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Thomas Sankara, 20 years after his assassination 

This year, October 15, 2007 will mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Thomas Sankara, the short-lived president of the African country that became known as Burkina Faso, the “land of upright people.”

His assassination was a concerted effort of the surrounding “neocolonial States”, particularly Ivory Coast, Mali and the authoritative command of their imperialist masters who saw him as a threat to their easy access and control of the resources of Burkina Faso and Africa in general.

The assassination of African revolutionaries with impunity will continue to happen as long as we keep fighting in isolation; separated from each other by the imposed senseless borders that continue to suffocate Africa.

It’s been 20 years since that eventful day in 1987 when the traitorous Blaise Compaoré and his gang of thugs aborted the revolutionary new State of Burkina Faso and reinstated the neocolonial State of indignity.

The Compaoré regime first succeeded in overturning the revolution and continues to survive for 20 years without any meaningful resistance to defend the revolutionary achievements made under Sankara’s leadership. The mere fact that Compaoré survived this long reveals the weakness of our revolutionary movement for total liberation.

Within four short years, the Burkinabé people struggled to shake off the neocolonial fetters and created the program for local initiatives for cultural, political and economic advancement. These programs for local initiatives propelled women into the forefront of the struggle as a mighty force for the revolution.

There was truly a revolutionary process in motion as the masses began to discover their revolutionary potential in production to solve our problem through our own personal sacrifices.

Our revolutionary movement must be self-critical to understand what happened in Burkina Faso 20 years ago and the continuing existence of the Compaoré regime, which claimed victory over our movement.

How and why did Compaoré survive for 20 years? What lessons have we learned from the Burkinabé revolution?

Compaoré’s survival rested on two major factors: the incomplete development of the revolutionary forces within Burkina and their isolation from other revolutionary forces within the continent.

Secondly, the concerted efforts of its reactionary neighbors — the governments of Mali and Ivory Coast — and the imperialist onslaught from France weighed heavily on the Burkinabé revolutionaries’ ability to fight back.

A coup is not a revolution

Thirdly, the most important lesson learn from the Burkinabé experience is that a coup doesn’t constitute a revolution. The Burkinabé coup was an unusual coup in that Sankara and his few comrades attempted to transformed the coup into its opposite — revolution.

Fundamentally, there is nothing inherently revolutionary about coup d’etats. Almost always, a coup is hatched by a group of soldiers that make up the army, the most vital organ of the State that suppresses the aspirations of the mass population.

Within the neocolonial armies are found the most treacherous gang of bandits who, while serving the elite in power, always aspire for the taste of power to enjoy the decadent privileges the neocolonial elite wallow in. It didn’t take Sankara long to understand the forces he was dealing with.

Upon attaining revolutionary political consciousness, a rare attribute to an African soldier, Sankara made a keen observation that led to his prophetic statement: “a soldier without political education is a virtual criminal”. This criminal behavior is not solely limited to African soldiers. In fact, it is best exemplified by the imperialist armies that train them in France, the USA and England.

Notwithstanding the internal contradictions in Burkina, the “undeclared war” against Sankara by Ivory Coast president Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Togo president Étienne Eyadéma, the instigated five-day war in December 1985 between Mali and Burkina and the vacillating pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric from president Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, the Burkinabé revolution mustered enough courage to jolt imperialism, particularly French imperialism from its comfort posture in Africa.

But a mild jolt at imperialism only makes it more monstrous; what imperialism requires from us Africans is a massively explosive jolt that it can never recover from. Only a “One Africa, One Nation! Touch One Touch All!” is capable of delivering this fatal blow to imperialism.

Again Sankara came to terms with the fact that petty bourgeois radicalism such as Thabo Mbeki’s timid challenge against the “AIDS industry” won’t pose any threat to imperialism, let alone make it tremble.

Mbeki backed down from his challenge when the corporate predators such as the pharmaceutical drug dealing industry expressed their disappointment at Mbeki’s “misguided actions” to help Africans afflicted by AIDS and privately gave him a stern warning not to act on his threats.

