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Blaise Compaoré

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Blaise Compaoré
Compaoré in 2014 at the White House
2nd President of Burkina Faso
In office
15 October 1987 – 31 October 2014
Prime Minister
Preceded byThomas Sankara
Succeeded byHonoré Traoré (as transitional head of state)
Personal details
Born (1951-02-03) 3 February 1951 (age 73)
Ziniaré, Upper Volta, French West Africa[1]
  • Burkina Faso (formerly)
  • Ivory Coast (2016–)[2]
Political partyCongress for Democracy and Progress
(m. 1985)
RelationsFrançois (brother)
Nickname(s)Handsome Blaise[3]
Military service
Battles/warsAgacher Strip War

Blaise Compaoré (born 3 February 1951)[4][5] is a Burkinabé-Ivorian former politician who served as the second president of Burkina Faso from 1987 to 2014. He was a close associate of the first president, Thomas Sankara, during the 1980s and in October 1987 he led a coup d'état during which Sankara was killed. Subsequently, he introduced a policy of 'rectification', overturning the leftist and Third Worldist policies pursued by Sankara. He won elections in 1991, 1998, 2005, and 2010, in what were considered unfair circumstances.[6][7] His attempt to amend the constitution to extend his 27-year term caused the 2014 Burkinabé uprising. On 31 October 2014, Compaoré resigned, whereupon he fled to the Ivory Coast.[8][9] In April 2022, he was found guilty by a special military tribunal of complicity in Sankara’s murder.[10] He is also the longest-serving president of Burkina Faso.

Early career[edit]

Compaoré was born in Ziniaré, Upper Volta on 3 February 1951.[4][11] His father was a military veteran. He studied at a Catholic school in Fada N'gourma, followed by a Lycée in Ouagadougou. His mother died suddenly when he was 15, followed by the death of his father several years later. Compaoré subsequently became very close to the family of Thomas Sankara, whose father Joseph treated him as his own son. After being expelled from the Lycée, Compaoré underwent basic military training. During his service he decided to pursue a military career, continuing his studies at the Yaoundé Military Academy in Cameroon. There he became acquainted with Henri Zongo and labor union leader Soumane Touré. Following the end of the 1974 Agacher Strip border clashes between Upper Volta and Mali, Compaoré was posted north of Ouahigouya. There he met Thomas Sankara, with whom he developed a close friendship.[12]

Compaoré played a major role in the coups d'état against Saye Zerbo and Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo. He has been married to Chantal Compaoré (née Chantal Terrasson de Fougères) since 1985.

Under Sankara's leadership, which lasted from 1983 to 1987, Compaoré was his deputy[13] and was a member of the National Revolutionary Council.[4] He served as Minister of State at the Presidency[4][5][13] and subsequently as Minister of State for Justice.[5]


Compaoré was involved in the 1983 and 1987 coups, taking power after the second in which his predecessor Sankara was killed. He was elected as the president of Burkina Faso in 1991, in an election that was boycotted by the opposition, and re-elected in 1998, 2005 and 2010.[14]

1983 coup[edit]

On 4 August 1983, Compaoré organized a coup d'état, which deposed Major Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo.[15] The coup d'état was supported by Libya, which was, at the time, on the verge of war with France in Chad.[16] Other key participants were Captain Henri Zongo, Major Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani and the charismatic Captain Thomas Sankara, who was pronounced President.

During the Agacher Strip War with Mali in December 1985, Compaoré commanded Burkinabé soldiers who split into small groups and employed guerrilla tactics against Malian tanks.[17]

1987 coup[edit]

Compaoré took power on 15 October 1987 in a coup during which Sankara was killed.[18] Deteriorating relations with France and the neighboring Ivory Coast was the reason given for the coup. Compaoré described the killing of Sankara as an 'accident', but the circumstances have never been properly investigated.[19] Upon taking the presidency, he reverted many of the policies of Sankara, claiming that his policy was a 'rectification' of the Burkinabé revolution.

He initially ruled in a triumvirate with Henri Zongo and Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani: in September 1989 those two were arrested, charged with plotting to overthrow the government, summarily tried and executed.[20]

First years and 1990s[edit]

Compaoré in India, 1997

In October 1987, Compaoré and many others formed a new political party called the Popular Front, centered around communist, as well as Marxist–Leninist ideals.[21] He pledged to continue pursuing the goals of the revolution, but rectify policies which he saw as deviations of its ultimate goal carried out by Thomas Sankara.[22]

In September of 1989, while Compaoré was returning from a two-week trip to Asia, there were rumors of people plotting to overthrow Compaoré’s government. The plotters would be arrested that same day. This event would lead Compaoré to reorganize the young nations government.

