Thomas Sankara

A Death that Must Enlighten and Strengthen Us

Speech on death of Samora Machel

Delivered: October 1986.
This edition: Marxists Internet Archive, December 2022, thanks to Liz Blaczak.

Samora Machel, president of Mozambique and leader of Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front), was killed on October 19, 1986, when his plane crashed in South Africa. Many supporters of the African freedom struggle expressed suspicion that the Apartheid regime was responsible for the crash. The following speech given in Ougadougou was published in the October 31, 1986, issue of Carrefour Africain.

Comrade militants:

Our task today is not to weep, but to adopt a revolutionary attitude as we face the tragic situation caused by Samora Machel's disappearance. To avoid falling into sentimentalism, we must not weep. With sentimentalism one cannot understand death. Sentimentalism belongs to the messianic vision of the world, which, since it expects a single man to transform the universe, inspires lamentation, discouragement, and despondency as soon as this man disappears.

Another reason we should not weep is to avoid being confused with all the hypocrites here and elsewhere, those crocodiles, those dogs, who make believe that Samora Machel's death saddens them. We know very well who is saddened and who is delighted by the disappearance of this fighter. We do not want to join in the competition among cynics who decree here and there this-and-that many days of mourning, each one trying to establish and advertise his distress with tears that we revolutionaries should recognize for what they are.

Samora Machel is dead. This death must serve to enlighten and strengthen us as revolutionaries, because the enemies of our revolution, the enemies of the people's of the world, have once again revealed one of their tactics, one of their traps. We have discovered that the enemy knows how to strike down combatants even when they're in the air. We know that the enemy can take advantage of a moment's inattention on our part to commit its odious crimes.

Let us draw the lessons from this direct and barbaric aggression, together with the brothers of Mozambique. It's only purpose is to disorganize the political leadership of Frelimo and definitively jeopardize the Mozambican people's struggle, thus putting an end to the hopes of an entire people, of more than one people, of all people's.

We say to imperialism and to all our enemies that every time they carry out such actions, it will be yet another lesson we have learned. Certainly these are not free lessons, but they're ones we deserve all the more. Yesterday, when Eduardo Mondlane was killed in cowardly, barbaric, and treacherous fashion by the enemies of the people's of the world, the enemies of freedom for the people, they thought they had done well, that they had been successful.[1] They hoped that in this way the flag of Liberation would fall in the mud and that the people would take fright and give up the fight forever.

But they did not reckon with the people's determination, with their desire for freedom. They did not reckon with the special force men have within them that makes them say no despite the bullets and the traps. They did not reckon with the fearless combatants of Frelimo.

These were the conditions in which Samora Machel dared to pick up the flag carried by Eduardo Mondlane, whose memory is still with us. Machel immediately established himself as a leader, a force, a star that guides and lights the way. He knew how to put his internationalism at the service of others. He fought not only in Mozambique, but elsewhere too, and for others.

Let's ask ourselves a question today: who killed Samora Machel? We're told that investigations are being conducted, and experts are meeting to determine the cause of Machel's death. With the help of imperialist radio stations, South Africa is already trying to peddle the theory of an accident. They would have us believe that lightning struck the plane. They would have us believe that pilot error led the plane where it should not have gone.

Without being pilots or aeronautical experts, there is one question we can logically ask ourselves: how could a plane flying at such a high altitude suddenly graze the trees and flip over, that is, come within 200 meters of the ground?

We're told that the number of survivors is proof this was an accident and not an assassination. But comrades, how can a plane's passengers, awakened brutally by the impact, say how and why their plane flipped over and crashed?

In our opinion, this event is purely and simply the continuation of the racist policies of South African whites. It is another manifestation of imperialism. To discover who killed Samora Machel, let us ask ourselves who is rejoicing, and who has an interest in having Machel killed. We find, side by side and hand in hand, first the racist whites of South Africa, whom we have never stopped denouncing. At their side we find those puppets, the armed bandits of the MNR, the so-called National Resistance Movement.[2] Resistance to what? To the Liberation of the Mozambican people, to the March to freedom of the Mozambican people and others, and to the internationalist aid that Mozambique provided, via Frelimo, to other people's.

We also find the Jonas Savimbis. He is planning to go to Europe. We protested against this. We told the Europeans, in particular France, that if they were to issue an entry visa in order to fight terrorism, if they're looking for terrorists, they've found one: Jonas Savimbi. By their side we find the African traitors who allow arms for use against the people's of Africa to pass through their countries. We also find those people who cry "peace" here and there, yet who deploy their knowledge and energies every day to help and support traitors to the African cause.

