History of Burkina Faso

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Recent archeological discoveries at Bura in southwest Niger and in adjacent southwest Burkina Faso have documented the existence of the iron-age Bura culture from the 3rd century CE to the 13th century CE. The Bura-Asinda system of settlements apparently covered the lower Niger River valley, including the Boura region of Burkina Faso. But further research is needed to understand the role this early civilization played in the ancient and medieval history of West Africa.

From medieval times until the end of the 19th century, the region of Burkina Faso was ruled by the empire-building Mossi people, who are believed to have come up to their present location from northern Ghana, where there still live the ethnically-related Dagomba people. For several centuries, the Mossi peasant was both a farmer and a soldier; as the Mossi Kingdoms successfully defended their indigenous religious beliefs and social structure against forcible attempts to convert them to Islam by Muslims from the northwest.

French Upper Volta

When the French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, Mossi resistance ended with the capture of their capital at Ouagadougou. In 1919, certain provinces from Côte d'Ivoire were united into the French Upper Volta in the French West Africa federation. In 1932, the new colony was dismembered in a move to economize; it was reconstituted in 1937 as an administrative division called the Upper Coast. After World War II, the Mossi renewed their pressure for separate territorial status and on September 4, 1947, Upper Volta became a French West African territory again in its own right.

A revision in the organization of French Overseas Territories began with the passage of the Basic Law (Loi Cadre) of July 23, 1956. This act was followed by reorganizational measures approved by the French parliament early in 1957 that ensured a large degree of self-government for individual territories. Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French community on December 11, 1958.

The Republic of Upper Volta

The Republic of Upper Volta achieved independence on August 5, 1960. The first president, Maurice Yaméogo, was the leader of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV). The 1960 constitution provided for election by universal suffrage of a president and a national assembly for 5-year terms. Soon after coming to power, Yaméogo banned all political parties other than the UDV. The government lasted until 1966 when after much unrest-mass demonstrations and strikes by students, labor unions, and civil servants-the military intervened.

The military coup deposed Yaméogo, suspended the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and placed Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana at the head of a government of senior army officers. The army remained in power for 4 years, and on June 14, 1970, the Voltans ratified a new constitution that established a 4-year transition period toward complete civilian rule. Lamizana remained in power throughout the 1970s as president of military or mixed civil-military governments. After conflict over the 1970 constitution, a new constitution was written and approved in 1977, and Lamizana was reelected by open elections in 1978.

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