Politics

9 African Leaders That Were Assassinated With US Government or Western Intelligence Support


The U.S. government has for years tried to steer politics in Africa. In some cases, this meddling has led to the assassinations of African leaders with the help of U.S. or Western intelligence support.

Some of the stories of the assassination of African leaders by the U.S. and European powers before completing their goal for liberation seem to be out of a horror movie. As the Guardian points out, between 1961 and 1973, six African independence leaders were assassinated by their ex-colonial rulers, including Patrice Lumumba of Congo.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one American intelligence agency that has had a long history of involvement in African affairs, the BBC reported. Many of the agency’s covert operations have come to light, as well as their participation in the killing of several leaders. In November 1959, the CIA created a dedicated Africa division. The CIA’s brief in Africa was to secure American power across the continent, NPR reported. The agency worked –by any means necessary — undermined not only Pan-African unity but many African governments’ stability.

Former National Security adviser John Bolton defended U.S. interference, saying in a recent conversation with Newsmax host Eric Bolling that the coups in Africa that he helped plan were necessary to protect America’s “best interests.”

Bolton spoke about his involvement in foreign coups, Business Insider reported.

“This is something that some of the snowflakes on the left were kind of shocked at. But when you’re looking out for America’s best interests, you do what’s necessary to protect those interests,” Bolton said. 




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“Snowflake” is a politicized insult is typically used by those on the political right to insult those on the political left.

According to Bolton, his was involved in the failed attempt in 2019 to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

The government long before–and continuing after– Bolton has been involved in the takedown of African leaders and governments. Even leaders who had once cooperated with the U.S. have not been spared that fate.

Muammar Gadhafi, the deposed leader of Libya, was captured and assassinated in October 2011. He had once worked closely with the CIA, as did Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat, the third president of Egypt ; he was assassinated by fundamentalist army officers in October 1981.

Several of the U.S.’s allies have led these assignations as well. Among them:

  • Ruben Um Nyobè was an anti-colonialist Cameroonian leader, slain by the French army on in September 1958.
  • Félix-Roland Moumié, another anti-colonialist Cameroonian leader, was assassinated in Geneva in November 1960.
  • Castor Osendé Afana, a Marxist economist and militant nationalist who died while fighting as a guerrilla against the government of Cameroon. He was assassinated and then decapitated on March 15, 1966.
  • Moroccan politician Mehdi Ben Barka, the head of the left-wing National Union of Popular Forces and secretary of the Tricontinental Conference, disappeared in Paris on 29 October 1965. His body was never found. Outel Bono, a Chadian politician, was arrested for plotting against the government of President François Tombalbaye. He was assassinated in August 1973 in Paris.
  • Pierre Mulele, a Congolese rebel active in the Simba rebellion of 1964, was assassinated on Oct. 2, 1968. Mulele’s death was undoubtedly the cruelest. While he was still alive, the fascist Mobutu dictatorship ripped off his ears, cut off his nose, amputated his arms and then his legs, before throwing the rest of his body into the Congo river in a sack, according to Pambazuka News.

Here are eight African leaders who were assassinated with U.S. government or Western intelligence support.

1.Amilcar Cabral: Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde

Amilcar Cabral once said, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, and to guarantee the future of their children.”

He fought for the freedom of two Portuguese colonies–Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Some of Cabral’s contributions centered on the following concerns:

  • The limitations of national liberation within the capitalist world-system
  • The internal material basis for neo-colonialism within colonized and oppressed nations and the critical dangers associated with this form of capitalist penetration and imperialist rule
  • The ideological and theoretical weaknesses and shortcomings of the people’s movements for liberation and the detriments they pose to the success of the movements
  • The centrality of culture to anti-imperialist resistance and the need to create a new culture through struggle to restore oppressed people into full agents of their own history and identity
  • The imperative of class struggle within the oppressed nation and the necessity of class “suicide” amongst critical segments of the nation (or nation-class as Cabral himself stated), but most particularly the petit bourgeoisie who often constitute the leadership of the movements given their strategic location within the capitalist mode of production and its national/international hierarchies.

