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Burkina Faso Observes Revolution Day

Revolution Day is a public holiday in Burkina Faso.

1966 Revolution Day: January 3

1966 Revolution Day is a public holiday in Burkina Faso.

The Republic of Upper Volta, now known as Burkina Faso, went through many changes after its establishment as a self-governing French colony in 1958. On December 11, 1959, Maurice Yaméogo became president of the colony, and soon after, he declared its independence from France. Over the next five years, Yaméogo’s actions caused great disapproval among citizens, leading to his ousting on January 3, 1966.

This day is still celebrated every year and is known as Revolution Day, 1966 Revolution Day, or Anniversary of the 1966 Coup d’État.

History of 1966 Revolution Day in Burkina Faso

After Maurice Yaméogo declared the Republic of Upper Volta as independent on August 5, 1960, he began work on a new constitution that would give greater presidential powers and create a single-chambered parliament, yet still allow for multiple political parties. The constitution was approved by voters on November 27, and Yaméogo was elected officially as the president under the new constitution on December 8.

However, Yaméogo didn’t wait long to change his political policy, imposing a one-party system later that month, without changing the constitution. When officials complained, Yaméogo had them arrested. The Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) party was declared as “[t]he only party that legislates in Upper Volta…”

This change, coupled with the mass organization of the RDA across all institutions great and small, brought strict controls of Upper Volta to Yaméogo and the RDA. State employees were given large salaries and unsupervised control of many aspects of the government as part of a means to “buy” a strong base of supporters.

Only the trade unions had any real power against the authoritarian government, applying unified pressure against Yaméogo’s practices. Annoyed, Yaméogo’s National Assembly put a ban on strikes and placed limitations on the rights of workers on April 24, 1964.

It wasn’t long before deficits in the budget were common, and the government had to resort to borrowing from France and Ghana. The authenticity of the loans taken out from Ghana was disputed, and they were never repaid. France cut off financial support when it closed its military base, causing even greater problems in balancing the budget.

Subsidies to schools and benefits given to families were cut, adding to the discontent of the poorer people of the Volta. At the same time, luxury spending by Yaméogo on a second presidential palace and a second marriage, accompanied by a measles epidemic, put public tensions on edge. A sham presidential re-election in October 1965 ratcheted the disdain even higher.

On December 27, Yaméogo put forward a new budget that significantly reduced spending in order to pay back numerous debts. Civil servants saw their salaries cut by as much as 20 percent and social security payments were reduced. The trade unions rebelled.

On December 31, trade leaders called for a strike to be held on January 3. Military personnel began surrounding the offices of union leaders that night, attacking with tear gas. Furious, Yaméogo ordered his trade union opponents arrested as supporters of communism on January 1. Undeterred, mass protests were held as planned on January 3, 1966. Rather than being deterred by the military presence, protesters began chanting slogans, encouraging the military to rebel against its leaders. Lt. Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana stepped up at the request of the trade unions and forced Yaméogo from power though a coup d’état, finally putting an end to his regime.

Burkina Faso’s 1966 Revolution Day Traditions, Customs and Activities

The actions taken by Lamizana, the trade unions, and the military in ousting the inept Yaméogo regime is remembered every January 3 with historical presentations and speeches by government officials.

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