(21 December 1949- 15 October 1987)
He was born Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara in Yako, Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta). He was the third of ten children born to poor Roman Catholic parents who wanted him to become a priest. He joined the military when he got a scholarship to the military academy. In 1966, at the age of 17 he entered the Kadiogo military academy in Ouagadougou.
Adama Toure, a teacher in the military academy introduced him to revolutionary ideas. He discussed topics like communism, neocolonialism, imperialism, socialism and the soviet and Chinese revolutions outside the classroom. In 1970 he went to the military academy in Antsirabe, Madagascar to further his education. There he witnessed several political uprisings against the president at that time and he read the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. These events had a great impact on his political views.
He fought in the border war between Upper Volta and Mali in 1974. He became popular in Ouagadougou due to the heroism he displayed during the war. He later called the war “Useless and Unjust”.
On the 4th of August 1983, he became president after a Coup d’état organised by Blaise Compaore. He was a revolutionary leader who was highly inspired by Che Guevara. He changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, as well as the country’s flag and national anthem. His plans for his country were to fight corruption, improve education and health and to put an end to farming. He believed his country and Africa, as a whole could be self-sufficient.
He was a huge advocate for women’s rights. He banned forced marriages, female genital mutilation and polygamy. He placed women in high positions of government. Within four years of his governance, the country saw a massive increase in reforestation, farming, infrastructure and healthcare without the acceptance of foreign aid.
He was assassinated in a coup d’état led by his former close friend and partner Blaise Compaore. This is due to the fact that he wanted Burkina Faso to not be influenced by their former colonial masters (France). His body was dismembered and buried in an unmarked grave.