The Betrayal of Thomas Sankara

Watch the Company You Keep

Jamaal Brewer

4/19/2022 4 min read

In April of 2022, former President Blaise Compaore of the West Afrikan nation Burkina Faso was found guilty for the coup and assassination of Thomas Sankara. He was sentenced to life in prison. 10 others were found guilty as well. The murder occurred on October 15th, 1987 in Ouagadougou. Compaore was a military mate and 'friend' of Sankara. Compaore became President immediately in which he remained in power until 2014 and he restored political relations with its colonizer France. The country Sankara fought off for its Independence. Sankara was a member of the African Liberation Party and a huge advocate of Pan-Afrikanism. He believed in socialism and studied the likes of Fidel Castro (Cuba) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) who were also against the system of capitalism and imperialist regimes. Similar to our beloved Kwame Ture, Sankara claimed lack of organization was the root to a vast majority of problems on the Afrikan continent. He believed aid from foreign countries, especially ones from the West, was counterproductive to his country. He said in 1983 "Our country produces enough to feed us all. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in our spirits the attitude of beggars." Compaore met Sankara in 1976 at a military training center. Together they helped organize a coup that removed Saye Zerbo from Burkina Faso (Republic of Upper Volta at the time) and put Sankara as the new President in 1983. Only four years after the joint coup, Compaore turned his back on Sankara and helped to have him assassination due to broken relations with France and Ivory Coast. This is a trend unfortunately that has hampered a lot of our movements. Infiltration is a real serious matter. Malcolm X once said "In the past, the greatest weapon the white man has had has been his ability to divide and conquer. If I take my hand and slap you, you don't even feel it. It might sting you because these digits are separated. But all I have to do to put you back in your place is bring those digits together."

Compaore was a puppet for France. Period. His betrayal of his once friend restored the French power over Burkina Faso it once had prior to Independence. Through Neo-Colonialism, they positioned themselves to keep rule for another two decades.

There have been other examples similar to this story in our history. Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panther Party was gunned down by the Chicago Police Department in December of 1968 after his security guard William O'Neal spiked his drink. This story personally reminds me the most of Sankara and Compaore. You can google and see images of O'Neal and Hampton working side by side for the cause. Many people within the Black Panther Party ranks had no idea O'Neal was an agent and Hampton had given him his trust. Malcolm X's bodyguard Gene Roberts secretly worked for the New York Police Department. He supplied information in which many believed helped frame the Nation of Islam as the ones solely behind Malcolm's assassination. James Wormley Jones became the first Black man in United State's history (at least on paper) to serve as an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He led the way for Marcus Garvey's mail fraud charged and infiltrated the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The list goes on.

How do we combat traitors in our mists? For one we have to be realistic. With an Afrikan estimated population of over one billion, we cannot be naive and think we can rid all sellouts. Every ethic group and nation has them. It's human nature. But we can neutralize it. For starters we have to do thorough research who we allow in our space. We are in the internet age where people create aliases on their social media platforms. Though I understand we want privacy, many times people do this to hide their past. This is a red flag. Another thing we have to realize is the FBI and Secret Service are very smart. They can make their workers and agents sound like our great historian John Henrik Clarke. A lot of times we associate sellouts as people who act White or not as consciously aware. Our oppressors train these people so well that they can know some of your favorite Black minded books better than you. Then have some of the Blackest names and Dashikis out there.

Another thing to point out and to consider is do you know anything about a person's family who are in your liberation organization? Ever noticed when it comes to the most famous agents and infiltrators in our history, we know very little about their spouses or kids? Really think about that. You might be lucky to hear about them once the traitor has passed on. But for the most part their family is very behind the scenes. Not too many people want to put their love at risk. If someone has been working with you for a long period of time and but is always at your place; never or rarely invites you to their space, then they might be on duty for our enemies. Though this isn't always the case it's something to pay very close attention to.

Thirdly, is someone in your group constantly talking negatively about other groups and leaders? Divide and conquer is a real thing. Look, sometimes we have to put on blast those who are helping out White supremacy. But it is not always worthy of an attack. And this is very easy to do in 2022 on the internet. Some people make a living using YouTube or Instagram in which over 90 percent of their content is attacking other Black people. And unlike the previous decades, they are documenting it for the world to see and leaving track records. Who owns Facebook, Twitter, and Google? If J Edgar Hoover was able to distract us fabricated news article and forged letters, then my goodness when we were working on private, then my goodness the leaders of the FBI, Police Departments, and Secret Service can do this in their birthday suits in the comfort of their own homes because of petty beefs we showcase online.

We haven't reached the tip of the iceberg. It's impossible to get all of the answers in a five minute article. So this isn't a piece for you to use as a blueprint to solve all ills when it comes to watchfulness. It would SEVERAL books and research to understand how in-depth this system is. But this should be a constant reminder that all folks ain't kin folks. So many of our efforts have been destroyed from within. And not just among leaders but in our own households too. We need to be careful about instigation and we must learn what composure is. Because no matter how knowledgeable we continue to become, you cannot burn down the house of White Supremacy when the flames are put out before we even make it to their home. This mindset is why we think we win battles but it hurt us in the war of racism.