Note: Africa // Mittelholzer-ouagadougou // Burkina Faso Map
October 2014 protests
Starting on 28 October 2014 protesters began to march and demonstrate in Ouagadougou against President Blaise Compaore who appeared ready to amend the constitution and extend his 27-year rule. On 30 October, some protesters set fire to the parliament and took over the national TV headquarters. Ouagadougou International Airport was closed and MPs suspended the vote on changing the constitution to allow Compaoré to stand for re-election in 2015. Later in the day, the military dissolved all government institutions and set a curfew.
On 31 October 2014, President Compaoré, facing mounting pressure, resigned after 27 years in office. Lt. Col. Isaac Zida said that he would lead the country during its transitional period before the planned 2015 presidential election but there were concerns over his close ties to the former president. In November 2014 opposition parties, civil society groups and religious leaders adopted a plan for a transitional authority to guide Burkina Faso to elections. Under the plan Michel Kafando was made the transitional President of Burkina Faso and Lt. Col. Zida became the acting Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
2015 coup d'état
In September 2015, the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP) seized the country's president and prime minister, and declared the National Council for Democracy the new national government. However, on 22 September 2015, the coup leader, Gilbert Diendéré, apologized and promised to restore the civilian government. On 23 September 2015, the prime minister and interim president were restored to power.
November 2015 election
General elections were held in Burkina Faso on 29 November 2015. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré won the election in the first round with 53.5% of the vote, defeating businessman Zéphirin Diabré who took 29.7%. Kaboré was sworn in as President on 29 December 2015.
Government and politics
The constitution of 2 June 1991 established a semi-presidential government: its parliament could be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who was to be elected for a term of seven years. In 2000, the constitution was amended to reduce the presidential term to five years and set term limits to two, preventing successive re-election. The amendment took effect during the 2005 elections. If passed beforehand, it would have prevented Compaoré from being reelected.
Other presidential candidates challenged the election results. But in October 2005, the constitutional council ruled that, because Compaoré was the sitting president in 2000, the amendment would not apply to him until the end of his second term in office. This cleared the way for his candidacy in the 2005 election. On 13 November 2005, Compaoré was reelected in a landslide, because of a divided political opposition.
In the 2010 Presidential elections, President Compaoré was re-elected. Only 1.6 million Burkinabés voted, out of a total population 10 times that size.
The 2011 Burkinabè protests were a series of popular protests that called for the resignation of Compaoré, democratic reforms, higher wages for troops and public servants and economic freedom. As a result, Governors were replaced and wages for public servants were raised.
The parliament consisted of one chamber known as the National Assembly which had 111 seats with members elected to serve five-year terms. There was also a constitutional chamber, composed of ten members, and an economic and social council whose roles were purely consultative. The 1991 constitution created a bicameral parliament but the upper house (Chamber of Representatives) was abolished in 2002.
The Compaoré administration had worked to decentralize power by devolving some of its powers to regions and municipal authorities. But the widespread distrust of politicians and lack of political involvement by many residents complicated this process. Critics described this as a hybrid decentralisation.
Political freedoms are severely restricted in Burkina Faso. Human rights organizations had criticised the Compaoré administration for numerous acts of state-sponsored violence against journalists and other politically active members of society.
In mid-September 2015 the Kafando government, along with the rest of the post-October 2014 political order, was temporarily overthrown in a coup attempt by the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP). They installed Gilbert Diendéré as chairman of the new National Council for Democracy. On 23 September 2015, the prime minister and interim president were restored to power. The national elections were subsequently rescheduled for 29 November.
Kaboré won the election in the first round of voting, receiving 53.5% of the vote against 29.7% for the second place candidate, Zephirin Diabré. He was sworn in as President on 29 December 2015.
The army consists of some 6,000 men in voluntary service, augmented by a part-time national People's Militia composed of civilians between 25 and 35 years of age who are trained in both military and civil duties. According to Jane’s Sentinel Country Risk Assessment, Burkina Faso's Army is undermanned for its force structure and poorly equipped, but has wheeled light-armour vehicles, and may have developed useful combat expertise through interventions in Liberia and elsewhere in Africa.
In terms of training and equipment, the regular Army is believed to be neglected in relation to the élite Regiment of Presidential Security (French: Régiment de la Sécurité Présidentielle – RSP). Reports have emerged in recent years of disputes over pay and conditions. There is an air force with some 19 operational aircraft, but no navy, as the country is landlocked. Military expenses constitute approximately 1.2% of the nation’s GDP.
Burkina Faso employs numerous police and security forces, generally modeled after organizations used by French police. France continues to provide significant support and training to police forces. The Gendarmerie Nationale is organized along military lines, with most police services delivered at the brigade level. The Gendarmerie operates under the authority of the Minister of Defence, and its members are employed chiefly in the rural areas and along borders.
There is a municipal police force controlled by the Ministry of Territorial Administration; a national police force controlled by the Ministry of Security; and an autonomous Regiment of Presidential Security (Régiment de la Sécurité Présidentielle, or RSP), a ‘palace guard’ devoted to the protection of the President of the Republic. Both the gendarmerie and the national police are subdivided into both administrative and judicial police functions; the former are detailed to protect public order and provide security, the latter are charged with criminal investigations.
All foreigners and citizens are required to carry photo ID passports, or other forms of identification or risk a fine, and police spot identity checks are commonplace for persons traveling by auto, bush-taxi, or bus.
Geography and climate
It is made up of two major types of countryside. The larger part of the country is covered by a peneplain, which forms a gently undulating landscape with, in some areas, a few isolated hills, the last vestiges of a Precambrian massif. The southwest of the country, on the other hand, forms a sandstone massif, where the highest peak, Ténakourou, is found at an elevation of 749 meters (2,457 ft). The massif is bordered by sheer cliffs up to 150 m (492 ft) high. The average altitude of Burkina Faso is 400 m (1,312 ft) and the difference between the highest and lowest terrain is no greater than 600 m (1,969 ft). Burkina Faso is therefore a relatively flat country.
The country owes its former name of Upper Volta to three rivers which cross it: the Black Volta (or Mouhoun), the White Volta (Nakambé) and the Red Volta (Nazinon). The Black Volta is one of the country's only two rivers which flow year-round, the other being the Komoé, which flows to the southwest. The basin of the Niger River also drains 27% of the country's surface.
The Niger's tributaries – the Béli, Gorouol, Goudébo, and Dargol – are seasonal streams and flow for only four to six months a year. They still can flood and overflow, however. The country also contains numerous lakes – the principal ones are Tingrela, Bam, and Dem. The country contains large ponds, as well, such as Oursi, Béli, Yomboli, and Markoye. Water shortages are often a problem, especially in the north of the country.
Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons. In the rainy season, the country receives between 60 and 90 cm (23.6 and 35.4 in) of rainfall; in the dry season, the harmattan – a hot dry wind from the Sahara – blows. The rainy season lasts approximately four months, May/June through September, and is shorter in the north of the country. Three climatic zones can be defined: the Sahel, the Sudan-Sahel, and the Sudan-Guinea. The Sahel in the north typically receives less than 60 cm (23.6 in) of rainfall per year and has high temperatures, 5–47 °C (41–117 °F).
A relatively dry tropical savanna, the Sahel extends beyond the borders of Burkina Faso, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean, and borders the Sahara to its north and the fertile region of the Sudan to the South. Situated between 11°3' and 13°5' north latitude, the Sudan-Sahel region is a transitional zone with regards to rainfall and temperature. Further to the south, the Sudan-Guinea zone receives more than 90 cm (35.4 in) of rain each year and has cooler average temperatures.