Location: West Africa
Climate: The tropical climate has rainy (June-October) and dry (November-May) seasons, with rainfall averaging 1,015-1,270 mm (40-50 in) annually in the south and only 510 mm (20 in) in the north. Extreme variations in rainfall led to severe droughts in 1969-74 and 1981-83, with large losses of life and livestock.
Temperatures range from 10 deg C (50 deg F) in the early dry season to 40 deg C (104 deg F) just before the rains. Vegetation varies by ecological zone: there are fruit trees and some forests and woodlands in the centre, and desert flora and scrub vegetation in the north
Independence: August 5,1960
Capital City: Ouagadougou
Head of State: Blaise Compaore
Area: 274,500 sq.km
Type of Government: Republic
Religion: Muslim 50%, African religion 40%, Christian 5%
Official Language: French
Principal Languages: More, Dioula, Fulfulde
Major Exports: Cotton, Gold, Animal Products
History: The Mossi arrived in this area in the 11th to 13th centuries and established powerful kingdoms, including Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo, and Yatenga.
These linked kingdoms were centres of trade and contact between trans-Saharan traders and the forest kingdoms to the south. The Mossi strongly resisted the expansionist Islamic Mali (12th to 15th centuries) and Songhai (14th to 16th centuries) empires.
France asserted control over the area in the 1890s, dividing it among other French colonies and reconstituting it within its present borders from 1919 to 1932 and again from 1947.
A Mossi-dominated political party headed by Maurice Yameogo led Upper Volta to independence in 1960. Political life has since been dominated by the small educated elite, military officers, and labour unions. The nation's extreme poverty has made it difficult to meet the demands of all these groups, contributing to increasing political instability.
Yameogo was overthrown by the military in 1966 after trade-union protests. Under the benign hand of Lt.-Col. (later Gen.) Sangoule Lamizana (president, 1966-80), Upper Volta enjoyed more civil liberties than most other African countries. It had a civilian legislature from 1970 to early 1974 and again from 1978 to 1980, when renewed union pressures and military impatience with squabbling civilian politicians led to a coup.
A politicized officer corps mounted new coups in 1982 and 1983, when Capt. Thomas Sankara and a young, radical officer group seized power and sought to revolutionize society. Common people were encouraged to create Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) in cities and villages in order to build schools and clinics, run local cooperatives, and exercise local power.
The CDRs and Sankara sought to divert funds from the costly urban civil service to rural development, and Sankara came to symbolize popular democracy. A border conflict with Mali that sparked military confrontations was settled amicably in 1986.
Disputes among the ruling group led to Sankara's assassination by his deputy, Capt. Blaise Compaore, in October 1987. This act and the new military government provoked popular revulsion and anger.
Marxism-Leninism was abandoned as the official ideology. A new constitution approved by voters in June 1991 reduced the powers of the presidency and provided for direct multiparty elections. Campaore and his party won the presidential election of December 1991 and held the nation's first legislative elections in 14 years, held May 1992.