“Back in 1972 three months before his assassination, Cabral had alleged that the Portuguese agents were after his life after he had invaded his home,” the YouTube channel HistoryVille reported in an episode entitled “Amílcar Cabral: Who killed Guinea-Bissau’s Revolutionary Leader?” Portugal denied any part in his death but the man later arrested claimed to be working for the Portuguese government. According to HistoryVille, his assassination was one of many “African leaders by the West in order to maintain its political and economic control in the continents.”

2.Sylvanus Olympio: Togo

It was a long and painful journey to independence for Togo. Sylvanus Olympio helped the country reach independence from France, but there would be a price. In order to block the hopes of emancipation and aspirations for self-government by Olympio and the Togolese people, France requested a payment of 800 million francs from the tiny West African colony with meager earnings as the cost of France’s colonial administration.

Being a trained economist and international businessman, Olympio quickly understood the game. There is no absolute independence with the “debt trap,” and he promptly went to work for two years by putting Togo’s land and human resources to work in order to come up with the funds to pay France.

Even after paying France this colossal amount and gaining nominal independence, General Charles de Gaulle wasn’t going to let go because he believed all French colonies were France’s property, independent or not.

De Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 to restore democracy in France.

Sylvanus Olympio’s vision of a free and self-determining Togo, free of western interference by putting the people above all other interests, didn’t go down well in Paris. The last straw was his decision to break away from the CFA francs currency, which was imposed on France’s colonies in 1945 at gunpoint.

The CFA franc is one of two regional African currencies backed by the French treasury.

Olympio set out to issue Togo’s own sovereign currency backed by the resources of the country and guaranteed by the German Bundesbank, the central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany. Two days before Olympio was due in Paris at the Bank of France to sign the withdrawal agreement of Togo from the CFA francs currency, France, with the help of the U.S., ordered his assassination, African Lisbon Tour reported.

He was handed over to his assassins by U.S. ambassador Leon B. Poullada in Togo on January 13., 1963; the rest is history.

Olympio barely had a chance to execute anything politically. He was assassinated in a military coup in the US embassy compound in Lomé in 1963, two years after Togo’s independence and his investment as president. The presidential palace was just next to the US embassy in Lomé.

When Olympio heard gunshots, he sent his family to safety and climbed the wall that separated him to the American embassy. Once there, he knocked at the door of the embassy to seek refuge…unfortunately, the embassy was closed.

Olympio hid in one of the cars in the American compound. The American Ambassador comes back to the compound and finds Olympio in the car, which explains everything; the Ambassador claimed not to have the keys to open the door… and asked him to wait while he would go find the keys. Rumors say that the American Ambassador probably called his French counterpart, who then contacted the gunmen and sent them to the American compound, Afro Legends reported.

Olympio was found in the car and gunned by Eyadéma, one of Africa’s worst dictators backed by the West. The Time magazine wrote an article on that day entitled Togo: Death at the Gate; JFK also had a statement about his death. The journalist, Alain Foka of RFI, did a piece on Olympio.

Many wonder what Togo would have become under someone with such love, brilliance, and vision for his country.

President Kennedy on January 14, 1963, on the assassination of Olympio, he said, “President Oiympio’s tragic assassination is a blow to the progress of stable government in Africa. It is also a loss for his country and all those who knew him here in the United States.”

The statement continued, “His visit in March 1962 was helpful in increasing our understanding of African problems and aspirations. His positive role in fostering cooperation between English- and French-speaking countries helped to promote peace and progress in Africa. His wise judgment and statesmanship will be missed by all nations which cherish human values and ideals.”

3.Felix Moumié: Cameroon

What exactly is radioactive thallium, other than something a villain uses in a James Bond movie? The French truly used it (define it here) on Moumie, who was known as Cameroon’s Lumumba.

Moumié, called “Cameroon’s Lumumba,” was lured to Geneva and poisoned to death by the French agent on Nov. 3, 1960. The Swiss authorities knew Moumié’s assassin but, under pressure from Paris, never indicted him and dismissed charges. France feared the publicity of the case, which would have shed light on what was at the time “France’s dirty war” in Africa. For the French government, Cameroon had a particular strategic importance. Paris was afraid that in case of defeat against Moumié’s UPC, a left-wing movement of independence, France would not only lose Cameroon but also other colonies in Western Africa and Central Africa.

