Burkina Faso History and Politics

Prehistory and early history

People lived in the Stone Age where the state of Burkina Faso is located today. At first it was hunters and gatherers who wandered about, later they settled down. They built houses and farmed.

Mossi empires

A period of great migrations began in West Africa in the 12th century. Peoples from the south (today Ghana) and north (today Mali) came to the region of today’s Burkina Faso. In the 15th century, the Mossi – today the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso – came from northern Ghana. They probably founded 19 empires.

The first of these Mossi empires was called Tenkodogo. Yatenga was also of greater importance. The largest of the Mossi empires was called the Wogdgo Kingdom and had its capital in Ouagadougou (today’s capital of Burkina Faso). The Mossi empires existed side by side, only for a short time there was a single coherent empire at the beginning of the 16th century. The kings of the Mossi empires are called Naaba.

More empires

There were not only the Mossi empires on the soil of Burkina Faso, but also other empires. The Gulmancema founded their empire Gulmu (marked Gurma on the map) in the east of Burkina Faso, where they still live today. Their origin is also in the north of Ghana.

Around 1810 the Fulbe founded an empire in the north, the emirate of Liptako. Part of Liptako was conquered by the Tuareg in 1827. In the 18th century, western Burkina Faso was under the rule of the Kong Empire, which has its center in what is now the Ivory Coast.

French colonial period: Upper Volta

While many Europeans landed, traded and built fortresses on the West African coast as early as the 16th century, the hinterland remained without European influence for a long time. At the end of the 19th century, however, the “race for Africa” ​​came to a head. After all, it was the French who won it in Burkina Faso. In 1891 Liptako signed a “protection treaty” with France, in 1895 Gulmu followed, in 1896 the French conquered the kingdom of Wogdgo, and the Tuareg were finally defeated militarily.

In 1904 today’s Burkina Faso first became part of the “Upper Senegal and Niger” colony. In 1919 the new colony Upper Volta becamefounded. In 1932 the colony was divided among the neighboring colonies because it did not develop as economically as desired. They wanted to send the inhabitants of Obervoltas to the coastal colonies as cheap labor.

In 1947 the Upper Volta colony was restored to its present-day borders, after the Mossi in particular had pushed for it. Attitudes towards the colonies had also changed and the aspirations for independence increased, as everywhere in Africa.

Burkina Faso History

History of Burkina Faso from independence until today

Independence 1960

In 1958 Upper Volta became an autonomous republic and in 1960 it became fully independent, as did many other African states that year. Maurice Yaméogo became the country’s first president. Its one-party rule and economic decline led to a popular uprising and its overthrow in 1966.

Lamizana (1966-1980)

General Sangoulé Lamizana was brought to power by the demonstrators as his successor. In 1971 a new constitution came into force. But the economic and social problems remained.

Military coups: Zerbo (1980-1982) and Ouédraogo (1982/83)

A coup in 1980 brought Saye Zerbo to power for two years, another coup followed in 1982. Now Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo became the new president. But the man behind the coup was Thomas Sankara, who initially became Prime Minister. He soon sought contacts in Libya, Cuba and Ghana. This displeased Ouédraogo, as he was more oriented towards France and wanted to maintain traditional relationships. Sankara was arrested.

1983 Revolution: Sankara in power

The officer Blaise Compaoré freed his friend Sankara on August 4, 1983. He converted the country into a socialist state. In 1984 Upper Volta was renamed Burkina Faso. A new flag was introduced. Sankara planned to merge with Ghana.

In 1984 there was a border war with Mali over four villages in the Sahel, in the very north-east of Burkina Faso. The stripe over which the war had broken out was ultimately divided between the two countries.

Blaise Compaoré (1987-2014)

In 1987 there was a coup by Blaise Compaoré. Sankara was murdered. The planned merger with Ghana was canceled. The political situation remained unstable. In 1991 there was a new constitution. The country stabilized economically and socially in the 1990s. An amendment to the constitution enabled Compaoré to be re-elected in 2005 and 2010.

Since 2014

In 2014 Compaoré wanted to change the constitution again to allow his re-election. There were demonstrations and protests. Compaoré finally resigned.

Issac Zida has been appointed interim president. The next elections took place on November 29, 2015. Roch Marc Kaboré was elected as the new president.