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Revolution in the Land of the Incorruptible: Burkina Faso in 1984


  • TBA

Crisis Manager

  • TBA

The Revolution of 1983 in Burkina Faso is remembered as one of the most optimistic moments in Africa's tempestuous era of decolonization and widespread warfare. Starting as the former French colony of Upper Volta, landlocked and partially covered by the Sahara Desert, the outlook offered little but poverty, coups and oppression. But a coup lead by two leftist visionaries, Army Captains Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré, seemed to change that in 1983. Sankara was more charismatic, attracting widespread support. Compaoré was the more deliberate and careful. As President, in 1984 Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso, 'Land of the upright (or honest) people'. The people of the country responded with enthusiastic support for the projects of the revolutionary government. Its early projects included nation-wide public health reform and universal primary education, establishing women's rights, combatting deforestation, projects to build roads and electrify the country.

Was it too good to be true? Rivalry between the new President and his former collaborator led to deadly tension. Further worsening tension was enormous pressure on the young government to deliver benefits to its supporters, forcing it to rely on loans from foreign lenders, especially from French banks, creating new pressure for better administration and loan servicing. As the revolutionary government came under criticism from marginalized groups, it turned to repressive tactics—including imprisoning critics—and lost its old support. In 1987, Sankara was assassinated in a coup which brought Compaoré to power, where he remained for twenty-seven years. Sankara is recalled today as a political saint, while Compaoré lives in exile .

Starting in 1984, one year after the coup, can revolutionary momentum be maintained? How to avoid the tragic history of Burkina Faso? How can any revolutionary government achieve the goals that bring it to power? Are the enormous tensions of African internal politics incompatible with democratic governance and rule of law? This simulation will find out.

To start: see the documentary 'Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man' (2006), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kItKeYK9D3k

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