Paris was convinced that Cameroon was going to win or lose the Cold War in Africa. In an attempt to “save the country of communism,” French authorities for 25 years committed horrible war crimes, little known outside Cameroon and virtually unreported in the French press. France was responsible for extensive war crimes and crimes against humanity: more than 400,000 people were deported, tortured, and executed. In 2005, 45 years after his death, a film, “Death In Geneva” was made about Moumié’s life and the Cameroon independence movement. Moumie was poisoned by a member of the French assassination unit called “Le Main Rouge” in Switzerland, where he was poisoned. His wife Marthe has written a biography of her husband, “Victim de Colonialisme Francais: Mon Mari, Felix Moumié. “It appeared in 2006, Editions DuboIris.

Early in October 1960, Dr. Moumié, the exiled leader of the Cameroonian nationalist movement, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, on a mission. On the eve of his return to Conakry (Guinea), where the UPC had set up its headquarters in exile, he was invited to dinner by an individual whom he had met earlier in July in Accra, Ghana. The individual, 66-year-old William Bechtel, claimed to be a journalist interested in the UPC’s armed struggle against the French-backed regime of Ahmadou Ahidjo, according to Scribbles from the Den blog.

Moumie knew he was at risk as the French were running an effective assassination program at the time, targeting and murdering African Nationalists, as well as journalists and academics who supported them (or even wrote about them from anything other than the French government’s point of view). Moumie believed that while he was in Geneva, he would be safe, a big mistake as Swiss neutrality meant nothing to the French.

4.Ruben Um Nyobè: Cameroon

“If we fight to the death against an arbitrary integration of our country into the French colonial empire, it is because we want to remain the conquering defenders of the right of peoples to self-determination. We are thus, in the service of Cameroon and Africa…we are the true craftsmen of international detente. As revolutionary nationalists, we are fighting to realize for the Kamerun and for it alone, a true national “Independence” with “Unification” as a precondition, simultaneous or consecutive, but never excluded,” Ruben Um Nyobe once said.

Nyobe was a Cameroonian freedom fighter, and an anti-imperialist leader.

Ruben Um Nyobé, founder and first leader of the Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC), was killed on Sept. 13, 1958, by French-led counterinsurgency forces in Cameroon, hoping to neutralize the genuine nationalist movement Nyobé led. Although French and French Cameroon sources claimed he was killed in a skirmish with their forces, the events concerning his death have never been confirmed. Considered by many Cameroonians as the George Washington of his country, Nyobé was one of a handful of African nationalists thought to be the caliber of Nelson Mandela.

In 1952, 1953, and 1954, Um Nyobè traveled to New York City to appear before the United Nations General Assembly, where he repeatedly denounced French colonial rule in Cameroon and called for the immediate reunification of French and British Cameroon. He wanted a fixed deadline for independence and called for a Cameroonian Legislative Assembly. The French colonial administration responded by initiating a persecution of UPC members in 1955. Many of them were arrested or killed, and some were exiled.

Ruben Um Nyobè organized a non-violent resistance movement much like the one Gandhi led in India in the Cameroonian equatorial forest and continued to claim independence and call for democratic elections. He was killed by the French Army on Sept. 13, 1958, near the town of Boumnyébel. He was 45. French authorities destroyed most of his writing, and Cameroonian residents were forbidden to speak his name publicly, Black Past reported.

5.Mehdi Ben Barka: Morocco

El Mehdi Ben Barka El Mehdi Ben Barka was a Moroccan politician and a leading socialist opponent of King Hassan II. One of the founders of the Istiqlal, which played a significant role in the independence of Morocco, caused a split in 1959. He founded the UNFP (National Union of Popular Forces) — the main left party opposed to royalty. At this time, Life Magazine asked Pierre Boulat to pose for a portrait.
Sentenced to death in absentia on charges of conspiracy and an assassination attempt against the king, Mehdi Ben Barka was exiled in 1964 and became known as the “Salesman of the revolution.”

