Once one of the most stable nations in West Africa, Burkina Faso has been trapped in spiraling violence since jihadist groups claimed their first attacks, in 2015.
Since then, the landlocked country of 21 million people has faced hundreds of attacks, some carried out by jihadist groups and others by local rebels.
In June, armed assailants killed more than 100 people in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, burning houses and leaving many more injured in one of the deadliest assaults the West African nation had seen in years.
Looming over the country since 1987 has been the assassination of Thomas Sankara, who was the country’s president and a revolutionary leader renowned across Africa.
In October, one of the most highly anticipated trials ever to take place on the continent opened in the capital, Ouagadougou, aiming to establish who killed Mr. Sankara.
Among the 14 men accused of plotting his death is a man once known as his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, who went on to succeed Mr. Sankara as president — and then stayed in power for 27 years. Mr. Compaoré is being tried in absentia; attempts by the government of Burkina Faso to extradite him from Ivory Coast, where he lives in exile, have been unsuccessful.
Mr. Sankara was 37 when he was killed, and already revered in many African countries for speaking out against the vestiges of colonialism and the impact of Western financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“The revolution’s main objective,” Mr. Sankara said not long after taking power, “is to destroy imperialist domination and exploitation.”
He renamed the country from Upper Volta, as France called it, to Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright people” in Moore, the language of the country’s largest ethnic group. Mr. Sankara only stayed in power for four years.
After a year of political turmoil, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was elected president in 2015, then re-elected in 2020. He had a statue erected of Mr. Sankara, and a mausoleum, cinema and media library are also being built in his honor.
But under Mr. Kaboré, life became increasingly desperate for millions in Burkina Faso. Violence caused by bandits, vigilantes and terrorists who claim to be affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State — and military abuses — has left thousands dead and more than a million displaced. And a country that prided itself on tolerance and cooperation has become increasingly polarized politically.