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Burkina Faso, History

Mossi states, French Sudan, loose association, French Union, democratic election

The history of Burkina Faso is largely the history of the ancient Mossi Kingdom. Various Mossi states were built up about the 14th century by peoples migrating from the north of modern Ghana. They evolved a strong administrative system and a tradition of divine kingship, which enabled them to prevent their incorporation by any of the Sudanic empires. The kingdom of Songhai, however, conquered the Mossi.

By the 19th century, the Mossi states were weakened. In 1896 the French set up a protectorate over the kingdom of Ouagadougou, and in 1904 the area became part of the colony of Haut-Senegal-Niger. In 1919 it was made into a separate constituent territory of French West Africa, only to be divided up in 1932 between the French Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire. It was reconstituted as the separate territory of Upper Volta in 1947.

Following the reforms of the French Union in 1957, Upper Volta became, in 1958, a self-governing republic and a member of the new French community. A government was formed, headed by Maurice Yameogo, leader of the political party known as the Voltaic Democratic Union. In 1959 Upper Volta joined the council of the Entente, a loose association based on mutual political and economic interests. The Entente was composed of Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Dahomey (now Benin), and Togo. After its independence on August 5, 1960, Upper Volta remained an associated state of the European Community (now called the European Union).

Yameogo was elected president in 1960 and reelected in 1965; he was the sole candidate. Following the adoption by the National Assembly of austerity measures in December 1965, a crisis erupted between the government and the labor unions. At the call of the latter, General Sangoule Lamizana, then army chief of staff, assumed power on January 3, 1966, and suspended the constitution. Shortly thereafter, the new government embarked on an austerity program of its own, which eventually succeeded in arresting the deterioration of the economy. Under the constitution of 1970, Lamizana became president for four years.

In the early 1970s the effect of a five-year drought threatened famine in Upper Volta and five other West African countries. The resulting economic dislocation brought a second dissolution of the government. Lamizana ruled as dictator until the reintroduction of parliamentary government in 1978, when he won the presidency in a democratic election. Two years later he was ousted in a bloodless military coup; two more coups followed during the next 33 months. On August 3, 1984, the first anniversary of the coup that brought Captain Thomas Sankara to power as head of the National Revolutionary Council, the official name of the country was changed to Burkina Faso, and a new national flag and anthem were decreed. In October 1987, Sankara was ousted and executed in a coup led by his chief adviser, Captain Blaise Compaore, who ruled as head of the Popular Front. Compaore, who survived two coup attempts in 1989, introduced limited democratic reforms during 1990, and a new constitution took effect the following year. Compaore was reelected without opposition in December 1991, and his Organization for Popular Democracy-Labor Movement won a legislative majority in multiparty elections in May 1992. Compaore faced opposition candidates for the first time in 1998 presidential elections, which he won by a landslide.



Article key phrases:

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