It is hard to imagine language more alarming to European and American imperialists and their allies than the terms Mehdi Ben Barka used to describe a conference he was organizing. In May 1965, the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization elected the exiled Moroccan dissident to chair the preparatory committee for the upcoming “First Conference of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” Better known simply as “The Tricontinental,” the conference was the first that was set to bring Latin America into the framework of Afro-Asian anti-colonial summitry. In conversation with the Havana press on Sept. 30, 1965, Ben Barka pinpointed the forces that converged to make the 1960s a period of global revolutionary possibilities:

Less than a month after making this link between socialist and anti-colonial revolution traditions, Ben Barka was abducted from the streets of Paris, never to be seen again. He disappeared and his body was not found. The truth about his death was never revealed, though there has been speculation.

There have been reported that on Oct. 29, 1965, French police kidnapped Ben Barka off the streets of Paris, Moroccan intelligence officers tortured him to death, and agents of Mossad doused his body with acid and buried him in a forest on the outskirts of Paris, according to the book “Arab Lefts: Histories and Legacies, 1950s-1970s,” edited by Laure Guirguis.

His disappearance sparked an international scandal, leading to a highly publicized trial and a break in diplomatic relations between France and Morocco. While the question of who was behind the ‘Ben Barka Affair’ has been an international mystery leading to intense speculation for decades, a recent confession by an Israeli Mossad agent involved in his assassination has shed light on many uncertainties.

This is what has been said about Ben Barka, that he was “a true hero.” He has been refer to as the Moroccan Che Guevara and to many, he was the hope itself. His charisma and his work went beyond Morocco’s borders as his work inspired activists in countries which were oppressed by imperialist powers and which are still suffering from neo-colonialism and capitalism/imperialism, Afro Legends reported.

6.Pierre Mulele: Democratic Republic of the Congo

After Belgium and the United States conspired to kill Patrice Émery Lumumba, a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pierre Mulele rose to continue the fight against imperialist designs.

Between 1963 and 1968, Pierre Mulele led a rebellion in Kwilu province against the Congolese government. The uprising ended in a heavy defeat for the rebel forces. Every political regime in Congo from the late 1960s to the present has dealt differently with the memory of this rebellion. Through fragments of stories, this article looks deeply into this history in order to understand how the politics of forgetting has been constructed since the late 1960s.

During the Mobutu regime, this politics was incredibly violent. The regime distinguished itself by its ability to configure a set of strategies to enforce silence and create a public forgetting about Mulele, according to the research paper “The Mulele “Rebellion,” Congolese Regimes, and the Politics of Forgetting” by Emery M. Kalema.

The result of this new form of control and surveillance was that people were doomed to fall back on themselves as fragmented “bodies” and live piecemeal between the human world (the body) and the incorporeal world (the world of memory). But this new form of discipline and control also proved to be “partially” a failure, given the fact that memories of Mulele merely became private (or secret) and that the potential (re)publicizing of these remained, in particular via a ghostly avatar. The advent of Laurent Désiré Kabila in 1997, as well as the inversion of the injunction to forget Mulele after he came to power, left Mulele’s victims feeling equally and mentally “colonized” by the political memory-work of the new regime.

Mulele was assassinated on October 2, 1968. Mulele’s death was certainly the cruelest. While he was still alive, the fascist Mobutu dictatorship ripped off his ears, cut off his nose, amputated his arms and then his legs, before throwing the rest of his body into the Congo river in a sack.

7. Eduardo Mondlane: Mozambique

“Neither time nor difficulties matter; for us, what matters is to know that Mozambique will be free,” Eduardo Mondlane, the President of the Mozambican Liberation Front from 1962 until his assassination in 1969, once said.

Eduardo Mondlane envisioned a free, united, and independent Mozambique, unshackled from the Portuguese colonial authorities. Though he was assassinated while in exile, his legacy lives on.

Mondlane was born on June 20, 1920, in Manjacaze, province of Gaza, southern Mozambique. He worked as a shepherd until he was around 10 years old.

Mondlane went to a Presbyterian Swiss mission primary school near Manjacaze and later studied Anthropology and Sociology in South Africa and (briefly) Portugal. It was there that he met other leaders of the African anti-colonialist struggle like Amílcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde and Angola’s Agostinho Neto.

He then went on to complete his studies and obtain his doctoral degree in the United States of America. During his stay there, Mondlane gave classes at Syracuse University and, after that, joined the United Nations Trusteeship Council as a researcher on issues related to the independence of African countries. Among other things, he co-organized the British Cameroons referendum in 1961 that would come to define the borderlines between Cameroon and Nigeria.

