Burkina Faso country profile

Map of Burkina Faso

Map of Burkina Faso

A poor country even by West African standards, landlocked Burkina Faso has suffered from recurrent droughts and military coups.

A former French colony, it gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960. It has large gold reserves, but the country has faced internal and external concerns about the state of its economy and human rights.

In 2022, with at least 10,000 people killed and more than two million displaced so far in a protracted jihadist insurgency facing Burkina Faso from neighboring Mali, the military took control in two coups in a bid to fight the jihadists.

The coups led to the country’s suspension from the African Union and the ECOWAS regional group.

In 2023 he expelled a small French force, cutting military relations with France and said he would develop ties with Russia. The government has denied hiring Wagner mercenaries – who operate in Mali and the Central African Republic – but said it would use “Russian instructors” to train its soldiers.

  • Capital: Ouagadougou

  • Area: 274,200 km²

  • Population: 21.9 million

  • LANGUAGES : French, Mossi, Bissa, Dyula, Fulani

  • Life expectancy: 61 years old (men) 62 years old (women)

President: Ibrahim Traore

President Ibrahim Traore

President Ibrahim Traore

Captain Ibrahim Traoré seized power in a coup in September 2022, overthrowing his predecessor, Lt. Col. Damiba, who himself overthrew President Marc Kaboré in an earlier coup in January 2022. Traoré was officially named president in October 2022.

The justification given by Traoré for the coup was Damiba’s alleged inability to deal with the continuing Islamist insurgency in the north of the country. It was for the same reason that Damiba ousted Kaboré – the government’s inability to stop jihadist groups operating in northern Burkina Faso.

Mr. Kaboré had served as Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament under veteran President Compaoré before winning the 2015 and 2020 presidential elections.

But, like its neighbours, it has found its national agenda undermined by the jihadist insurgency.

Newspaper vendor in Burkina Faso

Newspaper vendor in Burkina Faso

Some key events in the history of Burkina Faso:

Great Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

The Great Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso from the 19th century: the majority of the country’s population is Muslim

3600-2600BC – Agricultural establishments established in the region.

800-700BC – Foundry and production of iron.

3rd-13th century AD – Bura culture: an Iron Age civilization centered on the lower Niger River valley in Niger and Burkina Faso.

circa 1000-1896 – Mossi Kingdoms or Mossi Empire: set of kingdoms of Burkina Faso which dominate the region of the upper Volta River. The largest Mossi kingdom is that of Ouagadougou.

around 1700 – The Mossi kingdoms increase their regional economic and military power, with important links with the Fulani kingdoms and the Mali Empire.

1896 – France invades and makes Burkina Faso a French protectorate. In 1898, France completed its conquest of the region.

1898 – The Franco-British convention creates the modern borders of Burkina Faso.

1915-1917 – Volta-Bani War: an anti-colonial rebellion in modern Burkina Faso and Mali. At its peak, the rebels mustered 15,000 to 20,000 fighters. After initial setbacks, the French army suppresses the insurrection.

1919 – France creates French Upper Volta, separating the current territory of Burkina Faso from Upper Senegal and Niger.

1932 – After unsuccessful attempts to promote cotton as an export crop, the colony is dissolved and divided between the French colonies of Côte d’Ivoire, French Sudan and Niger.

1947 – Following intense anti-colonial agitation after World War II, France reversed its previous decision and revived the colony of Upper Volta.

1958 – Upper Volta gains autonomy and joins the Franco-African Community.

1960 – Upper Volta becomes totally independent with Maurice Yaméogo as president.

1966 – The military coup deposes Yaméogo, suspends the constitution and sets up a military government under Lieutenant-Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana.

1976 – The new constitution establishes a four-year transition period to civilian rule. Lamizana remains in power.

1978 – Sangoulé Lamizana is re-elected in public elections.

1980 – Colonel Saye Zerbo overthrows President Lamizana in a bloodless coup and sets up a military government.

1982 – Zerbo is overthrown by Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo and the Popular Salvation Council (CPS), ushering in a period of unrest and power struggles.

Former President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara, also known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, seized power in 1983 and attempted to introduce major reforms. He was killed in a coup led by his successor Blaise Compaoré

1983 – Infighting between CPS factions leads to another coup. Captain Thomas Sankara comes to power and begins a series of reforms, including the nationalization of key industries, mass vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, improved women’s rights and projects to combat desertification. His government focuses on anti-imperialism and rejects foreign aid.

1984 – Upper Volta renamed Burkina Faso.

1987 – Sankara is killed in a coup organized by Blaise Compaoré, who said that one of the reasons for the coup was that Sankara had jeopardized foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighboring Ivory Coast. It reverses Sankara’s previous economic policies.

1990 – Compaoré introduces limited democratic reforms.

2014 – President Compaoré resigns following massive protests against plans to extend his reign. A transitional government takes over.

2015 – The coup attempt by an army unit fails and elections are held.

2016 – 30 people killed in terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou: The attack signals the start of an Islamist insurrection in the north and east of Burkina Faso by jihadist groups.

2022 – Two military coups in one year: A January coup led by Lt. Col. Damiba seizes power and overthrows President Kaboré. In September he was ousted by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who said the second coup was necessary because Damiba was unable to deal with the Islamist insurgency.

2023 – Burkina Faso expels some 400 French special forces cutting military relations with France. He says he will develop military ties with Russia to fight jihadists, but denies hiring Wagner mercenaries.

A woman rides a motorbike in Ouagadougou

Burkina Faso has significant reserves of gold, manganese, copper and limestone

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