We can treasure and respect the national sovereignty of each country and develop policies that build domestic economy as a priority; policy that strengthens and empowers the small and medium traders and farmers, policy that places value on present and future generations and not solely on the interests of corporations and private sector investment.
Egypt has already proved that Egyptians can build a second Suez Canal without foreign financial assistance. The new Suez Canal was paid for by the Egyptian people buying bonds. It worked, they own the world`s largest shipping canals and when the world economy sorts itself out they will benefit enormously.
Sankara said:” 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. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”
Everything in Africa is bigger, the raindrops, the stars and the sky are bigger – let the dreams of madmen be bigger, let Africa build the biggest infrastructure projects,the soundest economies, the finest universities and let Africa feed, house and clothe every African and set a new world standard for human dignity.
TRANSCRIPT OF SANKARA`s Discours sur le Dette
We think that debt must be seen from the standpoint of its origins. Debts origins come from colonialism`s origins. Those who lend us money are those who colonized us before.They are those who used to manage our states and economies. Colonizers are those who indebted Africa through their brothers and cousins who were the lenders. We are strangers to this debt. Therefore we cannot pay for it. Debt is neo colonialism in which the colonizers transform themselves into `technical assistants`. In fact it is better to say `technical assasins`.
They present us with financing, with financial backers, as if someone`s back could create development! We have been advised to go to these recommended lenders. We have been proposed with nice financial set-ups. We have been indebted for 50, 60 years and more. That means we have been led to compromise our people for 50 years and more.
Under its current form the debt is a formula for controlled imperialism; debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus each one of us becomes the financial slave, that is to say – a true slave to those who were treacherous enough to put money in our countries with obligations for us to repay. We are told to repay, but it is not a moral issue. It is not about this so-called honour of repaying or not!
Mr President we have been listening and applauding Norway`s prime minister when she spoke right here. She is European but she said the whole debt cannot be repaid. The debt cannot be repaid, first because if we don`t pay the lenders will not die. That is for sure. But if we repay we are going to die. That is for sure.
Those who led us to indebting have gambled like in a casino. As long as they had gains, there was no debate. But now they suffer losses they demand repayment. And we talk about crisis! No they played, they lost and that is the rule of the game. Life goes on.
We cannot repay the debt because we do not have the means to do so. We cannot repay because we are not responsible for the debt. We cannot repay but the other owe us what the greatest wealth could never repay. That is the debt of blood. Our blood has flowed. We hear about the Marshall Plan that rebuilt the economies of Europe. But we never hear about the Africa Plan that let Europe face the Hitlerian hordes. When their economies and their stability was at stake. Who saved Europe. It was Africa. No one rarely mentions it. To such a point that we cannot really be the accomplices of that thankless silence. If others cannot sing our praises then at least we must say that our fathers have been courageous and that our troops saved Europe and set the world free from Nazism.
Debt is also the result of confrontation. When we are told about economic crisis, nobody says that this crisis did not come out suddenly.The crisis has always been there but it gets worse each time the masses become more and more conscious of their fight against exploitation.We are in a crisis today because the masses refuse for wealth to be concentrated into a few individuals` hands. We are in a crisis because some people are saving huge sums of money in foreign bank accounts that would be enough to develop Africa! We are in a crisis because on one side is this private wealth that we cannot name and on the other side are the masses who don`t want to live in ghettos and slums. We are in a crisis because on one hand there is Soweto and facing it is Johannesburg. There is a fight and the amplification of it worries those with the financial power. Now we are asked to be accomplices in a balancing, a balancing that favors those with the financial power .[ SAPs – Africa`s austerity program] Balancing against the masses. No we will not be accomplices!
No we will not comply with those who suck on our people`s blood and live on our people`s sweat!We cannot go with them in their march of assasination!
Mr President, we hear about clubs, Club of Rome, Club of Paris, club of everywhere. We hear about Group of 5, Group of 7, group of 10 and maybe group of 100 or whatever else. It is normal then for us to have our own club and our own group. Let Addis Abeba starting from now become a new breath. The Club of Addis Abeba , a united front against debt. That is the only way to assert that this is not a bellicose move on our part in refusing to repay. On the contrary it is a fraternal move to say it as it is!
Further more the masses of Europe are not opposed to the masses of Africa. Those who expolit Africa are those who exploit Europe too! We have a common enemy.
So our Club of Addis Abeba will have to explain to everyone that the debt will not be repaid. And that by saying that we are not against morals, dignity or keeping one`s word. We think we don`t have the same morality as others. Morality is not the same for the rich and the poor.The Bible and the Koran cannot serve both the exploiters and the exploited in the same way. If it could be used in favor of both sides, there should be 2 different editions of the Bible and 2 different editions of the Koran.
We cannot accept to be told about dignity and be told of the virtue of those who repay and the disvirtue of those who don`t. On the contrary we must recognise that the biggest thieves are the wealthiest . When a poor man steals it is just a theft, a piccadillo, it`s just about survival, a necessity. When the rich man steals it is with financial authority , from customs duty. They are the ones who exploit the people.
My proposal dose not aim at showing off or provoking, I just want to say what each one of us thinks and wishes. Who here doesn`t want the debt to be just cancelled? Anyone who doesn`t can get on a plane and go straight away to the World Bank and pay it!
I would not want to think Burkina Faso`s proposal is coming from youth and immaturity, inexperience. Don`t think it is only revolutionaries that say these things. It is only objectivity and obligation. Take for example others who have said not to repay , revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries, old and young. Fidel Castro said not to pay, he is not my age. Francois Mitterand said African countries should not have to pay, he is not a revolutionary!
The Norwegian prime minister said not to pay, she is not my age and I would hold it against myself to ask her age! President Felix Houphouet Boigny, he is not my age and he officially declared that Cote D`Ivoire will not pay. Now Cote D`Ivoire is the richest country of Francophone Africa and that is way he naturally has to pay more contributions here! So in my case it is not provocation. Mr President, I would like to ask you to offer us wise solutions. I would like this conference to adopt as a necessity the refusal of repayment. Not with bellicose intentions but to prevent us all from being individually assassinated. If Burkina Faso stands alone in refusing to pay, I will not be here at the next conference! But with everyone`s support which I need we can avoid repaying. Instead we can devote our small resources to our own development. And I would like to conclude by saying that each time an African country buys a gun it is against an African. It is not against a European, it is not against an Asian country. It is against an African country. Consequently we should take advantage of the debt issue to solve the weapons problem.
I am military and I have a gun.But Mr President I would like us to disarm. Because I carry the only gun I have but others have concealed guns! My dear brothers with everyone`s support we will make peace at home. We will also use these huge potentialities to develop Africa. Because our soil and our sub-soil are so rich. We have enough labor force and vast markets north to south and east to west. We have enough intellectual abilities to create or to at least use technology and science from wherever we can find it. Let`s set up this Addis Abeba united front against debt. Let us make from Addis Abeba a commitment of limiting armaments among weak and poor countries.Clubs and knives we buy are useless. Let`s make the African market the market of Africans.Produce in Africa, manufacture in Africa and consume in Africa.Let`s produce what we need, consume what we produce instead of importing.
Burkina Faso came here displaying our cotton fabric.Produced in Burkina Faso, weaved in Burkina Faso, sewed in Burkina Faso to clothe Burkinabe. Our delegation here are dressed by our weavers, by our farmers.There is not a single thread here from America or Europe! I will not do a fashion show but I will simply say we must accept to live African.That is the only way to live free and dignified.
I thank you Mr President.
The homeland or death. We shall overcome!