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Burkina Faso

Sankara Coup 1980s

Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, achieved self-government in 1958, and full independence in 1960 from France. Burkina Faso's high population density and limited natural resources haved resulted in poor economic prospects for the majority of its citizens. Repeated military coups during the 1970s and 1980s were followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. Recent unrest in Cote d'Ivoire and northern Ghana has hindered the ability of several hundred thousand seasonal Burkinabe farm workers to find employment in neighboring countries.

Burkina Faso has had an extremely unstable history since its independence and multiple coups have been staged. Thefirst military coup occurred in 1966, but then succumbed to another coup in 1978, which deposed the then President Yaméogo, suspended the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and placed Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana at the head of a government, which was composed of senior army officers.

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, which invalidated the 1977 constitution.

Another coup, led by Saye Zerbo, occurred in 1980, but encountered resistance from the trade unions as well and was overthrown on November 7, 1982, by Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo 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 in a counter-coup.

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 Compaoré. This release effort resulted in yet another military coup d'etat on August 4, 1983.

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