Saturday, October 29, 2011



By Mildred Ngesa

I am searching for a very important memento - a t-shirt of the felled renowned Burkina Faso revolutionary leader Captain Thomas Sankara. 

He is claimed as Africa’s own Che Guevara. I eulogize Che many times with precious jungle green t-shirt embodied with his piercing eyes on a feted photo of his youth. When I wear it I feel vindicated - my soul is re-born in the hope that upright ideals never really wither with time. 

But it is Sankara’s T-shirt that I crave the most - especially now. 

Today, the continent is blotted with corruption; plunder of natural resources, nauseating Kleptocracy and pillage of public funds and utilities. It is a sad tale of a destitute continent impoverished further by stark-rotten governance, mismanagement and the audacious deceit by Western implored Breton-woods institutions on a continent in disarray.
Sankara should have lived longer. Maybe then, his ideals would have been too glaring to ignore. Maybe Africa’s leadership would have assumed a different tone. 

His ghost nudges my conscience especially now when the list of Who Owns Kenya, as exemplified weekly in a local TV station grows unbelievably ridiculous with a minority segment’s impudence to amass obscene yards of wealth in the face of retching poverty of the masses. 

The gluttonous bourgeoisie’s latest squander has touched on the core vulnerability of the poor in Kenya; Education and food. Where free primary education would have liberated masses from the bondage of poverty to empowerment and economic freedom, the wealthy leading class have sunk their grip and yanked out billions! Where maize for the poor would have bridged a great starvation gap and restored some sense of sustainable hope, the sticky fingers of politicians entrusted with a country’s well being have gained root. 

Were Thomas Sankara the president of Kenya today, his options would have been simple; fire all the ministers involved and their subordinates on the spot, re-direct the management of food provision and management directly to the people and reigned in on the free primary education to actually ensure that it works. 

No, he would not have been implicated in any of the scams either. That, I am absolutely sure! For a president who died with four bicycles, an old Mazda salon, a broken down fridge and a freezer to his name, such acts of political irresponsibility would have been sacrilegious! 

This is why my mind has been dancing with Sankara’s ghost in these recent days.
I must have been a restless nonchalant teenager when he was assassinated for his ideals 22 years ago. Today, he fills my imaginations with nostalgic fantasies of what political accountability ought to be; what true Africa leadership should have been long before the big fat cats strode into town. 

Well, I have a simple question to the same big cats (read, the president, prime minister, ministers, permanent secretaries and members of parliament) who seem to have conveniently forgotten to whom they ought to be accountable; how many of you ride bicycles to the office every ? How many of you drive an old Renault? 

The minister of finance Uhuru Kenyatta must have thought he was making history when his ministry ordered the sale of all fuel guzzlers used by public servants and replace them with supposedly low-maintenance VW Passatts in the name of cost-cutting on government expenditure 

Thomas Sankara had beaten him to it in 1983 when he came into power in Burkina Faso. He sold most of the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5, the cheapest car sold at Burkina Faso at the time the official service car of the ministers.
Sankara himself used his four bicycles to ride to most of his official functions, his most echoed sentiments then being, “we cannot be the rich ruling class of a poor country!” He led by meticulous example. Now on a good day with a sunlit streak, I would wish to see, say the minister for Tourism Hon. Najib Balala ride to his Utalii House office on a black mamba bicycle or the honourable President arrive at a state function in a Renault 5 or a broken down Mazda! 

Sankara’s legacy today looms larger and even more alive than his brief 37 years on earth. Scholars, critics and admirer’s alike continue to eulogize him in awe paying tribute to a simple man from whom Burkinabe’s owe their identity for it is when he assumed power that he changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, “land of the upright people”. His visionary calling for transparency and accountability, justice and equality of all Burkinabes must have guided his instincts even for a choice of name! The guy’s humility to serve his people was so deep that he even refused to have his portrait embedded across his country’s official sites or any other shelves by simply responding; “They are seven million Burkinabes!”, why focus on him alone!

It is not humanly possible to bring back the Sankara years and replicate them in our corridors of maize mugging, education-plundering corridors of Kenya’s fat-cats or other communities of fat-cats spread across Africa’s capitals. 

Sankara remains a nostalgic memory of Africa’s history whose selfless contribution to his people is insulted with every measure of corruption that purports to put individual profits before the people’s well-being. His was not merely a political gimmick meant to upsurge public support and present himself as a flawless leader of the Burkinabes. His was a true lifestyle because Sankara lived the way he died – a poor servant of the Burkinabe people.
And that is why I am dying for his t-shirt. None of Kenya’s political leadership so far has inspired me enough to want to have their faces embodied across my bosom..none but Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso!

Mildred Ngesa is the founder and director of Peace pen Communications

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Mildred Ngesa twits on; @mildredngesa