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Burkina Faso is a West African country surrounded by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, its widest border being with Mali to the north and northwest. Previously known as the Republic of Upper Volta, the country became Burkina Faso in 1984.

Like other parts of Africa, Burkina Faso is made up of several ethnic groups. About half the country is Mossi, a Voltaic group who migrated from northern Ghana around 1100 AD. The second largest group are the Fulani, a nomadic tribe that was partly responsible for the spread of Islam throughout West Africa. Minority groups include Bobo, Gurunsi, Lobi, Mande, and Senufo. The predominant religion is Islam, often mixed with traditional beliefs. The official language is French, but the most commonly spoken language is Mossi and other native languages.

Formerly under French control, Burkina Faso became independent in 1960, after which it has faced several political and civil disorders, including assassinations and coups. Political freedoms are restricted in Burkina Faso, and state-sponsored violence against journalists and members of political opposition groups are common. Police identity checks are routine for people traveling in the country by car, bus, or taxi.

Burkina Faso is among the poorest countries in the world. Its people survive largely by subsistence raising of livestock. Sorghum, pearl millet, corn, peanuts, rice, and cotton are also grown. The country does have copper, gold, iron, manganese, and other ores which are mined, providing employment for some of its people, but a large percentage of the country's economy comes from international aid.

The land that is now northwestern Burkina Faso was populated as early as 14,000 BC, according to archaeologists, and agriculture was practiced around 3,000 BC. Southwestern Burkina Faso was inhabited by an Iron-Age civilization known as the Bura. The Mossi came to eastern Burkina Faso between 700 and 1000 AD. During the Middle Ages, they established separate kingdoms. The Mossi invaded Timbuktu between 1328 and 1338, but were defeated by the Songhai in 1483. During the early 1500s, the Songhai carried out several slave raids into Burkina Faso.

Beginning in the early 1890s, there were attempts to claim portions of Burkina Faso by the British, French, and Germans. Burkina Faso became a French protectorate in 1896, although the eastern and western parts of the region weren't under French control until 1897 due to a stand-off with Samori Ture, the Muslim leader of the Wassoulou Empire. Its current borders were established in 1898. French control of the region was tenuous, as local tribes and political powers vied for the territory over a period of several years.

By 1904, the mostly pacified region were integrated into the colony of French West Africa, and the language of government and education became French. People from Burkina Faso were drafted into French military service during World War I. However, while the French were engaged in the World War, the Volta-Bani War began. This rebellion against colonial occupation took place in what is now Burkina Faso as well as in Mali, lasting between 1915 and 1917. Numbering as many as 20,000, the insurgents fought on several fronts. After several setbacks, French forces jailed or executed the leaders of the insurgency.

The Volta-Bani War was the impetus for the establishment of French Upper Volta. Fearing a renewal of the uprising, the French split the region now known as Burkina Foso from Upper Senegal and Niger. World War II brought renewed agitation against colonial rule, but the conflict did not reach the level of a war.

In 1958, the French colony was granted the right to self-government as the Republic of Upper Volta, and became an autonomous republic in 1958, with full independence from France achieved in 1960.

Maurice Yaméogo was elected president of the new nation. Soon after taking office, he banned all political parties but his own. After six years of unrest, Yaméogo was deposed in 1966, and that has set the stage for the country's politics. The last coup attempt was in 2015.

Burkina Faso is a member of the African Union and the United Nations, and has retained good relations with France, which holds influence within its government.

 

 

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