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11 October 2016

Guard against corruption, political arrogance – Rawlings to Burkina Faso

RawlingsGhana’s former President, Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings has called on the people of Burkina Faso not to allow corruption, arrogance and high-handedness of political authority to derail the political freedom they have won through their blood and toil.

He said there was no easy road for the journey of emancipation because of the stark inequalities of globalization and the force-feeding of economic partnership agreements on the continent, describing “the power of imperialist control” as being “almost like a noose round Africa’s neck.”

Flt Lt Rawlings made the call when he paid a courtesy call on Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and later at the launch of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Project in Ouagadougou over the weekend.

The former President who is the Honorary Chair of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Project was in Burkina Faso for a three-day visit as part of activities marking the formal launch of the Project.

In his address at the launch in Ouagadougou on Sunday, the former President said the efforts that led to the popular people’s uprising of 2014 and more significantly, the daring standoff against the Presidential Guards in 2015 was a manifestation of the ideals that Thomas Sankara stood for.

He added; “No matter how long a people feel oppressed the strength of courage and defiance is more powerful than any force in the world. The actions of ordinary unarmed patriots of Burkina Faso charging into the streets and refusing to go back home in 2014 and 2015 was an image that astounded the world and proved that real people’s power still existed in our part of the world.”

Former President Rawlings commended the people of Burkina Faso for deciding to institute a memorial for the late Thomas Sankara, stating; “Sankara’s goal of combating corruption and taking the destiny of his country into his people’s hands, in contrast to the overbearing dominance of the French colonial power, may have seen a significant setback very much like in my own country. But as Sankara himself said: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill the ideas.””

The best way to perpetuate Sankara’s legacy, President Rawlings said, was to focus on building on the strong foundation blocks of nationwide literacy campaigns, decentralisation, promotion of public health, reforestation and agricultural growth, which Sankara initiated during his tenure of office.

PRESIDENT KABORE

The former President in his meeting with President Kabore on Saturday October 1, said the institution of a memorial monument for Sankara was not restricted to the people of Burkina Faso or West Africa, but also for a global audience who respected the late revolutionary leader.

“There are those of us who believe in empowering people and Sankara was a believer in empowering the people,” the former Ghanaian President said.

Flt Lt Rawlings urged President Kabore and the people of Burkina Faso not to squander the opportunity to rectify the mistakes of the past. He said investment in education and information on the state of the country’s economy will ensure that the masses understand that it will take a considerable period to turn the socio-economic situation around.

The former President counselled President Kabore and his team to show modesty in their lifestyle and decried how some others had become swayed by the desire to stay in power that they were ready to kill to perpetuate their tenure.

President Kabore expressed his country’s gratitude to Flt Lt Rawlings for accepting to chair the Sankara Memorial Project.

“You and Sankara were a model for African youth hence your nomination and Burkina Faso will always be grateful and proud of your support,” President Kabore said.

President Rawlings also held meetings with the President of the Burkinabe National Assembly, Salif Diallo and Francois Yameogo, the military prosecutor appointed to investigate circumstances surrounding the demise of Captain Thomas Sankara in 1987.

Please find below the full text of President Rawlings address at the formal launch of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Project.

ADDRESS BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA AT THE LAUNCH OF THE THOMAS SANKARA MEMORIAL PROJECT OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO – SUNDAY OCTOBER 2, 2016

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a great honour to join the bold people of Burkina Faso today to lay the foundation stone of a lasting memorial for our late leader, brother, compatriot and comrade, Captain Thomas Sankara.

Burkina Faso has seen some momentous developments involving popular public uprisings and the unfortunate loss of lives which eventually culminated in the inauguration of a new government in December 2015.

When I was invited by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism a couple of months ago to be the honorary chair of the International Committee for the Implementation of the Thomas Sankara Project I did not hesitate because Sankara was a true Pan Africanist, patriot and a charismatic leader who impacted not only on Burkina Faso but also the rest of the continent. A country that honours its heroes offers the opportunity to its youth to aspire to even greater ambitions and achievements.

Sankara’s goal of combating corruption and taking the destiny of his country into his people’s hands, in contrast to the overbearing dominance of the French colonial power, may have seen a significant setback very much like in my own country. But as Sankara himself said: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill the ideas.” Thomas Sankara lives!

The efforts that led to the popular people’s uprising of 2014 and more significantly the daring standoff against the Presidential Guards in 2015 was a manifestation of the ideals that Thomas Sankara stood for. No matter how long a people feel oppressed, the strength of courage and defiance is more powerful than any force in the world. The actions of ordinary unarmed patriots of Burkina Faso charging into the streets and refusing to go back home in 2014 and 2015 was an image that astounded the world and proved that real people’s power still existed in our part of the world.

The journey of emancipation must continue! There is no easy road ahead. The power of imperialist control is almost like a noose round Africa’s neck. The stark inequalities of globalization, and the force-feeding of economic partnership agreements with the attendant imbalance in trade, mean we have to fight a new political battle against neo-colonialist tendencies.

We owe Thomas Sankara what is due him in our drive to revive Burkina Faso. The move to perpetuate his memory through a fitting memorial similar to what we have for Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana is a very commendable idea. But what can we do beyond that to perpetuate Sankara’s legacy?

Captain Sankara’s legacy included a drive to boost your country’s economic development through an ambitious self-sufficiency drive that focused on education, nationwide literacy, decentralization, promotion of public health through the vaccination of millions of children against the major childhood killer diseases, reforestation, multiplying agricultural produce and ensuring equitable distribution of land.

We cannot forget Thomas Sankara’s anti-corruption credentials and his conscious and significant efforts at women emancipation.

The people of Burkina Faso have their work clearly cut out. Sankara has already laid a clear framework and developmental blueprint for sustainable development in Burkina Faso. So as we celebrate Captain Sankara through several events today, let us focus on building on the strong foundation blocks he laid. I believe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore will give us the leadership we deserve to attain our national goals.

Let us be focused as a people, let us be focused as a government; let us work hand-in-hand as people and government to develop our country. If we allow arrogance, corruption, high-handedness of elected authority, greed, selfishness and impunity to take over, it will derail all that has been fought for with the blood and toil of all who laid down their lives to get Burkina Faso to where it is today.

Even as we gather to exchange ideas about a monument befitting what he lived and died for, the best monument Captain Sankara left behind is the courage and the spirit of defiance to fight for freedom and Justice.

Even as the world continues to fight and condemn terrorism, our inability to improve upon socio-economic justice coupled with the impunity of power and the growing arrogance and abuse of that power is only creating more fertile grounds for serious social unrest culminating in terrorist activity.

It is important that Burkina Faso re-engages the Pan-Africanism ideals Thomas Sankara embodied. Do not consider yourself as an island in the struggle for self-realisation.

I will offer the support I can to ensure that this project to perpetuate the memory of our beloved Captain Thomas Sankara comes to a successful conclusion. I wish you all the best.

Thank you and God Bless.

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