After independence in 1960, Burkina Faso was
characterized by economic problems, political crises and
coups. After Blaise Compaoré took power in a military
coup in 1987, he led the country toward multi-party
systems and market economy. The once powerful military
lost influence, while holding down the political
opposition. Compaoré and his party CDP dominated the
entire state apparatus until 2014 when a revolt forced
him to resign.
From World War II onwards, domestic political parties
were formed in the French colony of Upper Volta (see
Older History). When the country gained independence in
August 1960, Maurice Yaméogo, leader of the Voltana
Democratic Alliance (UDV), was elected president.
However, he was unable to solve the country's financial
problems and, over time, became increasingly
authoritarian. He was deposed in a 1966 military coup.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Burkina Faso. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The new president, General Sangoulé Lamizana, managed
to get the economy back on track. In 1970 elections were
held in which the UDV won. But when devastating drought
caused mass violence and livestock death in Upper Volta
and neighboring states in the early 1970s, the UDV
government failed to deal with the crisis. In 1974, it
was ousted by President Lamizana, who banned all parties
and appointed a government consisting of military
personnel. But neither did the new military regime
succeed in ordering the economy and trade union protests
began to grow strong.
A new constitution was adopted in 1977 and after the
new election the following year a civil government was
formed, dominated by the UDV. Lamizana was re-elected
president, but in December 1980 he was overthrown by the
military following a major strike and new trade union
demonstrations. The constitution was revoked and the
parties banned. A new military-civilian government led
by Colonel Saye Zerbo continued the attempts to quell
Sankara's African "Cultural Revolution"
The military leadership was divided and in 1982 Major
Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo took power. He appointed a young
captain, Thomas Sankara, as prime minister but soon
imprisoned him because of a conflict. The imprisonment
of Sankara caused his allies to revolt against Ouédraogo.
Sankara was released but the uprising spread and in 1983
Sankara himself took over the presidential power.
Sankara was admired across the continent by young
Africans who were tired of the old leaders. He tried to
implement an African "cultural revolution". Around the
country, revolution committees were formed to replace
the chieftains and municipal assemblies. Revolutionary
People's Tribunals put the men of the old regimes in
charge of corruption and abuse of power. The salaries of
officials were lowered and officials were forced to
account for their financial assets. On a few occasions,
the ministers were sent on agricultural work and only
those who endured the penalties could count on a new
In the ruling Revolutionary Council (CNR), which
consisted of both military and civilian and supported by
Communist parties, the median age was about 30 years.
On the anniversary of the takeover of power in 1984,
Sankara renamed the country to Burkina Faso, the land of
the indomitable men, in an attempt to complete
decolonization and strengthen the self-esteem of the
people. Sankara's policy also included favoring the
peasants at the expense of city dwellers.
Compaoré seizes power, Sankara is murdered
After dismissing his opponents in the government and
executing officers accused of coup attempts, Sankara
felt confident enough to pardon almost all political
prisoners, including former presidents and ministers.
But Sankara's attempt to reduce the unions' power and
create a one-party state caused a schism within the
Revolutionary Council. In October 1987, Sankara and 13
of his employees were killed in a coup led by his
closest husband, Blaise Compaoré. The Revolutionary
Council was dissolved and replaced with a "people front"
and Compaoré spent the next few years wiping out the
traces of Sankara. The new economic policy was called
"the facilitation" and advocated foreign investment,
private enterprise and negotiations with the IMF, which
Sankara had strongly opposed.
Compaoré's policies led to new teardowns within the
government and in 1989 Compaoré executed the last of the
core revolutionaries. A new democratic constitution was
adopted in a referendum in 1991. Compaoré left the army
and in December 1991 was elected president in an
election boycotted by the opposition.
In the 1992 parliamentary elections, Compaoré's party
gained its own majority, and in 1997 the ruling party,
under the new name of the Democracy and Progress
Congress (CDP), took 101 out of 111 seats. The
opposition and independent judges accused the government
of electoral fraud. President Compaoré was re-elected by
a large majority in November 1998.
Journalist murder leads to political crisis
The month after the presidential election, a murder
occurred that brought the country into a prolonged
political crisis. The government-critical journalist
Norbert Zongo in the journal L'Indépendent and three
other persons were found murdered, and the suspicions
fell on the president's bodyguards and, by extension,
the president's brother François Compaoré. Human rights
organizations, the trade union movement and opposition
parties were united in a wave of protests across the
country. The demonstrations included the murder of Zongo,
but also the lack of legal security and democracy, as
well as corruption and growing social injustice. A
commission that the government saw compelled to appoint
identified six bodyguards as suspects of the murder.
Only one of them was prosecuted but the prosecution was
The government was accused of trying to protect those
guilty of what was generally perceived as a political
murder. The protests continued for several years,
forcing democratic reforms: proportional electoral
systems were introduced, the president's term in office
was shortened and changes were made in the judiciary.
The 2002 parliamentary elections gave the usually
divided opposition significant successes. The CDP lost
almost half of its mandate but gained a scarce majority
in the National Assembly and was able to form
government. Before the presidential election in 2005,
the Constitutional Court ruled that President Compaoré
was allowed to stand again (see Political system). He
won with over 80 percent of the vote.
