Independence Day – Burkina Faso

August 5

Do you do the Ouagadougou?

It’s not the craziest new dance sensation sweeping the nation (though it should be). No, Ouagadougou [pronounced ‘wa-ga-du-gu’] means “place where people get honor and respect.” It was named so by Naba Wubri, a 15th century warrior, but we have the French to thank for its cruel and unusual orthography.

The French captured this capital city and home to the Mossi people in 1896, completing their colonization of the area known as French West Africa. Over the next 50 years the territory merged with and separated from other French territories in West Africa, including Senegal, Nigeria, and the Cote d’Iviore.

In 1958 the self-governing Republic of Upper Volta (today’s Burkina Faso) was formed. President Maurice Yaméogo declared the country’s full independence from France on this day (August 5) in 1960.


Independence Day in Burkino Faso falls just one day after the nation’s Revolution Day, celebrated on August 4.

On August 4, 1983, reformist Thomas Sankara took the reigns of the country, with the help of ally Captain Blaise Compaore, and changed the country’s name from Upper Volta’s to Burkina Faso. It means “land of the men of integrity.”

In its short history as a sovereign nation, Burkina Faso has observed the anniversaries of numerous “Revolution Days”.

Between January 3, 1966 (the coup in which the first president, Yaméogo, was ousted) and October 15, 1987 (Burkina Faso’s last putsch to date), the country had a coup every few years. In 1987, Blaise Campaore overthrew his former ally Thomas Sankara four years after he helped to make him President.

Though implicated in Sankara’s assassination, Compaore has remained president for over 20 years.

Evidently, Campaore knows how to do the Ouagadougou.


1987 Coup

Political Reform in Francophone Africa – by Clark & Gardinier