Women Forgotten In The Shadow Of History: Mariam Sankara

Mariam Sankara's Letter To The People Of Burkina Faso

In the message sent from France, Mariam Sankara, widow of Thomas Sankara, congratulates the people of Burkina Faso for forcing Blaise Compaoré’s resignation from state power. Not much is written about her. Below is a biography by Wikipedia. The letter is published below the biography.

Mariam Sankara (née Sereme, born 26 March 1954[1][2]) is the widow of Thomas Sankara, the President of Burkina Faso (previously named Upper Volta) from 4 August 1983 until his assassination on 15 October 1987. During this time she was First Lady of the country. Thomas Sankara, a Marxist and pan-Africanist army officer, became President of what was then known as the Republic of Upper Volta after a military coup in August 1983. He carried out what he proclaimed to be, the “Democratic and Popular Revolution” (FrenchRévolution démocratique et populaire), implementing many radical reforms. Sankara was killed in a coup in October 1987, orchestrated by his former friend and colleague Blaise Compaoré.

As a result of the coup, Mariam Sankara was forced to flee Burkina Faso along with her two children, Philippe (born 10 August 1980) and August (born 21 September 1982).[1][2] She went into exile in France, where she would spend the next twenty years. Meanwhile, she was replaced as First Lady by Chantal Compaoré. In 1997 she filed a complaint to a Burkinabé court regarding the murder of Thomas,[2] but it wasn’t until 28 June 2012 that the Supreme Court ruled that the case could be prosecuted under local jurisprudence.[3] With the gradual opening up of the country’s military regime, Sankara was eventually able to return to her home country in 2007, to attend commemorations held in honour of the 20-year anniversary of her husband’s death. Large crowds greeted her return to the capital Ouagadougou.[4]

In late October 2014, a large-scale uprising broke out in Burkina Faso, protesting President Blaise Compaoré’s attempts to prolong his 27-year rule. As a result of the protests, partially inspired by the memory of Thomas Sankara, Compaoré was forced to resign and flee the country. In response to this uprising, Mariam Sankara issued a statement congratulating the Burkinabé people for their victory, and calling for Compaoré to be prosecuted for his crimes against the people. She ended the letter by stating: “Long live the Republic and long live Burkina! The motherland or death, we shall overcome.”[5]


This is the English translation of her letter, originally written in French. 

“I feel immense joy on this historic day. My joy is that of the Sankara family, my joy is that of you all, that of the many friends who follow with interest the events of Burkina.

It is a real joy to have succeeded with the brave people of Burkina Faso: women, youth, civil society organizations, opposition parties as well as a large part of the republican army respectful of the people. The joy of seeing that anyone who believed that Burkina belonged to him eternally was thrown out of power.

Dear compatriots, dear comrades and dear friends. Blaise Compaore never imagined the mobilization you showed on October 30, 2014. You have just won an unprecedented victory by a popular uprising. Referring to the 4-August revolution, Burkinabe youth rehabilitated President Thomas Sankara. I am proud of you, of your fighting spirit, I congratulate you.

I would like to thank all those who contributed, near or far, to avoid the political chaos in which Compaoré and his friends wanted to plunge Burkina.

Compaore and his henchmen still killed the people. I share the grief of the bereaved families and send them my sincere condolences. I wish a speedy recovery to the many wounded.

Moreover, I urge these families to seize national and international justice and force Blaise Compaoré to answer for his crimes.

The mediator image of the subregion with which he has draped himself should in no way exculpate it. And to say that in 2012, he even cherished the idea of ​​having the Nobel Peace Prize as if he had forgotten all the crimes of the war since 1987.

This gentleman who was solicited as mediator in the conflicts was actually the one who fanned them. He was responsible for the carnage and destabilisation of countries such as Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire.

He must answer for his acts and his blood crimes.

We must remain mobilized until the final victory which will see the organization of a free, fair and transpartent election. In the meantime, I subscribe to the idea that the transition must be ensured by civilians so that the democratic nature of our struggle is respected. This victory is not only expected by the people of Burkina Faso only as seen by the many messages and testimonies I receive around the world.

To us to be worthy of this victory, it is up to us to prove that Blaise Compaoré is not indispensable. And therefore nothing should be as before. It is up to the forces of change to remain united and vigilant, to prepare a political, economic, social and cultural alternative for the well-being of the Burkinabe.

Long live the Republic and long live Burkina!

Mariam Sankara

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