Sankara’s commemoration must be about revolution’s completion

In one interview, Sankara was asked what were the greatest problems and difficulties facing the revolution. He answered in this order: “the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and the biggest being imperialism.” He went on to say, “as a revolutionary I understood what imperialism is in theoretical terms. But once in power I discovered other aspects of imperialism that I had not known. I think there are still other aspects to discover.

“There is quite a difference between theory and practice. I have seen in practice that imperialism is a monster — with claws, horns and fangs that bite — that has venom and is merciless. No. It’s determined. Imperialism has no conscience. It has no heart.

“Fortunately, the more that we have discovered how dangerous an enemy imperialism is, the more determined we have become to fight and beat it. And each time we find fresh forces ready to stand up to it.”

It is from this correct line of thought that fresh forces such as the Africanist Movement in West Africa are emerging from every corner of the African world to stand up to this monster, imperialism. Therefore, all our efforts to commemorate the assassination of one of Africa’s upright sons, Thomas Sankara, must be about completing the African revolution by bringing African people back into political life.

The exemplary character of such martyrs as Sankara led to the founding of the International Committee of African Martyrs (ICAM), a mass organization charged with the task of upholding the legacy of our African martyrs.

Blaise Compaoré remains reactionary

In contrast to Sankara, Blaise Compaoré remains a stooge to imperialism by returning Burkina Faso back into neocolonial bondage. In addition, Compaoré has been a key player in further destabilizing the neocolonial States in West Africa through actions such as his criminal dealings with another gangster name Charles Taylor as well as the buffoonery of the crises in Ivory Coast.

In his desperate efforts to pacify and distract the Burkinabé people from his crimes against Africa, the Compaoré regime lavishly spent millions of dollars to build an “upscale” neighborhood for the impotent Burkina elite in Ouagadougou and inaugurated it as WAGA 2000 (Waga deux mille) while the vast majority of Burkinabé are homeless or live in horrible housing.

But the Burkinabé people who had a taste of what the revolution did to resolve the housing crises under comrade Sankara coined an appropriate word for this neighborhood — “WAGA DA,” which in More (the language of the Mossi) means thieves.

The African revolution must be completed!

The Burkinabé people, and indeed Africa, suffered a temporary setback following the coup d’etat by Compaoré and French imperialism, but the taste for revolution is still in our hearts. Our people in Burkina Faso saw the potential the revolution had in changing their wretched existence.

As African Internationalists, we have internalized the lessons learned from the Burkina experience with Comrade Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral in Guinea Bissau, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Samora Machel in Mozambique, the Black Liberation Movement in the USA and in many other fronts of the African revolution.

We strongly believe that the theoretical question has been settled. The missing ingredient in the struggle for our total liberation is practice.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Comrade Thomas Sankara, we will hold a demonstration at the Burkina Faso embassy in Washington, D.C. on October 15, 2007 from 10:00am- 12:00pm and November 17, 2007.

One Africa! One Nation!

Touch One! Touch All!

From Jena to Huntsville, We Ain't Through! 

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Our mobilization to Jena, Louisiana was a brilliant display of Black Power in motion. But it's not enough. There are Jena's throughout the U.S. that are crushing our people with the U.S. brand of justice every day. We have to go beyond Jena and develop the capacity to not only respond to every such case in the U.S., but we must also move beyond responding to the acts against us by white power and come up with the organization and strategy that can advance our interests every day.

This is why we say, "Come to Huntsville and build beyond Jena."

This coming weekend, on September 29 and 30 the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), is holding its annual convention in Huntsville, Alabama under the slogan: "Organization is the key; self-determination is the solution!"
Click here to visit the InPDUM Convention website.

Free the Jena Six! 

Six African students locked up for standing up to lynching threats in Louisiana!

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JENA, Louisiana — “Blacks do not stand a chance here. I want to see justice. This wasn’t it.” “They’re going to hang all them boys.” These are the observations of two African women, commenting on the case of the Jena Six. The case, which has garnered international media attention, is centered around six black teens, one white teen and an all white jury.