These are the ones who assassinated Samora Machel. Alas, we Africans also delivered Samora Machel to his enemies by not providing him with the necessary support. When Mozambique answered the call by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and completely severed relations with South Africa, who in the OAU supported it? Yet Mozambique, economically tied to South Africa, was experiencing enormous difficulties. The Mozambicans fought against and resisted South Africa alone. This is why we Africans within the OAU bear a heavy responsibility for Samora Machel's disappearance.

Today's speeches will never count for anything if we don't try to be more consistent with our resolutions in the future. Burkina Faso put forward the same position in Harare [at the Eighth Summit of the Movement of Nonaligned Countries]. It's not enough to applaud Robert Mugabe, and put him forward as the Nonaligned Movement's worthy son if, a few hours after our departure, South Africa starts bombing Zimbabwe, and each of us stays snugly at home in his capital, doing nothing more than sending messages of support. Some states applauded us. Others thought we were going too far. But history has proven us right. Shortly after the Nonaligned Summit, South Africa did its dirty deed. And here we are, simply issuing verbal condemnations.

It is imperialism that organizes and orchestrates all these misfortunes. That's who armed and trained the racists. That's who sold them the radar equipment and the fighter planes to track and bring down Samora Machel's plane. That's also who placed their puppets in Africa to communicate the information as to the plane's takeoff time, and when it would pass over their territory. That's who is now trying to take advantage of the situation, and that's who is already trying to figure out who will succeed Samora Machel. That's also who is trying to divide the Mozambican combatants by categorizing them as moderates or extremists.

Samora Machel was a great friend of our revolution, a great backer of our revolution. He said so everywhere and demonstrated it in his attitude toward Burkinabč delegations. We made contact with him for the first time through his writings on revolution. We read and studied Machel's works and we were intellectually close to him. The second time we met him was in New Delhi at the [1983] Nonaligned summit. He told us he was following the situation in our country, but was worried by imperialism's desire to dominate.

After that, we met him twice in Addis Ababa. We had discussions together. We admired this man who never vowed his head, not even after the Nkomati Accords, the tactical character of which he understood, and that certain opportunist elements tried to use against him, making him out to be a coward. The Burkinabč delegations took the floor to say that those who were attacking Mozambique had no right to speak as long as they had not taken up arms to go fight in South Africa.

We supported him a great deal, but he too supported us. At the last OAU summit, when Burkina's position was under attack by certain states, Machel took the floor and said, "If they didn't have the gratitude and courage to applaud Burkina Faso, they should at least have some shame and keep quiet."

We met up with him again in his homeland in Maputo. He helped us a lot to understand the extremely difficult internal and external situation in which he found himself. Everyone knows the role SamoraMachel played among the Frontline States.

Finally, we met him again at the last Nonaligned summit in Harare where we had numerous exchanges. Samora Machel knew he was being targeted by imperialism. He also made a commitment to visit Burkina Faso in 1987. We agreed to exchange delegations from our CDRS, from the army, from our ministries, and so on.

We must learn from all of this. We must stand firm, hand in hand with other revolutionaries, because there are other plots lying in wait for us, other crimes in preparation.

Comrades, we are taking this medal, this distinction of honor, to Mozambique to confer on Samora Machel, and I would ask you all to send your thoughts with it. We will send him the highest distinction of Burkina Faso, of our revolution, because we think that his work contributed and contributes to the progress of our revolution. He therefore deserves the award of the Gold Star of Nahouri.

At the same time, I ask you to name streets, buildings, and so on, after Samora Machel over the whole expanse of our territories, because he deserves it. Posterity must remember this man and all that he did for his people and for other people's. We will thus shape his memory in our country, so that other men remember him forever.

Comrades we are gathered here today to think about the loss of Samora Machel. Tomorrow we must go forward, we must win.

Homeland or death, we will win!



[1] Eduardo Mondlane, founder of Frelimo, was assassinated by agents of Portuguese colonialism in 1969. He was succeeded by Samora Machel.

[2] A reference to the Mozambican National Resistance, or Renamo. This was an organization closely tied to the South African Apartheid regime, which was waging a terrorist war against Mozambique's government and people that killed thousands.