One of the terrible misrepresentations of Africa, is that it is a helpless continent of victims. But in fact Africa has produced some great socialist heros.
Here is a short film about Africa’s Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, the inspirational President of Burkino Faso, before his murder in a French instigated coup d-etat.
Between 1983 and 1987, Sankara’s government prioritized fighting corruption, promoting reforestation, education and health and women’s rights and averting famine. It is important to recognise that the emphasis on reforestation makes Burkino Faso’s socialist government one of the world’s pioneers in promoting sustainability and defending the environment.
Sankana acted against the privileges of the tribal chiefs such as their right to receive tribute payment and obligatory labour. And Comités de Défense de la Révolution were formed as armed, popular organisations of the poor and labouring classes. The greatest gains were in the area of women’s rights, and his socialist government included a large number of women. Improving women’s status was one of Sankara’s explicit goals, an unprecedented policy priority in West Africa. His government banned female circumcision, condemned polygamy, and promoted contraception. The RDP [Rassemblement Démocratique et Populaire] government was also the first African government to publicly recognize that AIDS is a major threat to Africa.
And here is a fine film of Samora Michel, showing an interesting process of rehabilitation for those who had collaborated with the Portuguese colonialists during the national liberation war. Samora Machel was killed in a plane crash in 1986. It is widely believed this was due to South African sabotage.
Samora Machel was a former nurse and the son of a peasant, who became a guerilla leader in the Frelimo army to defeat the brutal Potuguese colonialist rule over Mozambique. He was then elected to became Mozambique’s first president. For Machel the Marxist programme of Frelimo grew out of the class struggle in Africa, and the experience of life in Mozambique: As he said himself: “the people’s liberation war, our military science which defeated the colonial-fascist generals, was drawn up and developed by our own illiterate people. Marxism-Leninism did not appear in our country as an imported product.” He was determined to prevent a new elite forming, after the Portuguese were expelled: he still continued to chant “Aluta continua”… the struggle continues. Machel used to say, there are no small or big people, all people are equal. In a speech at the first Conference of Mozambican women in 1973, he said; “the liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its’ continuity and the precondition of for it’s victory”.
The most distinctive aspect of Samora Machel’s politics though was his active internationalism and pan-Africanism. Post-independence Mozambique gave active practical, military and financial support to the liberation movements in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and in Apartheid South Africa, which was his downfall, as the South Africans destabilised Mozambique, funding rebel insurgencies against Frelimo, as well as direct military intervention by the SADF and sabotage.