Welcome to Jena, Louisiana, a small town with no more than a few thousand people. The faint but distinctive smell of burning flesh from lynchings gone by is permanently integrated into the stale summer breeze. The local barbershop still refuses to serve or permit the entry of black customers. There is an unwritten rule that African students are not supposed to stand under certain “whites only” trees on school property. This is where the case of the Jena 6 begins.

Resistance to colonial policy

In September of 2006, an African student at Jena High School, sought permission from the principal to sit beneath the whites only tree. The principal did not articulate any objections, and the student went forth with the plan.

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The following day, nooses were hanging from the tree. The noose is a symbol of the violent lynchings of Africans carried out throughout the U.S. mobs of ordinary white people, and it was an obvious statement and threat to the African community. The nooses had even been painted to reflect Jena High’s school colors. Most of the North American or white people in Jena saw the gesture as a harmless prank. The African community, who have historically been the victim of brutal lynchings, did not see it the same way — especially the students who the statement was directed at.

The day after the noose hangings, a group of African students including local Jena High football player Mychal Bell who was 16 at the time, decided that they were going to stand where they pleased. Mychal was joined by his other football teammates Theo Shaw, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Jesse Beard. Out of this stand for justice these young Africans would eventually become “the Jena Six.”

One by one, more and more African students followed the football players’ lead and gathered underneath the tree in bold and courageous defiance of Jena’s colonial rules and regulations. Infuriated by the political statement, the principal called the police and the district attorney to handle the students who had determined that enough was enough. District attorney Reed Walters would later call an assembly to address the protest where he declared to the African students that he would and “could end [their] lives with the stroke of a pen.”

/old_site_images/2007-09/jena-6/mychalbell.jpg alt=""/> Mychal Bell of the Jena Six

Not long after that, in further defiance of Jena’s racist and colonial regulations, Robert Bailey Jr. showed up at an all-white party. His head would be cracked open with a bottle. Weeks of unrest ensued in Jena. At the local Gotta Go convenience store, a white man pulled out a loaded shotgun on three black teenagers — one of whom was Robert Bailey Jr. The teens desperately wrestled the shotgun away from the man and ran away. They reported the incident to the police, who promptly charged them with assault and theft and returned the shotgun to its owner.

District attorney delivers on threat against African students

Soon after that, on December 4, 2006 Mychal Bell and Justin Barker, one of the white Jena High students associated with the noose hanging incident, allegedly got into a fight in the lunchroom. Justin lost the fight and emerged with a black eye and bruises.

/old_site_images/2007-09/jena-6/JesseBeard-Jena6.jpg alt=""/> Jesse Beard of the Jena Six

This is where district attorney Reed Walters attempted to deliver on his promise. For the simple school fight, Walters charged Bell and the other five students with 2nd degree attempted murder and conspiracy and face anywhere from 20 to 100 years in prison.

By comparison, the student that cracked Robery Bailey Jr.’s head open with a bottle only received a simple assault charge. Caseptla Bailey, Robert’s mother stated that “they want to take these kids — my son as well as these other children — lock them up and throw away the key… that’s the tradition for black males…because they want to keep institutionalized slavery alive and well.”

At press time, Mychal Bell, whose trial was first among the Jena Six, has been convicted of a lesser charge of second degree battery, and faces up to 20 years in prison. During the trial, Mychal’s attorney Blane Williams, who is an African, refused to request a change of venue, call any witnesses or present any evidence in Mychal’s defense. By all accounts, he failed to even execute basic cross-examination methods.

All the witnesses that testified in the trial were white. The entire jury was white, including one juror who was a fellow alumni with Justin Barker’s father. The other young Africans still face attempted murder cases and if Mychal Bell’s case is any indication, his aunt was correct when she said that the State would try to “hang them boys.”

The Uhuru Movement is calling on all freedom-loving people to defend the Jena Six and the right to resist. It is vital that we support this struggle. What these young Africans have done, should be upheld as an example of courage and fearlessness in the face of obvious oppression. Read next month’s Spear for ongoing coverage and updates.

