Chantal Compaoré

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Chantal Compaoré
Chantal Compaoré.jpg
Former First Lady of Burkina Faso
In office
15 October 1987 – 30 October 2014
President Blaise Compaoré
Preceded by Mariam Sankara
Personal details
Spouse(s) Blaise Compaoré (m. 1985)

Chantal Compaoré, born Chantal Terrasson de Fougères is the Franco-Ivorian wife of former President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso. Born in the Ivory Coast, after becoming the First Lady in 1987 she spent much of her time on charity work in Burkina Faso. Her husband, who came to power in a bloody 1987 military coup, was overthrown in the 2014 Burkinabé uprising. Chantal Compaoré was subsequently forced to flee to her home country, going into exile together with her husband.


Early life[edit]

Chantal Compaoré was born Chantal Terrasson de Fougères, in the Ivory Coast. Her parents were Simone Vicens, who had roots in French Upper Volta (current Burkina Faso) and Dr. Jean Terrasson Kourouma, the extramarital son of the French colonial administrator Jean Henri Terrasson de Fougères, who served for many years as Governor of French Sudan.[1][2] Her family were closely related to that of Félix Houphouët-Boigny,[3] the country's first President from 1960 until his death in 1993, who maintained policies of strong anti-communism and close relations with the former colonial power France, leading Ivory Coast as a single-party state. Some sources have alleged that Chantal was actually the daughter of Houphouët-Boigny, who fathered a child out of wedlock in 1961.[4]

She met Captain Blaise Compaoré, at the time serving as Minister of State for Justice of Burkina Faso, on 15 January 1985, when the young military officer visited the Ivorian capital Abidjan and President Houphouët-Boigny. Compaoré had been a part of the Burkinabé government for one and a half years, since he launched a military coup against Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo in what was then the Republic of Upper Volta on 4 August 1983 together with other members of the "Communist Officer's Group". After the coup he put his close friend Captain Thomas Sankara in the position of President. The two had previously been involved in the 1980 coup against Saye Zerbo.

Blaise and Chantal married on 29 June 1985, five months after first meeting. According to most sources, the marriage had been arranged in one way or another by President Houphouët-Boigny, who wanted an ally within the revolutionary left-wing government of Burkina Faso, with which he frequently clashed at the time.[5][6] According to Dr. Valère Somé, one-time Minister of Higher Education and Research and a prominent ideologue of Sankara's "Democratic and Popular Revolution", Chantal Compaoré clashed with the President, once publicly referring to his "pretend revolution" during a dinner party after not being allowed by Sankara to serve him champagne.[7]

First Lady[edit]

On 15 October 1987, after growing tensions between the two, Thomas Sankara was gunned down in a military coup orchestrated by Blaise Compaoré. President Félix Houphouët-Boigny was heavily involved in the coup, and there was possible French involvement.[8][9] Blaise took the position of President, making Chantal the First Lady of Burkina Faso. Her predecessor, Mariam Sankara, fled the country with her two sons. President Compaoré would soon retract most of the many reforms made by Sankara.

Not long afterwards, Désirée "Daisy" Delafosse – the widow of Adolphus Tolbert, "foster-sister" of Chantal and god-daughter of President Houphouët-Boigny – arrived in Burkina Faso. Her husband was the son of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. of Liberia and had been murdered in 1980 by the forces of Samuel Doe, who killed the older Tolbert in a coup. Her presence in the presidential entourage, and the close connections between Houphouët-Boigny and the Compaorés, was a contributing factor in the very cold Liberian-Burkinabé relations during the following years, as well as Burkina Faso's military involvement in the First Liberian Civil War, on the side of Blaise's close friend Charles Taylor.[10][6][11]

Blaise Compaoré would go on to hold the Burkinabé presidency for 27 years, gradually transitioning it from a pure military dictatorship to a multi-party state, rated an "authoritarian regime" in 2012 by the Democracy Index,[12] with restricted political freedoms, political corruption, and cases of state-sponsored violence, among other things. The country also remained one of the poorest and most undeveloped in the world. First Lady Chantal Compaoré spent much of her husband's presidency engaging in charity, domestically and abroad, for example founding the Burkina Association for the Protection of Children in 1989, later renamed the Suka Foundation in 1997, which works primarily with aiding children through healthcare, housing and education improvements.[13] In 2002 her foundation and that of Chantal Biya, First Lady of Cameroon, joined together in a campaign to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.[14]

First Lady Compaoré also travelled extensively abroad, sometimes together with the President on official diplomatic state visits, such as visiting the White House and meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in August 2014.[15] She also wrote extensively on human development issues, for example publishing a 2009 editorial in The Guardian, praising President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda for their stances on female genital mutilation and calling for more work to be done against the practice in Africa.[16]


During his presidency, Blaise Compaoré faced many challenges from an increasingly dissatisifed and tense population, prominently the 2011 Burkinabé protests which saw several months of army mutinies, street protests, labour strikes, arson attacks, and so on. Blaise Compaoré briefly fled the capital of Ouagadougou, taking shelter in his hometown Ziniaré – it is unknown if his wife followed him there.[17] The protests were quelled by a combination of force, but marked a turning point in the decade-long Compoaré regime.

