In the 15th century, a number of mossy and Gurmarian riches emerged in the eastern and central parts of the present Burkina Faso, including Yatenga and Ouagadougou. These kingdoms resisted the pressure of the West Sudanese great powers Mali and Songhai, and lasted until the 1870s, when the European colonial conquest took place.
France took over most of the area as a protectorate in 1895–97. In the years 1904-1919 Burkina Faso was divided between the French colonies of Upper Senegal and Niger. Then it was its own colony until 1932, when the area was divided between French Sudan, Niger and Ivory Coast. Burkina Faso was indirectly controlled by local tribal leaders in each district (cercle). After World War II, Burkina Faso was administered as an overseas territory within the French Union. In 1958, the country gained internal autonomy within the French Commonwealth, but it was not until August 5, 1960, that Burkina Faso became an independent state, under the name of Upper Volta. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Burkina Faso.
Political elections were held as early as 1957. Maurice Yaméogo, leader of the Union Democratique Voltaïque (UDV), won the election and became the country’s first president. Domestic political and economic problems led to a military coup in 1966, which toppled Yaméogo. The coup general Sangoulé Lamizana abolished the political system. A new constitution was introduced in 1970, and after alternating civil and military rule, 1978 democratic elections were held. A number of coups took place during the period 1978–83.
The leader of the coup in August 1983, Thomas Sankara, was the first of the coup leaders to enjoy some confidence not only in Burkina Faso but also outside the country. He established a National Revolutionary Council and soon emerged as a new type of African leader – free in relation to both colonial heritage and corruption. In 1984, Sankara changed the name of the country to Burkina Faso. However, his socialist program did not lead to expected economic progress, and in a coup d’etat on October 15, 1987, he was killed. The coup was led by Captain Blaise Compaoré, Major Jean-Baptiste Boukari Lingani and Captain Henri Zongo. Compaoré became the leader of a military triumph consisting of himself, Lingani and Zongo. The triumvirate called itself the popular front and promised to stick to the main lines of Sankara’s politics. In April 1989, the government-friendly left-wing parties joined the Organization for the Democracy Popular Movement – Movement du travail (ODP – MT).
At the first Congress of the People’s Front in 1990, new, less radical leaders gained a decisive influence. Congress accepted that a new constitution be drafted. The constitution was adopted by referendum in 1991, and multi-party systems were introduced. At the presidential election held in December of that year, Compaoré was elected president for the next seven years without counter-candidates. Compaoré, however, met with disbelief, and voter turnout was just over 25 percent since the opposition called for a boycott. To strengthen his position, he restored approximately 4,000 victims of political oppression since 1983 and convened a national reconciliation forum in 1992. In the parliamentary elections held that year, Compaorés ODP-MT won 78 of the 107 seats.Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). The new party won big and got 101 of the 111 seats in the expanded National Assembly. In 1998, Compaoré was re-elected with 88 percent of the vote.
Despite several military coups, Burkina Faso had been largely spared from political violence until Compaore’s takeover of power. The coup against Sankara was the first to demand many human lives. Under Compaore’s rule, a number of political murders have increased the tension in society. In December 1991, Clément Oumarou was murdered Ouédraogo, who had fallen out of favor with the regime after previously being leader of the ODP-MT. In December 1998, one of Burkina Faso’s most prominent journalists, the newspaper L’Indépendant’s editor-in-chief Norbert Zongo, and three other reporters were murdered while investigating a murder that members of the presidential guard were suspected of having committed. In particular, the murder of Zongo put the regime under strong pressure to increase respect for human rights and led, among other things, to the formation of a national reconciliation commission.
A constitutional amendment in 2000 limited the number of terms of office that the president can sit in for two, but it was established that the rule did not apply retroactively, which is why Compaoré could set up both 2005 and 2010; he won both times with 80 percent of the vote. The CDP has continued to dominate Parliament. In the 2002 and 2007 elections, the party received 57 and 73, respectively, of 111 seats and in 2012 70 of 127 seats.
During Compaore’s last year in power, the president was increasingly questioned. Violent student protests after a student was killed in a police raid in 2011 spread to the public, demonstrating against, among other things, higher living costs. Furthermore, mutiny broke out within the military.
In 2014, Compaoré took the initiative to amend the constitution that would allow him to be re-elected for further terms. However, this led to violent protests at the end of October of the same year. The president said he was willing to talk to the opposition and abandon plans to extend his time in power, but was forced to resign by the military, which took power with the promise that a transitional government would be formed.
During the late 1990s, Burkina Faso was repeatedly hit by drought and flooding, which severely worsened living conditions in the affected parts of the country.