He was the first president and co-founder of FRELIMO (Mozambican Liberation Front) in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, in 1962, the movement that, after Mondlane’s death, went on to achieve Mozambique’s independence. Mondlane was a revolutionary pan-Africanist, internationalist, and anthropologist.

Until this day, Mondlane is revered by many for having nurtured a pragmatic and unifying vision of Mozambique, paired with outstanding educational accolades.

Mondlane was a skillful politician who used the city’s international connections to publicize his movement’s cause and canvass for foreign support. However, as FRELIMO sought to draw on Cold War patronage to wage war against the Portuguese, it was gripped by an internal crisis that split the movement’s leadership along ethno-racial and ideological lines. Powerful gatekeepers within the Tanzanian political establishment aligned with Mondlane’s enemies to challenge him in public and undermine his security in private. These schisms facilitated the assassination of Mondlane in 1969 and clouded the waters of subsequent inquiries into the crime’s perpetrators, Cambridge University Press reported.

On February 3, 1969, Mondlane was assassinated in Dar-es-Salam when he opened a package with a bomb inside. Some accuse his rivals in FRELIMO and PIDE, Portuguese International and State Defense Police, of being responsible for his death, but until now, his murder remains a mystery, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

8.Patrice Lumumba: Democratic Republic of the Congo

“Political independence has no meaning if it is not accompanied by rapid economic and social development,” Patrice Lumumba once said.

He also said, “Without dignity, there is no liberty, without justice, there is no dignity, and without independence, there are no free men.”

One of the most infamous political assassinations in history one Patrice Lumumba, the man Nation of Islam spokesperson Malcolm X called the most influential Black man to walk on the African continent.

Congo’s first elected prime minister was Patrice Lumumba, who was immediately faced with a breakdown of order. There was an army revolt while secessionist groups from the mineral-rich province of Katanga made their move and Belgian paratroopers returned, supposedly to restore security.

Lumumba made a fateful step – he turned to the Soviet Union for help. This set off panic in London and Washington, who feared the Soviets would get a foothold in Africa much as they had done in Cuba.

In the White House, President Eisenhower held a National Security Council meeting in the summer of 1960 in which, at one point, he turned to his CIA director. He used the word “eliminated” in terms of what he wanted to be done with Lumumba.

The CIA got to work. It devised a series of plans – including snipers and poisoned toothpaste – to get rid of the African leader. They were not carried out because Larry Devlin said the CIA man on the ground said he was reluctant to see them through, The BBC reported.

In a wired message to CIA headquarters, Devlin wrote: “Patrice Lumumba was born to be a revolutionary, but he doesn’t have the qualities to exercise power once he’s seized it. Sooner or later, Moscow will take the reins. He believes he can manipulate the Soviets, but they are the ones pulling the strings.”

On August 26, 1960, Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, replied: “If Lumumba continues to be in power, the result will be at best chaos and at worst an eventual seizure of power by the communists, with disastrous consequences for the prestige of the UN and the interests of the free world. His dismissal must therefore be an urgent and priority objective for you.”

While Ambassador Timberlake worked to convince President Kasavubu to dismiss Lumumba (this requires a parliamentary vote), Devlin worked to undermine the Prime Minister’s authority. With the help of agitators hired for the occasion – he had a budget of $100,000, a considerable sum at the time – the CIA station chief organized anti-Lumumba demonstrations that often degenerated into violence.

On September 5, 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba and replaced him with Joseph Ileo. However, the nationalist leader fights back, refuses to leave his post, and wins parliamentary backing. The constitutional path seems blocked. The CIA believes the time has come to get down to business: the coup d’état.

It was then that a certain Joseph-Désiré Mobutu appeared. Admittedly, the man is not a stranger to the Americans, but they misunderstand his motivation. On the one hand, they consider him temperate, competent, and pro-Western; on the other, they are unaware that he was one of Lumumba’s closest collaborators, who made him Secretary of State and then Chief of Staff of the army. In short, this colonel, barely 30 years old, is still an enigma that will soon become clearer, The Africa Report reported.

