Freedom Status: Partly Free
Aggregate Score: 63/100 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free)
Freedom Rating: 3.5/7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Political Rights: 4/7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Civil Liberties: 3/7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 19,000,000
Capital: Ouagadougou
GDP/capita: $590
Press Freedom Status: Partly Free


Political instability in 2014 and 2015 came to an end following multiparty presidential and legislative elections held in late 2015. The elections ushered in a new regime and laid a foundation for the continued development of democratic institutions. Despite extreme poverty, terrorism, and corruption, civil society and the media remain strong forces for democracy and for the respect of civil liberties.

Key Developments in 2016:

  • In January, an unprecedented terrorist attack in the capital, Ouagadougou, killed at least 20 people. Terrorist attacks also increased throughout the year in the northern regions of the country, near the borders with Mali and Niger, where security forces were targeted.

  • Municipal elections were held in May, and won praise from election monitors. The new ruling party, the People's Movement for Progress (MPP), won a majority of the municipal seats.

  • The new MPP government pursued a number of policies outlined in its 2015 electoral campaign. One such proposal aimed to establish a new constitution marking the end of former president Blaise Compaoré's 27-year regime. The government established a Constitutional Commission to draft the new text.

Executive Summary:

Burkina Faso's new government in 2016 worked to implement many of its promised reforms, and ones that had been adopted by the transitional government in 2015. In September, new president Roch Mark Christian Kaboré, who was inaugurated in late 2015, launched a commission responsible for writing a new constitution that would usher in the Fifth Republic of Burkina Faso, and represent a break from the former regime.

Municipal elections held in May 2016 reflected continuing erosion of support for the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), the former ruling party, and increased support for the MPP. Election observers from local civil society groups and international missions noted only minor irregularities in the polls. Separately, in July, new members were appointed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) after previous commissioners' terms expired, reflecting the functionality of the country's electoral framework.

Also during the year, some high-profile members of the former regime were arrested for their involvement in the repression of demonstrations that took place during the popular uprising of 2014. The arrests suggest that the culture of impunity that existed under the former regime may be subsiding; however, police abuses and a disregard for the accused's right to due process remain problematic. Meanwhile, space for demonstrations and protests has opened under the new government; a number of demonstrations took place peacefully in 2016, and public venues previously closed in 2015 ahead of presidential and legislative elections remained open during the municipal elections.

The overall security situation in Burkina Faso deteriorated following a January terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, which left at least 20 people dead. Several smaller attacks, some of which targeted security forces, occurred in the north of the country near the borders with Niger and Mali, both of which were struggling with the presence of extremist insurgent groups.

Women's associations and movements play an important role in Burkinabe politics and society, as evidenced by their involvement in recent civil society activities and elections. Separately, a 2016 study demonstrated that a 1996 law that banned female genital mutilation has prevented over 200,000 girls from being cut.

Explanatory Note:

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Burkina Faso, see Freedom in the World 2016.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.