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Updated Jul 15, 2020
A bronze statue of former Burkinabe president Thomas Sankara in Ouagadougou.
A bronze statue of former Burkinabe president Thomas Sankara in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Don Bosco Mullan, a prominent Irish media producer and civil rights activist, became a well-known public figure after the publication of his book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth in 1997. It sparked a second public inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972 wherein British soldiers fired on unarmed civil-rights protestors, killing thirteen of them.

From 1994 to 1996, Mullan worked with Concern Worldwide and visited Rwanda and the refugee camps in eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) He also attended the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in 1994, invited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a gesture of thanks for his anti-apartheid activism.

Mullan’s latest venture brings him to Burkina Faso, a trip that he described as a “pilgrimage” to the burial site of Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader whose four years in power transformed Burkina Faso from one of the poorest nations in West Africa to one with a level of agricultural self-sufficiency, mass literacy and vaccination programs, and major land redistribution and gender equality reforms.

Touched by Sankara’s vision, Mullan has endeavored to erect a monument to the revolutionary in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union.

In a letter addressed to a friends, Mullan envisions the statue: “This monument will depict [Sankara] planting trees alongside a young Burkinabe girl, demonstrating his foresight on environmental conservation, his respect for feminine leadership, and his belief in the rebirth of Africa through its youth and future generations.”

 

Sankara, the Environmentalist

The environmental motif references an ongoing project known as the Great Green Wall, an effort to plant millions of trees across the Sahel to reverse desertification, hold off adverse climate change, and generate new economic opportunities. Sankara was an early advocate for environmental protection; during his four years in power, more than 10 million trees were planted in Burkina Faso.

 

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