5th August

2012 Rover lands on Mars – and every year sings Happy Birthday to itself.

Burkina Faso Independence:

Before France conquered it in 1896-7, it was mainly made up of Mossi kingdoms, living in villages and relying on hunting, fishing and farming. In 1904 it became part of French Upper Senegal and Niger. The French built schools and taught everyone French; top students could continue further education in France.

The western bits of Burkina Faso took advantage of WWI to start the Volta-Bani War against France, but lost. In 1919 France separated Burkina Faso from the rest of the Senegal and Niger colony and called it Haute Volta.

Its first governer, François Hesling, built roads and tried to force everyone to grow cotton, but this failed and Burkina Faso was rearranged again, now becoming part of the Cote d’Ivoire, French Sudan and Niger.

After WWI France reversed this again, and re-made Upper Volta as part of its French Union (as opposed to Empire, which was now a dirty word and we were all pretending we had never done such a thing).

On 11 December 1958, it became the Republic of Upper Volta with self-government within the French community. It became fully independent in 1960.

Obviously, like almost every first African leader, the first president, Maurice Yaméogo, ignored the new constitution that allowed everyone to vote every five years, and banned all other political parties.

And inevitably (history seriously repeats itself a LOT), there was a military coup and the actual army was in charge for four years, led by Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana. But he can’t have done a bad job because by the time they got around to actual elections in 1978, he was re-elected. But almost immediately he was deposed by another colonel, and then that one was deposed and the next one and so on and so on.


On 4 August 1984 President Thomas Sankara was in power (following a military coup, yes) and renamed the country using a word from each of the country’s two major native languages: Burkina is Mòoré for ‘men of integrity’, and Faso means ‘fatherland’ in Dioula. So it kind of means ‘Homeland of honest people’.

He also did all kinds of cool stuff, like mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, the expansion of women’s rights, encouragement of national agriculture, and anti-desertification projects, and demanding that the West cancel Africa’s debts.

But he was sadly a military Marxist, set on indoctrinating the youth and killing off anyone who disagreed, so overall he was kind of bad (not that Marxism is bad, but killing people for disagreeing with it definitely is). In 1987 he was killed in a coup d’état led by Compaoré.

Compaoré leads in the best example of capitalism, privatising all the nationalised stuff Sankara had built and becoming immensely rich – while the rest of the country remains entirely undeveloped. He’s still in power now.

Croatia Victory Day and National Thanksgiving Day – see 25th June.


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