Burkina Faso is one of those countries you don’t hear much in the media, even though there are reasons why it should be.
Once the home of a lot of Mossi kingdoms, it came to be a French colony during the Scramble for Africa. For a while before and during World War II, it was divided between its French colonial neighbors, but was reconstituted after the war. It achieved independence in 1960, as Upper Volta (Haute-Volta in French), as a reference to the Volta River. It was renamed as Burkina Faso in 1984, which means “land of the honest people”.
Like most of the near countries, Burkina Faso’s history was dominated by autoritarian governments and coups - there had been a number of military governments until 1983, when Thomas Sankara, a Communist revolutionary, performed a coup and assumed power. However, perhaps to the surprise of a Western reader, Sankara's government was actually incredibly popular in Burkina Faso and much of Africa, something owed to his socioeconomic programs, which included immense literacy campaigns, land redistribution, reforestation of ecologically damaged areas, and fighting against sexism and gender inequality with the outlawing of female genital mutilation and forced marriages. Of course, good things never last very long, and in 1987, Sankara's government was toppled and counter-couped by his once-friend Blaise Compaoré; (the reason given was "deteriorating relations with neighbours", and most Burkinabes hold that France instigated the coup), who rolled back nearly all of the policies from his predecessor. He stood as President until 2014 in a country filled with poverty and other problems (the country is considered the third least developed in the world). Sadly, it is apparent that the leaders never understood completely the meaning behind their country’s name, with the only exception of Sankara.
In 2011, the death of a student triggered massive protests in the country and the mutiny of parts of the army and the National Guard. The protests are still ongoing, so it’s still too soon to make an educated guess about what’s going to happen. However, things seem to have changed in late 2015, after (what appears to be) the last military coup d'état (this time against President Michel Kafando), and pressure from the African Union, ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States), and the armed forces, the military junta stepped down and Kafando was temporarily re-instated as President. The 2015 general election was then held on the 29th of November (with former president Blaise Compaore's party being banned from the election), and the new president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of the People's Movement for Progress, had been in power till he was overtrown in a military coup in 2022, becoming the first president in the country's recent history to have never had ties with the military.
Religiously, there seems to be an equilibrium between Christianity and Islam, although Islam seems to be midly more popular. However, the animistic religions are way more popular than both of them together, especially since they tend to blend their religion of choice with the local religions. In fact, a popular motto in the country seems to be “50% are Muslim, 50% are Christian and 100% are animist”.
Even though the country is not widely known outside Africa, in the continent is well known because of its film industry, producing lots of well-known pictures in the continent, like Yaaba and Tilaï, of the director Idrissa Ouedraogo, or Buud Yam, one of the most famous pictures of Africa. It’s also home of the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the largest African film festival, held in the capital of the country.
Burkina Faso in fiction:
- International co-production Moolaade, about the practice of female genital mutilation, is set and was shot in a village in Burkina Faso.
- SEAL Team's fifth season sends Bravo Team to Burkina Faso to combat the Sahaba of Greater Sahel, a West African ISIS-inspired terrorist group that has bombed multiple countries in the region.
- In Black Lagoon, the "L'homme sombre" story arc strongly hints that Dutch was a personal friend of former president Thomas Sankara and that he was involved in the later 1989 coup d'etat.
- In AI: The Somnium Files, one route where Date interviews the assassin inmate #89 has him ask where #89 is originally from, at which he answers Burkina Faso (and Aiba helpfully chimes in to point out that it's a West African country). Being that #89 is not even close to being black, it's obvious he's being sarcastic.
The Burkinabé flag
The Burkinabé national anthem
- Unitary provisional government under a military junta
- President: Ibrahim Traore
- Prime Minister: Appolinaire Joachim Kyelem de Tambela
- Capital and largest city: Ouagadougou
- Population: 21,510,181
- Area: 274,200 km² (105,900 sq mi) (74th)
- Currency: West African CFA franc (CFA) (XOF)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: BF
- Country calling code: 226
- Highest point: Mount Tenakourou (749 m/2,457 ft) (173rd)
- Lowest point: Black Volta (200 m/656 ft) (62nd)