The CDP consolidated its dominance in the 2007
parliamentary elections and increased its mandate, while
the largest opposition party Alliance for Democracy and
the Federation-African Democratic Assembly (ADF-RDA)
Popular dissatisfaction is growing
After the election, the government was met with
growing social dissatisfaction. In 2008, protests were
held in several parts of the country against rising food
prices. Strikes and crowds followed, and police and
soldiers also participated in the protests. In 2009, the
National Assembly passed several new electoral laws
despite strong opposition from parts of the opposition.
The 2010 presidential election was another big
victory for Compaoré. According to official data, he
received more than four-fifths of the vote, but the
losing candidates accused the regime of electoral fraud.
Prior to the election, Compaoré had promised a number
of reforms, including expanding the National Assembly
with another chamber, a Senate. A more controversial
change that the regime wanted to make was to abolish the
restrictions on how many times a sitting president can
be elected. Thus, Compaoré could also stand in the 2015
Protest wave flushes across the country
In 2011, dissatisfaction developed into a wave of
protests and strikes. One important reason was sharply
rising food prices as a result of a serious crisis in
neighboring Côte d'Ivoire which hit hard on Burkina
The protests came from broad community groups but
were triggered by student demonstrations at the
beginning of the year since a high school student was
reported to have died in police custody. As in the
so-called Arab Spring in North Africa, young Burkinis
used Facebook as a means of communication, and the anger
of a corrupt and powerful elite drove tens of thousands
of people into the streets.
The students were supported by the trade union
movement and even within the military, dissatisfaction
was stirred. In April 2011, a mutiny of gunfire erupted
at the presidential palace. The mythists were reassured
with promises of better financial compensation.
A shaken President Compaoré dismissed the government
and replaced the army chief and head of the presidential
guard, who participated in the uprising. Compaoré
himself took over the post of defense minister and
former UN ambassador Luc Adolph Tiao was commissioned to
Military revolt is fought down
But unrest continued, especially in the city of
Koudougou west of Ouagadougou. Peasants also
participated in the protests and teachers went on strike
for better wages and working conditions. In the
military, discontent continued, especially in the
country's economic capital, Bobo-Dioulasso. In June
2011, elite forces fought against the insurgent
soldiers, several deaths were required and many soldiers
With the exception of this strike, Prime Minister
Tiao sought to address the uprising with dialogue and
promises of reform. Tiao, who was previously a
journalist, held press conferences with various
ministers every week. He traveled around the country
himself to talk with local government officials,
opposition politicians, trade unionists and student
In response to the protests, the government also
lowered income tax and promised lower prices for basic
commodities such as rice. It also promised to bring
corruption-suspected civil servants to justice, as well
as people suspected of human rights violations.
Compaoré faced strong opposition to its attempts to
abolish the limitation on how many terms a person may be
president. A consultative council led by a CDP
politician stated against the idea and suggested that
Parliament's power be strengthened vis-à-vis the
The protests gave the opposition hope for the
December 2012 parliamentary elections, but the CDP won a
large majority of the mandate.
The popular opposition to Compaore's rule grew, not
least criticizing his attempt to change the constitution
to allow him to sit for another term.
When Parliament was to convene in October 2014 to
decide on a constitutional amendment, mass protests
erupted. Protesters stormed Parliament and burned down
parts of the building. A number of people were reported
to have been shot dead by police. The broadcasts on
state TV were interrupted after the building was taken
over by protesters.
After a day of unrest and pressure from the outside
world and the army leadership, Compaoré decided to
resign. The army leadership then announced that it had
seized power and that a provisional government would
lead the country to a new election.
The unrest and political confusion continued for a
few weeks. Following pressure within the country and
from the outside world, a civil-military commission in
November appointed the former foreign minister and UN
ambassador Michel Kafando as provisional president.
Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida was appointed to lead a
A Provisional Parliament was established. It was led
by a civilian president elected from among its members.
Parliament consisted of a total of 90 representatives of
the opposition, civil society, the military and the
previous government. No member of the transition board
was allowed to stand in the elections scheduled for the
end of 2015. The military command announced that the
constitution had been re-established.
In September 2015, just a few weeks before the
announced elections, the appointed leaders were ousted
by a group of officers from the presidential guard. One
day before the coup, a parliamentary commission had
recommended that the presidential guard be dissolved, as
it was judged to interfere in the work of the
A military junta took power. It was led by a close
ally of Compaoré, General Gilbert Diendéré, former head
of the military intelligence service. The Presidential
Guard was Compaoré's most important power base and was
still considered loyal to him.
Kaboré and MPP win the parliamentary
But after the coup leaders received the regular army,
the governments of all neighboring countries and the
general public opposed them, they gave up after only a
few days and returned power to the transitional
government. At its first meeting after the failed coup
attempt, the interim government decided to dissolve the
presidential guard. In October, the coup leader Diendéré
was charged with murder and threats to the security of
A few weeks late, the promised general elections
could be carried out in late November. Winners with a
good margin in the presidential election became former
Prime Minister Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who broke
with Compaoré in protest of his attempt to extend his
In the parliamentary elections held at the same time,
the People's Progress Movement (MMP), formed in early
2014 by former supporters of Compaoré, won. Among the
CDP politicians who then switched parties were Kaboré.
The second largest party was the Union for Progress and
Change (UPC), followed by the old power party CDP.
Shortly after the election, the coup maker Diendéré
was also prosecuted for participating in the murder of
Thomas Sankara in 1987. The same month, three soldiers
were indicted for the 1998 murder of journalist Norbert
Zongo. In addition, a court issued an international
arrest warrant for Compaoré, who moved to the Ivory