Burkina Faso is home to more than 60 ethnic groups, each speaking its own language. Some of these peoples, such as the Bobo, Bissa, Gourounsi and Dogon, were living in the area as early as the 12th century. Between the 13th and 15th centuries the Mossi rode North with their cavalry to establish new kingdoms which came to dominate the region. Others, such as the Fulani herders of the north and the Gourma in the East, moved in to complete the mosaic of peoples which make up the country today.
The Mossi are famous for having the longest continuous royal dynasty in West Africa, dating back over 500 years. In 1896 the French invaded and ousted Naaba Wobgo, known as the Elephant Emperor, and the area became part of French West Africa. In 1919 Upper Volta was created, with borders similar to those of Burkina Faso today. After the Second World War (1939-45) political activity intensified throughout French West and Equatorial Africa, and the first modern political parties began to emerge. Maurice Yaméogo led the country into independence on 5 August 1960, and became its first President.
Since 1960 there have been five coups, and political power has passed back and forth between civilian and military governments. In 1983 Captain Thomas Sankara led a successful military coup and established a reforming government which gave the country its current name. Sankara was killed in a revolt led by his second-in-command, Captain Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré became the new President, a position which was confirmed in the 1991 election, when he was the only candidate. He was re-elected in 1998.
Photo for Oxfam GB by Crispin Hughes
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