In 1990 Compaoré introduced only limited democratic reforms.[23]

In June 1991, Compaoré announced that Burkina Faso was going to adopt a new constitution.

In the 1990s, Compaoré supported rebels in Sierra Leone during the country's civil War. The war would kill over 45,000 people and last for 11 years.

Compaoré was elected as the president of Burkina Faso in 1991, in an election boycotted by the main opposition parties in protest at the questionable means Compaoré had used to take office in the first place. Only 25 percent of the electorate voted. In 1998, Compaoré was re-elected as president.

Between 1998 and 1999, an insurgency took place over reasons with economic violations in Burkina Faso. Many protests, riots, strikes, rallies and marches took place throughout the country and shocked many people. Many protesters even destroyed government properties or houses. Those events at the time were one of the greatest challenges that Compaoré and his administration faced.[24]


Campaoré in 2003

Compaoré agreed to meet with United Nations supervised bodies to export weapons after allegations that he and his government has been involved in smuggling arms to rebels in Sierra Leone and Angola. Just a week before that, Blaise Compaoré met with German, France, and with a European Union representative. They discussed their concerns that the country had violated the arms embargo against Sierra Leone and Unita rebels and were being accused of it.[25]

In 2003, numerous alleged plotters were arrested, following accusations of a coup plot against Compaoré. A trial would take place in April 2004 in which they were found guilty. Many sympathizers gathered around the court cheering the plotters for their actions.[26]

In August 2005, he announced his intention to contest the next presidential election. Opposition politicians regarded this as unconstitutional due to a constitutional amendment in 2000 limiting a president to two terms and reducing term lengths from seven to five years. Compaoré's supporters disputed this, saying that the amendment could not be applied retroactively,[27] and in October 2005, the constitutional council ruled that because Compaoré was a sitting president in 2000, the amendment would not apply until the end of his second term in office, thereby allowing him to present his candidacy for the 2005 election.

George W. Bush shakes hands with Compaoré, during a meeting in July 2008

On 13 November 2005, Compaoré was re-elected as president, defeating 12 opponents and winning 80.35 percent of the vote. Although sixteen opposition parties announced a coalition to unseat Compaoré early on in the race, ultimately nobody wanted to give up their spot in the race to another leader in the coalition, and the pact fell through.

Following Compaoré's victory, he was sworn in for another term on 20 December 2005.[28]

In 2008 many protests took place because of high living costs and call for wage increases.[29] Compaoré responded by suspending import taxes on products like food for half a year and by increasing commodity for water and electricity.[30]

Spanish Hostages Ransom

Two Spanish aid workers were abducted in November 2009. A hunt was undertaken to find the kidnappers. Just one week before the hostages were freed, Ould Sid Ahmed Ould Hama the kidnapper fled to Mali before he was found and imprisoned for 12 years. It turned out the ransom was paid by Blaise Compaoré, and the hostages were taken to the presidential palace and were given phones. The hostages thanked him for paying the ransom.[31]

Final years in power (2010-2014)[edit]

Compaoré in 2013.

President Compaoré announced an establishment of a new Senate with 89 members and with 29 of the senators who would be selected by the president themselves while the rest chosen by local politicians.[32]

2011 protests[edit]

On 14 April 2011, Compaoré was reported to have fled from the capital Ouagadougou to his hometown of Ziniare after mutineering military bodyguards began a revolt in their barracks reportedly over unpaid allowances.[33] Their actions eventually spread to the presidential compound and other army bases.[33] In the night, gunfire was reported at the presidential compound and an ambulance was seen leaving the compound. Soldiers also looted shops in the city through the night.[34]

2014 uprising[edit]

Protesters marching through the capital.

In June 2014 Compaoré's ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), called on him to organise a referendum that would allow him to alter the constitution in order to seek re-election in 2015. Otherwise, he would be forced to step down due to term limits.[35]

On 30 October 2014, the National Assembly was scheduled to debate an amendment to the constitution that would have enabled Compaoré to stand for re-election as president in 2015. Opponents protested against this by storming the parliament building in Ouagadougou, starting fires inside it and looting offices. Billowing smoke was reported by the BBC to be coming from the building.[36] Opposition spokesman Pargui Emile Paré of the People's Movement for Socialism / Federal Party described the protests as 'Burkina Faso's black spring (sic), like the Arab spring (sic)'.[37]

Compaoré reacted to the events by shelving the proposed constitutional changes, dissolving the government, declaring a state of emergency and offering to work with the opposition to resolve the crisis. Later in the day, the military, under General Honore Traore, announced that it would install a transitional government 'in consultation with all parties' and that the National Assembly was dissolved; he foresaw 'a return to the constitutional order' within a year. He did not make clear what role, if any, he envisioned for Compaoré during the transitional period.[38][39][40] Compaoré said that he was prepared to leave office at the end of the transition.[41]

