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Burkina Faso country profile

Map of Burkina Faso

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

Burkina Faso, which means “land of honest men”, has significant reserves of gold, but the country has faced domestic and external concern over the state of its economy and human rights.

A former French colony, it gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960.

In 1983 Captain Thomas Sankara seized power and adopted radical left-wing policies but was ousted by Blaise Compaore, who went on to rule for 27 years before being ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.

The spread of jihadist violence from neighboring Mali prompted the army to seize control in 2022.

  • Capital: Ouagadougou

  • Area: 274,200 sq km

  • Population: 21.9 million

  • Languages: French, Mossi, Bissa, Dyula, Fula

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

President: Ibrahim Traore

Ibrahim Traore

Ibrahim Traore

Captain Ibrahim Traore seized power in a coup on 30 September 2022, ousting his predecessor Lieutenant-General Damiba, who had himself ousted President Marc Kabore in an earlier coup in January 2022. Traore was officially appointed as president of Burkina Faso on 6 October 2022.

The rationale given by Traore for the coup was the purported inability of Damiba to deal with the continuing Islamist insurgency in the north of the country. It was for the same reason that Damiba had ousted Kabore – the government’s failure to halt the jihadist groups operating in northern Burkina Faso.

Mr Kabore had served as prime minister and speaker of parliament under veteran President Blaise Compaore before going on to win presidential elections in 2015 and 2020.

But, like his neighbors, he found his domestic agenda undermined by the spread of jihadist groups from Mali, and the attendant military and security problems.

Newspaper vendor in Burkina Faso

Newspaper vendor in Burkina Faso

Some key events in Burkina Faso’s history:

Former president of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara

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

1896 – Kingdoms now making up Burkina Faso became a French protectorate, later known as Upper Volta.

1960 – Upper Volta becomes independent with Maurice Yameogo as president. He was overthrown in 1966 by Sangoule Lamizana.

1980 – President Lamizana is ousted in a coup led by Saye Zerbo, who is overthrown two years later by Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, ushering in a period of unrest and power struggles.

1984 – Upper Volta renamed Burkina Faso.

1990 – Blaise Compaore, who assumed power when he ousted and killed Thomas Sankara in 1987, introduces limited democratic reforms. He remains in power for 27 years.

2014 – President Compaore steps aside following massive protests against plans to extend his rule. A transitional government takes charge.

2022 – Army seizes power in the face of a growing jihadist insurgency.

Burkina Faso's former president Blaise Compaore

Blaise Compaore led the country for 27 years before stepping aside under popular pressure

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