Unlike most West African states, Burkina Faso, or at least the geographical area was not affected by European colonialists until the 19th Century. Prior to that time the Bura people lived a largely nomadic life followed by the Mossi people from medieval times until the nineteenth century.
In 1896 the French arrived in the area and by 1919 parts of Cote d’Ivoire were added to what was then the French Upper Volta to form the French West African Federation. By 1947 the Upper Volta was free of the additional provinces and became a French West African country in its own right once more.
In 1958 the Upper Volta became an autonomous republic and on 5th August 1960 the country became a fully independent republic. From then on the country was to experience a series of coups and military regimes.
It started well enough; with Maurice Yaméogo becoming the first president of Upper Volta as the head of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV) (today the party is part of the main opposition Alliance for Democracy and Federation – African Democratic Rally (ADF/RDA)). After coming to power Yaméogo banned all other political parties except for the UDV.
Although he was re-elected in 1965, with 100% of the vote, Yaméogo was deposed in a military coup in 1966. The coup was led by Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana who ran a provisional military government until 1978 when he was elected as president following a change in the constitution the year before.
Lamizana was elected as an independent with 56.3% of the vote but was then deposed in a bloodless coup in 1980 by Colonel Saye Zerbo who ran the country through the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress.
Zerbo was, in turn, overthrown by Major Dr. Jean-Baptiste Onédraogo and the Council of popular Salvation (CSP) in 1982 but following factional infighting he too was overthrown by leftist Captain Thomas Sankara supported by Captain Blaise Compaoré in 1983.
In 1983 the Republic of Upper Volta changed its name to the Republic of Burkina Faso.
In 1985 there was a brief war with Mali and on 15th October 1987 Sankara was assassinated in a coup instigated by his close friend Blaise Compaoré. Many people look back at the period of Sankara as a golden age and one where there was redistribution of land, reduced corruption and the country became nearly self-sufficient in food. A s a result a number of political parties today describe themselves as Sakarist.
In 1991 a new constitution was introduced forming an Assembly of People’s Deputies (now the National Assembly) with 107 seats (it went up to 111 seats for many years and in the 2012 elections was increased once more to 127 seats) and multiple parties.
Blaise Compaoré and his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) has ruled ever since. The CDP was the winning party in the 1997, 2002 and 2007 elections whilst Blaise Compaoré won the 1991 election with 100%, the 1998 election with 87.5%, the 2005 election with 80.38% and the 2010 presidential election with 80.2% of the vote.
A change in the constitution in 2005 introduced the requirement for a president to serve two terms only and reduced the terms from seven to five years.
In 2011 there was large scale civil unrest and an uprising by the army, all were put down or individual disputes settled but it has left a feeling of a country on the edge of further unrest. In April 2012 elections were announced for 2nd December to the National Assembly and municipalities.
The President is elected for a five year term with a second consecutive term permitted.
The National Assembly is a unicameral chamber with 111 members (127 from December 2012) elected for five years.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Burkina Faso at joint 72nd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 42 (where 100 is least corrupt).