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What you need to know about Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

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Security forces retake Burkina Faso hotel

Authorities in Burkina Faso clear the Splendid Hotel in the capital, a day after al-Qaeda fighters seized it in an assault that killed two dozen people.

In 1960, Burkina Faso gained its independence from France and, while several languages are spoken throughout the country, French remains the official language.

Since independence, the country has undergone many governmental changes, which include several coups, and has primarily been ruled by the military.

People throw pamphlets with the face of Burkina Faso presidential candidate Roch Marc Christian Kabore from the MPP ...
People throw pamphlets with the face of Burkina Faso presidential candidate Roch Marc Christian Kabore from the MPP party during a rally in Ouagadougou last November.  Photo: AP

With a population of more than 17 million, it is ranked by the United Nations as one of the world's least developed countries.

In 2014, there was a popular uprising against long-time leader Blaise Compaore, whose regime was toppled after 27 years in power, when he tried to introduce a law to extend the presidential term limit.

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Compaore had risen to power after serving as minister of state under president Thomas Sankara (served 1984 -1987). Sankara and 12 other officials were killed in insoluble circumstances by a group of soldiers.

During these 27 years, unrest increased steadily with several violent protests in the capital city, Ouagadougou, due to economic trouble, the high cost of living and concerns over presidential power and term limits.

After the resignation of Compaore, Burkina Faso was placed in a state of transitional government until presidential elections were held last Decembe, when Roch Marc Christian Kabore was elected president in what was widely believed to have been the first free vote in the country in decades. 

On Friday, the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou was attacked by suspected Islamist militants, with an estimated 28 people killed.