On the second day of the Russia–Africa summit, the president of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traoré, delivered an anti-imperialist address and employed slogans identified with the Cuban Revolution.
Traoré assumed the presidency on September 30, 2022. At age 35, he is the world’s youngest head of state. Traoré has paid homage to Burkinabé socialist revolutionary Thomas Sankara who, in 1983, at age 33, took power in what was then Upper Volta. During his brief tenure, Sankara met with Fidel Castro, set up Committees for the Defence of the Revolution modeled on similar civilian defense organizations in Cuba, launched a nationwide literacy campaign, and instituted a series of reforms to improve housing and healthcare for Burkina Faso’s most vulnerable.
In October 2022, Traoré appointed lifelong Marxist and Sankarist Apollinaire Joachim Kyélem de Tambèla as Prime Minister of Burkina Faso. “Burkina Faso cannot be developed outside the lines drawn by Thomas Sankara,” reiterated Kyélem de Tambèla shortly after his appointment.
The Russia–Africa summit was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 27 and 28. Representatives from 49 African nations, including 17 heads of state, defied pressure from the West and attended the conference. Speaking in French, Traoré closed his speech with the slogans “homeland or death” and “we will prevail,” direct translations of the Cuban revolutionary slogans “patria o muerte” and “venceremos.”
Below, we provide a few excerpts from President Traoré’s speech:
Here, we can air our dirty laundry because we feel like we are with our family. We feel like a family in the sense that Russia is a family for Africa. It is a family because we have the same history. Russia made enormous sacrifices to liberate the world from Nazism during the Second World War. The African people, our grandfathers, were also forcibly deported to help Europe rid itself of Nazism. We share the same history in the sense that we are the forgotten peoples of the world, whether in the history books, in the documentaries on film that sweep aside the leading role played by Russia and Africa in this fight against Nazism. We are together because now we are here to speak of the future of our peoples, about what is going to happen tomorrow in this free world to which we aspire, in this world without interference in our internal affairs. We have the same perspectives, and I hope that this summit will be an opportunity, therefore, to be able to weave very good relations for a better future for our peoples…
Today, we are confronted—for more than eight years—by the most barbaric form, the most violent manifestation, of neocolonialism and imperialism. Slavery continues to be imposed upon us. Our ancestors have taught us one thing: the slave who is not able to take up his own revolt does not deserve our support for his destiny… We do not ask that anyone intervene to affect our destiny. The Burkinabé people have decided to fight—to fight against terrorism, in order to improve our development. In this fight, valiant peoples of our population have pledged to take up arms in the face of terrorism—what we have affectionately called the VDP, volunteers [Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland]. We are surprised to see the imperialists refer to these VDP as “militias.” It is disappointing, because in Europe, when the people take up arms to defend their homeland, they are referred to as patriots. Our grandfathers were deported to save Europe. It wasn’t with their consent, it was against their will. But on their return, we remember well that at Thiaroye, when they wanted to claim their basic rights, they were massacred.…
The problem is seeing African heads of state who bring nothing to peoples who are struggling, but who sing the same thing as the imperialists, calling us “militia,” and therefore referring to us as men who do not respect human rights. What human rights are we talking about? We take offense at this. It is shameful. Against this, we African heads of state must stop acting like marionettes who dance each time the imperialists pull on our strings. Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin announced that grain would be shipped to Africa. This is pleasing, and we say thank you for this. However, this is also a message to our African heads of state, because at the next forum, we must not come here without having ensured… the self-sufficiency of the food supply for our people. We must learn from the experience of those who have succeeded in achieving this in Africa, weaving good relations here, and weaving better relations with the Russian Federation, in order to provide for the needs of our peoples…
Power to our people. Dignity to our people. Victory to our people. Homeland or death. We will prevail.