Call for an international mobilisation against public debt to pay tribute to Thomas Sankara

12 April 2012

On October 15 1987, after four years as head of Burkina Faso, President Thomas Sankara lost his life following a coup d’état. He had fought for the dignity of his people and for a new upsurge of liberation of the African continent with a new generation of state heads devoted to the service of their peoples and able to stand up to the imperialist powers. Thomas Sankara was undoubtedly assassinated for his struggle against neo-colonialism and more specifically against modern slavery due to public debt.

In July 1987, at the organization of African Unity (OAU) summit, before all the African leaders, Thomas Sankara, a pioneer in the field, denounced the debt system implemented by the Western powers obviously with the cooperation of some leaders of the South to confiscate the peoples’ sovereignty.

That new system meant to oppress the African, Latin American and Asian peoples was mainly based on the implementation of the structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

plans (SAPs) imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

and World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

) with the support of the former metropoles and in favour of the Northern multinationals. Aware the major international creditors would threaten his life in response to this ultimate struggle, Thomas Sankara called for a united front against public debt. His appeal was unfortunately not followed at
the time.

Twenty-five years later, whereas the debt system is still confiscating the popular sovereignty and impoverishing the large majority of the African population, the peoples of the North, too, are victims of an unprecedented debt crisis. The collapse of the housing bubble and the bank rescue undertaken by the states with no public consultation – which has worsened the burden of public debt, a large part of which is illegitimate – prove Thomas Sankara was right when he was denouncing the « Casino » economy.

Over the last thirty years, far from flashlights and TV cameras, the financial world has opposed the peoples, causing millions of deaths. Previously, only shared by the Southern countries, the conditionalities and austerity measures have spread to the North, plunging the peoples into devastating confusion and anguish. The present situation in Greece, Portugal or even Ireland where the IMF along with the European Union and the European Central Bank Central Bank The establishment which in a given State is in charge of issuing bank notes and controlling the volume of currency and credit. In France, it is the Banque de France which assumes this role under the auspices of the European Central Bank (see ECB) while in the UK it is the Bank of England.

European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is a European institution based in Frankfurt, founded in 1998, to which the countries of the Eurozone have transferred their monetary powers. Its official role is to ensure price stability by combating inflation within that Zone. Its three decision-making organs (the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council) are composed of governors of the central banks of the member states and/or recognized specialists. According to its statutes, it is politically ‘independent’ but it is directly influenced by the world of finance.
) intervene directly in internal state affairs, reminds us of the situation of the South in the 80’s.

Over the last thirty years the peoples in the South have been fighting against the diktat of the creditors and in particular that of the IMF and the World Bank, two anti-democratic institutions serving the financial markets, as well as that of the large private banks and multinationals that set off today’s economic crisis.

In our world of crisis and to resist the various attacks against the populations through the worldwide austerity policies, time has come for the world’s peoples, South and North, to respond to Thomas Sankara’s call by presenting a united front against public debt.

In response to Thomas Sankara’s call and to pay tribute to his pioneer struggle and as a result to the November 2 2011 Niono Call,, we, Burkina Faso organisations and social movements as well as much more African organisations and social movements, appeal to an international meeting and to a South-North dialogue about Public Debt, in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), from 13 to 16 October 2012, with a celebration day in memory of Thomas Sankara on October 15 2012.

To sign this call send a mail to : hommage2012sankara at

Signatories :

2-ATTAC Burkina Faso,
3-ATTAC Togo
4-CADTM Belgique
6-FNDP Côte d’ivoire,
7-CADTM Lubumbashi – RDC,
8-RPC Mauritanie,
9-RNDD Niger
10-UFDH/CADTM Mbujimayi,
11-RAID Tunisie,
12- APASH/CADTM – Brazzaville (Congo)
13-Ecologistas en Acción(España),
14-Observatoria de la Deuda en la Globalización (España),
15-Patas Arriba (Valencia, España),
16- CADTM France
17-Red ¿Quién debe a Quién? (España),
18-Plataforma Auditoria Ciudadana de la Deuda, No debemos, no
19-Nova - centre per a la innovacio Social (Catalunya- España),
20-ONG Africando (Gran Canaria – España)




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