On 31 October, Compaoré announced he had left the presidency and that there was a 'power vacuum'. He also called for a 'free and transparent' election within 90 days. Presidential guard officer Yacouba Isaac Zida then took over as head of state in an interim capacity. It was reported that a heavily-armed convoy believed to be carrying Compaoré was traveling towards the southern town of .[42] However, it diverted before reaching the town and he then fled to Ivory Coast with the support of President Alassane Ouattara.[43][44][45][46]

A week later, Jeune Afrique published an interview with Compaoré in which he alleged that 'part of the opposition was working with the army' to plot his overthrow and that 'history will tell us if they were right'. He added that he would 'not wish for his worst enemy' to be in Zida's place.[47]

The first head of state that has been in office for more than a short time after Blaise Campaoré is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré as of 29 December 2015.

Liberian Civil War[edit]

Compaoré introduced Charles Taylor to his friend Muammar Gaddafi. Compaoré also helped Taylor in the early 1990s by sending him troops and resources.[48][49]

International and regional roles[edit]

Compaoré with the delegates of Ansar Dine and the MNLA in Ouagadougou on 16 November 2012

In 1993, Compaoré headed the Burkina-Faso delegation that participated in the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development.[50]

Compaoré has been active as a mediator in regional issues.[51] On 26 July 2006, he was designated as the mediator of the Inter-Togolese Dialogue, which was held in Ouagadougou in August 2006[52] and resulted in an agreement between the government and opposition parties.[53] He has also acted as mediator in the crisis in Ivory Coast, brokering the peace agreement signed by the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, and the New Forces leader, Guillaume Soro, in Ouagadougou on 4 March 2007.[54] In March 2012, he acted as a mediator in talks between representatives of the Malian coup d'état and other regional leaders.[55] He hosted talks with them to discuss peace to the conflict.[56]

The BBC noted in 2014 that he was 'the strongest ally to France and the US in the region' and that 'despite his own history of backing rebels and fuelling civil wars in the West African neighbourhood ... more importantly, he used his networks to help Western powers battling Islamist militancy in the Sahel'.[51]

During 2016, the capital was in the grip of a terrorist attack. Jihadists who had suites and tables in town, following agreements with Campaoré of non-aggression. As a result, the military group of the presidential guard received enormous credits while the army was impoverished to avoid any military coup.[57]

He served on the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT) International Advisory Board.

Views on sexuality[edit]

In an interview with the magazine Famille Chrétienne, Compaoré asserted that the notion of sexual abstinence was not a monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church and that European non-governmental organizations that disagreed with traditional morality were profiting from the situation to intervene in regional African affairs.[58]


In April 2021, a military court in Burkina Faso indicted Compaoré in absentia, charging him with the 1987 murder of his immediate predecessor, Thomas Sankara.[59] Another trial against him, on counts of attacking state security, concealing a corpse, and complicity in a murder, began on 11 October 2021.[60] In April 2022, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.[61]



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  12. ^ Peterson 2021, pp. 68–69.
  13. ^ a b "AROUND THE WORLD; New Cabinet Named In Bourkina Fasso", The New York Times, 2 September 1984.
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  15. ^ The date of the 194th anniversary of the Abolition of Feudal Privileges in France may have been chosen for symbolic purposes, but there is no evidence of this.
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  61. ^ Walsh, Declan (6 April 2022). "Ex-Leader of Burkina Faso Convicted in Killing of Thomas Sankara, His Predecessor". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  62. ^ Veney, Cassandra R.; Payne, Richard J. (2001). "Taiwan and Africa: Taipei's Continuing Search for International Recognition". Journal of Asian and African Studies. 36 (4): 447. doi:10.1163/15685210152691972. Given its economic power, Taiwan has generously rewarded its political allies in Africa. For example, in July 1994, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, accompanied by his wife and an entourage of more than twenty officials, visited Taiwan shortly after reestablishing diplomatic relations with Taipei. Compaore was presented with the key to Taipei and President Lee Teng-hui conferred the Order of Brilliant Jade on him in recognition of his contribution to strengthening ties between the two countries.


  • Peterson, Brian (2021). Thomas Sankara: A Revolutionary in Cold War Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253053763.

Further reading[edit]

  • Guion, Jean R. (1991). Blaise Compaoré: Realism and Integrity: Portrait of the Man Behind Rectification in Burkina Faso. Paris: Berger-Levrault International. ISBN 2701310008.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Burkina Faso
Succeeded byas Transitional Head of State
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the African Union
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by