9. Thomas Sankara: Burkina Faso

“Our revolution is not a public-speaking tournament. Our revolution is not a battle of acceptable phrases. Our revolution is not simply for spouting slogans that are no more than signals used by manipulators trying to use them as catchwords, codewords, and a foil for their display. Our revolution is and should continue to be the collective effort of revolutionaries to transform reality, to improve the concrete situation of the masses of our country,” Thomas Sankara said.

Sankara, former leader of Burkina Faso, was the apparent opposite of everything we are often told that success should look like. Mansions? Cars? Who? What? Get out of here. As Prime Minister and later as President, Sankara rode a bicycle to work before he upgraded, at his Cabinet’s insistence, to a Renault 5 – one of the cheapest cars available in Burkina Faso at the time. He lived in a small brick house and wore only cotton produced, weaved, and sewn in Burkina Faso.

How was this achieved? In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Sankara reflected on the state of Burkina Faso at the time that he had come to power, stating that “The diagnosis was clearly somber. The root of the disease was political. The treatment could only be political.” And Sankara did not hold back with the treatment. As soon as he came into power, he set about razing the conventional structures of power and inequality.

Gone were the days of politicians living lavish lives sponsored by taxpayers’ money – Sankara issued salary cuts across the board, including for himself. The fleet of Mercedes Benzes for high-ranking officials was done away with, and the cars were replaced by Renault 5s. Land and oil wealth were nationalized. While the masses celebrated, the country’s elite was enraged as decades of class inequality, which had previously favored them, suddenly came into jeopardy, according to the Thomas Sankara website.

Going by his lifestyle, Sankara was the antithesis of success. Still, it is this very distinction that enabled him to become the most successful president Africa has ever seen in terms of what he accomplished for and with his people. Sankara would not have chopped P-Square’s money given twice a chance. He might have sat him down and taught him a thing or two about the creeping menace of pop culture patriarchy – because Thomas Sankara, “The Upright Man,” was a feminist. In this and many other ways, Sankara was the African dream come true, the only living proof that hopes of African independence are not dead on arrival.

The long journey toward a verdict in the murder trial of Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaoré has ended, with Compaoré sentenced in absentia to life in prison for his role in the 1987 death of beloved revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.

Sentenced by the Ouagadougou court along with Compaoré were 10 other people, including former military and security chiefs Kafando Hyacinthe and Gilbert Diendéré. Both men received life sentences, with the currently imprisoned Diendéré among those who were physically present during the trial.

Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, said the decision meant justice at last after waiting 35 years for Compaoré and his associates to be held accountable for the revolutionary leader’s death.

Sankara was 37 when he was gunned down on October 15, 1987, along with 12 other men who died. He remains one of the African continent’s most admired and beloved political leaders, and his vision of pan-African flourishing and an end to colonialism have long remained his legacy, The Africa Times reported.

“Sankara embodied the hope of a revolutionary change based essentially on the contribution of the endogenous forces of his fellow citizens. It was the last African revolution, interrupted in blood in 1987, just as it was beginning to bear promising fruits,” said the International Campaign Justice for Sankara (ICJS).

His life ended with a bullet which, according to the testimony of some involved in his assassination, was ordered by former Liberian president Charles Taylor with the support of the French and American governments and delivered via Blaise Compaoré – Sankara’s long-time friend and colleague, and the current president of Burkina Faso. Four years prior, when Compaoré and Sankara had jointly staged the famous coup of 1983 that made Sankara president, Burkina Faso was one of the poorest countries in the world. Under Compaoré, it still is – so much so that the dire circumstances led to a series of violent protests last year.

During the years of Sankara’s administration, things were turning around, especially in health, education, and the environment. Mass vaccination campaigns were rolled out with a level of rapidity and success unprecedented for an African country then. Infant mortality rates dropped. School attendance rates doubled. Millions of trees were planted in a far-sighted effort to counter deforestation. Feminism was a core element of political ideology, manifested through improved access to education for girls and the inclusion of women in leadership roles. Sankara introduced a day of solidarity in which men switched traditional gender roles – going to the market, running the household – to better empathize with what women handle daily. It was Africa’s greatest success story.

Photo: Patrice Lumumba arrives in New York City, July 24, 1960, By Onbekend /
Anefo, Dutch National Archives, Creative Commons, CC0 1.0 Universal
Public Domain Dedication



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