Thomas Sankara

Maurice Yameogo, Upper Volta's first president, proved to be an autocratic ruler more adept at consolidating his own power than managing the challenges of the fledgling state. Between 1966 and 1982 Upper Volta suffered a cycle of coups and counter-coups and the country stagnated. In November 1982 Captain Thomas Sankara, an ambitious young left-wing military star, seized power.

Over the next four years 'Thom Sank' (as he was popularly known) recast the country. He changed its name to Burkina Faso (meaning 'Land of the Incorruptible'), restructured the economy to promote self-reliance in rural areas, launched literacy and immunisation drives and tackled corruption with rare zeal.

The economy improved, financial books were kept in good order and people developed a genuine pride in their country. In December 1985 Sankara engaged the country in a five-day war with Mali, which merely enhanced his appeal among ordinary Burkinab├ęs.

Despite his popularity, in late 1987 a group of junior officers seized power; Sankara was taken outside Ouagadougou and shot.

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