Currently viewing country profile for Burkina Faso
A poor country even by West African standards, landlocked Burkina Faso has suffered from recurring droughts, matched in number only by the military coups it has endured, especially during the 1980s.
Burkina Faso has significant reserves of gold, but cotton production is the economic mainstay for many Burkinabes. The industry is vulnerable to changes in world prices.
Formerly Upper Volta, Burkina Faso has spent many of its post-independence years under military rule.
After taking power in a 1983 coup, Thomas Sankara adopted a policy of nonalignment, developed relations with Libya and Ghana, and gave the country its present name, which translates as "land of honest men".
In 1987 Mr Sankara was overthrown and then executed in a coup masterminded by Blaise Compaore, who has since instituted a multi-party system.
Burkina Faso has faced domestic and external concern over the state of its economy and human rights, and allegations that it was involved in the smuggling of diamonds by rebels in Sierra Leone.
Troubles in neighbouring Ivory Coast have raised tensions. Ivory Coast has accused Burkina Faso of backing rebels in its north, a claim denied by Ouagadougou, which accuses its neighbour of mistreating Burkinabes living in Ivory Coast.
- Full name: Burkina Faso
- Population: 16.3 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Ouagadougou
- Area: 274,200 sq km (105,870 sq miles)
- Major languages: French, indigenous languages
- Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Islam, Christianity
- Life expectancy: 53 years (men), 56 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
- Main exports: Cotton, animal products, gold
- GNI per capita: US $510 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .bf
- International dialling code: +226
President: Blaise Campaore
Blaise Campaore came to power in a coup in 1987. He subsequently won four presidential elections, the latest in November 2010.
He has become a regional power-broker, which has surprised some critics as UN reports said Mr Compaore supported insurgents during Sierra Leone's civil war, which ended in 2002.
He has served as a key mediator in the region, involved in the Ivory Coast peace process and moves to restore civilian rule in Guinea.
Born in 1950 and trained as a soldier in Cameroon and Morocco, Blaise Compaore served under Thomas Sankara as minister of state to the presidency, before deposing and executing him in 1987.
He disarmed local militias and, despite his reputed left-wing leanings, embarked on a programme of privatisation and austerity measures sponsored by the International Monetary Fund. After officially rejecting socialism he was elected president unopposed in 1991.
The president exercises executive power, appoints the prime minister and keeps a tight hold over the military and government bodies. He portrays himself as the guarantor of political stability and economic progress.
His current term is supposed to be his last but there have been suggestions that he is preparing to change the constitution to remove limits to the number of terms a president can serve
Radio is the country's most popular medium. Dozens of private and community radio stations and a handful of private TV channels operate alongside their state-run counterparts. There are many private publications.
The BBC is available on 99.2 FM in Ouagadougou. Voice of America and Radio France Internationale are also on the air in the capital.
The Ministry of Communication and Culture regulates the media. Despite practising self-censorship many media outlets, particularly private ones, are often critical of the government.
Some journalists are reported to have been threatened or arrested. Inquiries into the 1998 killing of the well-known and respected newspaper journalist Norbert Zongo have yet to bring to book those responsible.
Reporters Without Borders said in 2007 that any challenge to the president and his allies remained a "high-risk exercise".
- Radio Burkina - state-run, runs national network and regional services, as well as entertainment station Canal Arc-en-Ciel
- Radio Pulsar - private
- Radio Frequence Magique - private
- Radio Salankoloto - private
- Radio La Voix du Paysan - private
- Agence d'Information du Burkina - official agency
A chronology of key events:
1919 - Upper Volta becomes separate constituent territory of French West Africa.
1932 - Upper Volta divided up between Cote d'Ivoire and French Sudan.
1947 - Upper Volta re-established as a separate territory within French West Africa.
1958 - Upper Volta becomes autonomous republic within the French Community.
1960 - Upper Volta becomes independent with Maurice Yameogo as president.
1966 - Yameogo toppled in a military coup led by Sangoule Lamizana following unrest over a government austerity programme.
1970 - New constitution approved in a national referendum allows Lamizana to remain in power until 1975, when he would be replaced by an elected president; Gerard Ouedraogo appointed prime minister.
1974 - Maurice Lamizana returns to the political scene by ousting Prime Minister Ouedraogo and dissolving parliament.
1977 - New multi-party constitution promulgated.
1978 - Maurice Lamizana chosen following multi-party elections.
1980 - Lamizana ousted in coup led by Saye Zerbo.
1982 - Zerbo overthrown in coup led by Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo following industrial unrest.
1983 - Zerbo toppled in coup led by Thomas Sankara who adopts a policy of nonalignment and close relations with Ghana and Libya.
1984 - Upper Volta renamed Burkina Faso.
1987 - Thomas Sankara ousted and executed in coup led by his close aide, Blaise Campaore.
1990 - Campaore introduces limited democratic reforms.
1991 - Campaore re-elected without opposition under a new constitution.
Return to democracy
1992 - Campaore's Organisation for Popular Democracy-Labour Movement wins a majority of seats in the first multi-party parliamentary elections since 1978.
1996 - Meningitis kills 4,000.
1998 - Campaore wins presidential election by a landslide.
1999 June - General strike over economic grievances and alleged human rights violations.
1999 August - State-owned mining company Soremib announces the closure of the country's biggest gold mine.
1999 - Independent inquiry into 1998 death of journalist Norbert Zongo concludes he was a victim of political assassination.
2000 December - Government agrees to set up UN-run body to monitor weapons imports after allegations that it has been involved in smuggling arms to rebels in Sierra Leone and Angola.
2001 - Meningitis epidemic kills more than 1,500.
2002 October - Neighbouring Ivory Coast accuses Burkina Faso of sheltering dissident Ivorian soldiers. Burkina Faso raises concerns about attacks on Burkinabes in Ivory Coast after September's Ivorian military uprising.
2004 April - Military tribunal tries 13 people accused of plotting coup against President Compaore in October 2003. Army captain Luther Ouali jailed for 10 years for masterminding plot.
2005 November - President Compaore wins a third straight term in office.
2006 January-April - Meningitis outbreak kills more than 600 people.
2006 December - Burkina Faso postpones a regional economic summit after deadly gun battles between police and soldiers in the capital.
2007 May - The ruling party wins a majority in parliamentary polls.
2008 April - Two-day general strike follows weeks of protests about high living costs and call for wage increases.
2009 April - Parliament passes a law requiring at least 30% of candidates put forward for election by political parties to be women.
2010 July - France, US issue travel warnings, citing the possibility of kidnappings by al-Qaeda operatives.
Burkina Faso and Niger ask International Court of Justice in the Hague to resolve a long-running border dispute.
2010 November - Gold mine officially opened. Premier Tertius Zongo says it will earn substantial revenue for the country.
Presidential elections. President Compaore gains another term in office.
2011 January - New government named, including a minister for political reforms, which are expected to include the lifting of limits on the terms the president can serve.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Congo Dem Republic
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- The Gambia
- Western Sahara