Thomas Sankara’s Lost Legacy

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by Richard Cincotta

Woodrow Wilson Center Global Fellow/Senior Fellow, The Population Institute

Thirty-four years ago, Burkina Faso’s president, Thomas Sankara, was murdered. Only now are his alleged assassins on trial. Had he survived, the arid, landlocked country of more than 20 million people might well have taken a far different path to development.

The late-Thomas Sankara, former president of Burkina Faso (1984-87)

More media attention has focused on former-president Thomas Sankara’s modest salary and lifestyle, than the most audacious and forward-thinking of his reforms: his pro-women policies and programs. Sankara encouraged girls to finish secondary school and earn income, introduced voluntary family planning programs, and required schools to allow pregnant students to return to finish their education. Long before African leaders paid attention to women’s rights, Sankara’s government outlawed female genital cutting, forced marriages, and polygamy. Sankara also appointed women to cabinet positions and other top government posts, and mandated women’s participation in village governing committees. His was the first among African governments to recruit women into the military.

To read the complete essay on Sankara, go to The New Security Beat site.
To view or download a .pdf of the essay, click here.  
Or, for the full report, go to the Atlantic Council’s “What Future for the Western Sahel?