LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY
Western Africa, north of Ghana
Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta, is a landlocked West African State which lies between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea in the loop of the Niger River. It has borders with Niger in the east and north, Mali in the north and west; Benin in the south and east and Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo in the south. The country’s main rivers are not navigable and flow south towards the Gulf of Guinea. Several small streams in the east drain into the Niger River. The terrain is almost flat. Primary sandstone covers the south-western border with Mali. There is minimum annual rainfall and the water percolates deeply within the rocky expanses. Meadows and pastures make up about one-third of the land while one quarter is taken up by forests and woods.
13 00 N, 2 00 W
Total: 274,200 sq km
water: 400 sq km
land: 273,800 sq km
total: 3,193 km
Benin 306 km, Cote d'Ivoire 584 km, Ghana 549 km, Mali 1,000 km, Niger 628 km, Togo 126 km
estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
0-14 years: 47.3% (male 3,007,675; female 2,960,697)
15-64 years: 49.8% (male 3,000,411; female 3,271,594)
65 years and over: 2.9% (male 151,976; female 210,832) (2002 EST.)
Noun: Burkinabe (singular and plural)
French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population
n xstyle="color: black">
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 40%, Muslim 50%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government respects this right in practice. Burkina Faso is a secular state. Islam, Christianity, and traditional religions operate freely without government interference. Neither social mobility nor access to modern sector jobs are linked to, or restricted by, religious affiliation.
One of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked Burkina Faso has a high population density, few natural resources, and a fragile soil. About 90% of the population is engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall. Industry remains dominated by unprofitable government-controlled corporations. Following the African franc currency devaluation in January 1994 the government updated its development program in conjunction with international agencies, and exports and economic growth have increased. Maintenance of macroeconomic progress depends on continued low inflation, reduction in the trade deficit, and reforms designed to encourage private investment.
Telephones - main lines in use:
Telephones - mobile cellular:
General assessment: all services only fair
domestic: microwave radio relay, open wire, and radiotelephone communication stations
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Total: 622 km (517 km from Ouagadougou to the Cote d'Ivoire border and 105 km from Ouagadougou to Kaya)
narrow gauge: 622 km 1.000-m gauge (1995 EST.)
Total: 12,506 km
paved: 2,001 km
unpaved: 10,505 km (1996)
Conventional short form: Burkina Faso
former: Upper Volta, Republic of Upper Volta
30 provinces; Bam, Bazega, Bougouriba, Boulgou, Boulkiemde, Ganzourgou, Gnagna, Gourma, Houe, Kadiogo, Kenedougou, Komoe, Kossi, Kouritenga, Mouhoun, Namentenga, Naouri, Oubritenga, Oudalan, Passore, Poni, Sanguie, Sanmatenga, Seno, Sissili, Soum, Sourou, Tapoa, Yatenga, Zoundweogo
note: a new electoral code was approved by the National Assembly in January 1997; the number of administrative provinces was increased from 30 to 45 (Bale, Bam, Banwa, Bazega, Bougouriba, Boulgou, Boulkiemde, Comoe, Ganzourgou, Gnagna, Gourma, Houet, Ioba, Kadiogo, Kenedougou, Komandjari, Kompienga, Kossi, Koupelogo, Kouritenga, Kourweogo, Leraba, Loroum, Mouhoun, Nahouri, Namentenga, Nayala, Naumbiel, Oubritenga, Oudalan, Passore, Poni, Samentenga, Sanguie, Seno, Sissili, Soum, Sourou, Tapoa, Tuy, Yagha, Yatenga, Ziro, Zondomo, Zoundweogo), however, this change has not yet been confirmed by the US Board on Geographic Names
5 August 1960 (from France)
Republic Day, 11 December (1958)
2 June 1991 approved by referendum; 11 June 1991 formally adopted
chief of state: President Blaise COMPAORE (since 15 October 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Ernest Paramanga YONLI (since 6 November 2000)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
election results: Blaise COMPAORE reelected president with 87.5% percent of the vote
note: President COMPAORE faces an increasingly well-coordinated opposition; recent charges against a former member of his Presidential Guard in the 1998 assassination of a newspaper editor signify an attempt to defuse chronic areas of dissatisfaction
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 15 November 1998 (next to be held NA 2005); in April 2000, the constitution was amended reducing the presidential term from seven to five years, enforceable as of 2005, and allowing the president to be reelected only once; it is unclear whether this amendment will be applied retroactively or not; prime minister appointed by the president with the consent of the legislature
unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (111 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - CDP 57, RDA-ADF 17, PDP/PS 10, CFD 5, PAI 5, others 17
elections: National Assembly election last held 5 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007)
Supreme Court; Appeals Court
Political parties and leaders:
African Democratic Rally-Alliance for Democracy and Federation or RDA-ADF [Herman YAMEOGO]; Confederation for Federation and Democracy or CFD [Amadou Diemdioda DICKO]; Congress for Democracy and Progress or CDP [Roch Marc-Christian KABORE]; Movement for Tolerance and Progress or MTP [Noyabtigungu Congo KABORE]; Party for African Independence or PAI [Philippe OUEDRAOGO]; Party for Democracy and Progress or PDP [Joseph KI-ZERBO]; Union of Greens for the Development of Burkina Faso or UVDB [Ram OVEDRAGO]
Two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a yellow five-pointed star in the center; uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia.
