Key facts and history of Burkina Faso from the 2015 elections and coup attempt to independence in 1960.
Overview: Burkina Faso’s poor economic outlook and lack of resources have largely kept it out of the eye of Western media. The overthrow in 2014 of long-time president Blaise Compaoré, a failed military coup, and the success of presidential elections in 2015 have raised hopes for the country and the power of the people of Burkina Faso (known as Burkinabes).
A recent attack in 2016 by Al Quada and the growth of militant extremism in Mali, a neighboring country, are also drawing the attention of international bodies and have likely factored into the growing financial support being supplied to increase health and living conditions in Burkina Faso.
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
President: Roch Marc Christian Kabore (since 29 December 2015)
Prime Minister:: Paul Kaba Thieba
Neighboring Countries: Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo
Former Names: Republic of Upper Volta
2015 Elections and Coup Attempt
Burkina Faso was due to have presidential elections in October 2015, but an attempted coup by the Presidential Guard, who remained loyal to the former president Blaise Compaoré, stalled the process. After a very tense week, the coup ended, and the elections were held at the end of November 2015. Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who had previously served as a cabinet minister and Prime Minister of Burkina Faso in the 1990s under the Presidency of Blaise Compaore, was elected President in a process hailed as free and fair.
Presidency of Blaise Compaoré
The 2015 elections represent a return to democracy in Burkina Faso following the ousting of former president Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré governed Burkina Faso for 17 years between 1987 and 2014, after coming to power as part of a triumvirate that had ousted the previous leader, Thomas Sankara. The other two members of the triumvirate, Henri Zongo and Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani, were arrested two years later and Compaoré ruled after that on his own. He was officially elected president in 1991 and stood for reelection four times after that in elections whose validity was widely questioned.
During Compaoré’s presidency Burkina Faso remained deeply impoverished. He was also suspected of encouraging rebellion in neighboring countries, but he also became a respected international mediator, who helped free several Western hostages taken by Al Qaeda operatives in the region.
Military Coups 1980-1984
Between 1980 and 1984, there were three coups in Burkina Faso. The country was ruled first by Saye Zerbo (1980-1982), then Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo(1982-1983), and finally Thomas Sankara (1983-1984) – all of whom had been military leaders.
\Thomas Sankara was a pan-Africanist and revolutionary Marxist. He attempted to bring radical change to his country, which was then called the Republic of Upper Volta. He rejected the Western name of Upper Volta and ordered the countyr’s name changed to Burkina Faso. He also refused foreign aid on principal, and despite his efforts to end corruption and extravagance among government officials, the living conditions of the average Burkinabe did not improve under his brief leadership.
Republic of Upper Volta
Prior to the coups of the early 1980s, Burkina Faso, then known as the Republic of Upper Volta, was governed first by Maurice Yaméogo and then by Aboubakar Sangoulé Lamizana (1966-1980). Like many post-independence leaders, Yaméogo quickly restricted political opposition, and he faced unrest from citizens who demanded that the promises of independence be fulfilled. Yaméogo had to resign during national strikes and Major General Lamizana came to power in a coup that enjoyed widespread popular support.
Lamizana was subsequently elected president and continued to enjoy popular support for several years. Burkina Faso continued to struggle economically, however, and Lamizana faced unrest from trade unions. After fourteen years in power, he was overthrown himself.