What you can do

Write, join and or donate to:
The Jena 6 Defense Committee,
PO Box 2798,
Jena, LA 71342

Congress sets PAYCO's priority to unite African youth movement in Southern Africa 

/old_site_images/2007-08/payco-congress/OutsidePAYCOCongress.jpeg alt=""/> PAYCO members outside the Congress

DURBAN, Azania — The City of Ethekwini, also known as Durban, was graced by the presence of young people from across Azania. They came to the tourist hub of Azania in trains, buses and planes to review and evaluate progress in the struggle of the African working class. These 150 delegates represented branches with more that 5,000 members of the Pan Africanist Youth Congress (PAYCO). There were 100 members and leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania who came on observer status as they could not wait for province and branch delegates to return with reports. The Congress that takes place every two years has greater responsibility than the Annual Conference that focuses on administrative and policy matters. The Congress has the responsibility of also reviewing the constitution and electing 15 of 25 leaders serving in the National Executive Committee.

Opening session

Under theme "Mobilizing Youth Power to Build Socialism and African Unity," the Congress was opened by outgoing President Sbusiso Xaba who emphasised the need to strengthen our African working class movement to wrestle power from imperialist forces by being involved in all matters affecting Africa and Africans everywhere. He launched a carving attack on the role of the World Trade Organization that perpetuates European dominance of international trade. He called for the rejection of all institutions that camouflage the colonization of Africa.

The Secretary General of Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) Youth League, Elliot Nyawo on the Swaziland front of the African revolution was present to ensure that the Congress was not absorbed into just Azanian issues, but that it looked at challenges of Africa and her children holistically. It is in his solidarity message that he gave a picture of practical work that is being undertaken by structured young soldiers in Southern Africa to advance revolution in areas of pooling human resources in electioneering, developing a reparations movement on this part of the world as part of an international movement, political education and liberating the minds of our people through agitation and propagation. He praised the roles of PAYCO and Uhuru News.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Sombu Majola-Tshabalala, Secretary for Social Development. She highlighted the need to ensure that youth continue to be a vanguard of African people’s struggles. She pressed on the youth the need to arm themselves with revolutionary theory, take responsibility for leadership in all institutions and protect African people’s gains using whatever means necessary.

Deliberations

/old_site_images/2007-08/payco-congress/PAYCOCapeTownBranch.jpg alt=""/> The Cape Town Branch displays its banner.

It was in closed session where organizational reports were scrutinized with delegates reviewing the development of the organization in terms of administrative machinery, organizational footprint, financial performance and political work. The Congress noted the extreme conditions under which its leadership is expected to execute revolutionary work with limited resources. The Congress was pleased with the political work accomplished beyond the artificial borders, particularly the strengthened relationships with the African People Socialist Party (APSP), the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), the Zimbabwe Pan African Youth Agenda (ZIPAYA) and the African Socialist International (ASI).

The Congress was as abrasive on poor performance as it was appreciative of major successes in the period under review. The Congress resolved to modify the constitution to improve program execution and ensure proper political oversight in all its structure. The position was taken to increase advocacy work on the Youth Ministry in Azania to coordinate youth development.

The Congress resolved to increase the profile of the heroes of the African struggle in Azania, particularly the founding members of PAC. It is in spirit of One African Nation that a commitment was made to participate in the international movement struggle for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an African political prisoner who has been held on death row in the United States for decades.

It was the work to build the African Socialist International that was made the top priority for the new leadership. The Congress mandates the new leadership work tirelessly to ensure unity among African working class organizations in Azania, Southern Africa and throughout the African world.

New leadership

The congress made it clear that new leadership will be measured by the extent of practical working relationships developed with organized labour in advancing African working class revolutionary interest. The newly elected president, Hulisani Mmbara, rounded up the mandate by telling members of PAYCO to take the struggle out of the boardroom to the street, and he committed not to tolerate poor performance on his team.

A senior member of PAC, Richard Maoka praised the political maturity of delegates and the robustness of deliberations. He called on the youth to continue to protect the revolution from infiltration and betrayal by those who become weak and chose to sacrifice the revolutionary cause for short-term personal gain.