Until the end of the 19th century, the history of Burkina Faso was dominated by the empire-building Mossi, who are believed to have come from central or eastern Africa sometime in the 11th century. For centuries, the Mossi peasant was both farmer and soldier, and the Mossi people were able to defend their religious beliefs and social structure against forcible attempts to convert them to Islam by Muslims from the northwest.
When the French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, Mossi resistance ended with the capture of their capital at Ouagadougou. In 1919, certain provinces from Cote d'Ivoire were united into a separate colony called the Upper Volta in the French West Africa federation. In 1932, the new colony was dismembered in a move to economize; it was reconstituted in 1937 as an administrative division called the Upper Coast. After World War II, the Mossi renewed their pressure for separate territorial status and on September 4, 1947, Upper Volta became a French West African territory again in its own right.
Upper Volta achieved independence on August 5, 1960. The first president, Maurice Yameogo, was the leader of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV). The 1960 constitution provided for election by universal suffrage of a president and a national assembly for 5-year terms. Soon after coming to power, Yameogo banned all political parties other than the UDV. The government lasted until 1966 when after much unrest-mass demonstrations and strikes by students, labor unions, and civil servants-the military intervened.
The military coup deposed Yameogo, suspended the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and placed Lt. Col. Aboukar Sangoule Lamizana at the head of a government of senior army officers. The army remained in power for 4 years, and on June 14, 1970, the Voltans ratified a new constitution that established a 4-year transition period toward complete civilian rule. Lamizana remained in power throughout the 1970s as president of military or mixed civil-military governments. After conflict over the 1970 constitution, a new constitution was written and approved in 1977, and Lamizana was reelected by open elections in 1978.
Lamizana's government faced problems with the country's traditionally powerful trade unions, and on November 25, 1980, Col. Saye Zerbo overthrew President Lamizana in a bloodless coup. Colonel Zerbo established the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress as the supreme governmental authority, thus eradicating the 1977 constitution.
Colonel Zerbo also encountered resistance from trade unions and was overthrown two years later, on November 7, 1982, by Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo and the Council of Popular Salvation (CSP). The CSP continued to ban political parties and organizations, yet promised a transition to civilian rule and a new constitution.
Factional infighting developed between moderates in the CSP and the radicals, led by Capt. Thomas Sankara who was appointed prime minister in January 1983. The internal political struggle and Sankara's leftist rhetoric led to his arrest and subsequent efforts to bring about his release, directed by Capt. Blaise Compaore. This release effort resulted in yet another military coup d'etat on August 4, 1983.
After the coup, Sankara formed the National Council for the Revolution (CNR), with himself as president. Sankara also established Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) to "mobilize the masses" and implement the CNR's revolutionary programs. The CNR, whose exact membership remained secret until the end, contained two small intellectual Marxist-Leninist groups. Sankara, Compaore, Capt. Henri Zongo, and Maj. Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lengani-all leftist military officers-dominated the regime.
On August 4, 1984, Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, meaning "the country of honorable people." Sankara, a charismatic leader, sought by word, deed and example to mobilize the masses and launch a massive bootstrap development movement. But many of the strict austerity measures taken by Sankara met with growing resistance and disagreement. Despite his initial popularity and personal charisma, problems began to surface in the implementation of the revolutionary ideals.
The CDRs, which were formed as popular mass organizations, deteriorated in some areas into gangs of armed thugs and clashed with several trade unions. Tensions over the repressive tactics of the government and its overall direction mounted steadily. On October 15, 1987, Sankara was assassinated in a coup which brought Capt. Blaise Compaore to power.
Compaore, Capt. Henri Zongo, and Maj. Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lengani formed the Popular Front (FP), which pledged to continue and pursue the goals of the revolution and to "rectify" Sankara's "deviations" from the original aims. The new government, realizing the need for popular support, tacitly moderated many of Sankara's policies. As part of a much-discussed political "opening" process, several political organizations, three of them non-Marxist, were accepted under an umbrella political organization created in June 1989 by the FP.
Some members of the leftist Organization pour le Democratie Populaire/Movement du Travail (ODP/MT) were against the admission of non-Marxist groups in the front. On September 18, 1989, while Compaore was returning from a two-week trip to Asia, Lengani and Zongo were accused of plotting to overthrow the Popular Front. They were arrested and summarily executed the same night. Compaore reorganized the government, appointed several new ministers, and assumed the portfolio of Minister of Defense and Security. On December 23, 1989, a presidential security detail arrested about 30 civilians and military personnel accused of plotting a coup in collaboration with the Burkinabe external opposition.
The current President, Blaise Compaore came to power after a violent coup in 1987. In June 1991, Compaore dissolved his government and formed a transitional government leading to elections and political parties were unbanned. But the opposition parties boycotted the elections and Compaore, the only candidate, was elected President on 1 December 1991 with only 25% of registered voters casting their vote. The leading opposition figure, Clement Ouedraogo, was assassinated. In November 1998 Compaore was re-elected to power for another 7 years. Outside observers declared the election fair and transparent, but civil unrest has been growing.