On 28 October 2014, after President Compaoré tried to lift the constitutional limit on his presidential terms ahead of the coming election in 2014, the 2014 Burkinabé uprising broke out. Mass protests erupted once more, partially inspired by the memory of Thomas Sankara, with the military eventually deciding to take charge of the situation. On 31 October 2014 Blaise Compaoré resigned his presidency, subsequently meaning Chantal was no longer First Lady of the country, and the two fled the country. Initially it was reported that the former President had fled to Senegal,[18] which was later disproven. It was them reported that a heavily armed convoy believed to be carrying Compaoré was traveling towards the southern town of , where he had started the 1983 military coup.[19] However, it diverted before reaching the town and he then fled to Ivory Coast with the support of President Alassane Ouattara.[20]

Soon after their arrival, Radio France Internationale managed to arrange a first interview with Chantal Compaoré following her departure from Burkina Faso, held during a secret meeting. The now former First Lady had arrived in Yamoussoukro before her husband, and had initially waited for him at Korhogo near the Burkinabé-Ivorian border.[21]The couple now face an uncertain future, with many in Burkina Faso – among them Mariam Sankara, who returned from exile in 2007[22] – calling for Blaise to be prosecuted.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bejot, Jean-Pierre (9 June 2011). "Faut-il que l’Afrique ne se rassemble jamais qu’autour de ses morts et se divise autour des vivants?". Le Faso (in French). Ouagadougou. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Diasso, Ernest (1 August 2008). "Blaise & Chantal – M. Carpe et Mme Lapin à Ouagadougou". Courrier International (in French). Paris. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  3. ^ African Studies Review. United States: African Studies Association. 41: 22. 1998.  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  4. ^ Mwagiru, Ciugu (14 February 2014). "For these African leaders blood is indeed thicker than water" (PDF). Daily Nation. Nairobi. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Hugeux, Vincent (2014). Reines d'Afrique, le roman vrai des Premières Dames (in French). France: EDI8 - PLON. ISBN 226-204-752-9. 
  6. ^ a b Pham, John-Peter (2005). Child Soldiers, Adult Interests: The Global Dimensions of the Sierra Leonean Tragedy. Hauppauge: Nova Publishers. pp. 81–2. ISBN 159-454-671-1. 
  7. ^ Ouattara, Vincent (2014). L'Ere Compaoré: Politique, crimes et gestion du pouvoir (in French). France: Editions Publibook. p. 26. ISBN 234-202-414-2. 
  8. ^ Andiramirando, Sennen (4 November 1997). "Le complot était ourdi depuis longtemps". Jeune Afrique (in French). Paris. pp. 14–19. 
  9. ^ Wilkins, Michael (July 1989). "The Death of Thomas Sankara and the Rectification of the People's Revolution in Burkina Faso". African Affairs. Oxford University Press. 88 (352): 375–388. ISSN 1468-2621. JSTOR 722692. OCLC 84360520. 
  10. ^ Ellis, Stephen (1999). The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War. London: C. Hurst & Co. pp. 66–67. ISBN 185-065-401-8. 
  11. ^ Adebajo, Adekeye (2002). Liberia's Civil War: Nigeria, ECOMOG, and Regional Security in West Africa. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 158-826-052-6. 
  12. ^ "Democracy index 2012: Democracy at a standstill" (PDF). Economist Intelligence Unit. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Salifou, Soumanou. "One-on-one with Burkina’s First Lady Chantal Compaore". The African. United States. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Kabore, Aimée Florentine; Some, Yelkoussan Bertrand (20 September 2004). "Jumelage entre deux fondations: Chantal Compaoré et Chantal Biya unissent leurs efforts". Le Faso (in French). Ouagadougou. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Greet His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and Mrs. Chantal Compaoré". United States Department of State. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Compaoré, Chantal (8 November 2009). "Rid the world of female genital mutilation". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Compaoré returns to capital after soldiers mutiny". Radio France Internationale. Paris. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  18. ^ Patinkin, Jason (30 October 2014). "Could Burkina Faso protests signal end of president's 27-year rule?". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "Burkina Faso general takes over as Compaore resigns". British Broadcasting Corporation. London. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  20. ^ Flynn, Daniel (1 November 2014). "Former Burkina president Compaore arrives in Ivory Coast - sources". Reuters. London. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Le couple Compaoré en Côte d'Ivoire, le frère de l'ex-président au Bénin". Radio France Internationale (in French). Paris. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Démission de Blaise Compaoré : Mariam Sankara exulte". (in French). Ouagadougou. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.