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French Upper Volta

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Upper Volta
Constituent of French West Africa

Flag of Upper Volta

Dark green: French Upper Volta
Light green: French West Africa
Dark gray: Other French possessions
Darkest gray: French Republic
La Marseillaise
DemonymUpper Voltese
• 1948–1953
Albert Mouragues
• 1957–1958
Yvon Bourges
• 1958
Max Berthet (acting)
• 1957–1958
Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly
• 1958
Maurice Yaméogo
Historical eraInterwar · Cold War
• Established
1 March 1919
• Abolished
5 September 1932
• Reestablished
4 September 1947
• Autonomy
11 December 1958
5 August 1960
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Upper Senegal and Niger
Côte d'Ivoire
French Sudan
Colony of Niger
Republic of Upper Volta
Today part ofBurkina Faso
a. President of the Government Council.
Upper Volta stamp of 1931, marking the Paris Colonial Exhibition
Threshing African rice in Banfora Department, 1931

Upper Volta (French: Haute-Volta) was a colony of French West Africa established in 1919 in the territory occupied by present-day Burkina Faso. It was formed from territories that had been part of the colonies of Upper Senegal and Niger and the Côte d'Ivoire.[1] The colony was dissolved on 5 September 1932, with parts being administered by the Côte d'Ivoire, French Sudan and the Colony of Niger.

After World War II, on 4 September 1947, the colony was revived as a part of the French Union, with its previous boundaries. On 11 December 1958, it was reconstituted as the self-governing Republic of Upper Volta within the French Community, and two years later on 5 August 1960, it attained full independence. On 4 August 1984, the name was changed to Burkina Faso.

The name Upper Volta indicates that the country contains the upper part of the Volta River. The river is divided into three parts, called the Black Volta, White Volta and Red Volta.


Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa at a dispensary in Toma, 1920s

Until the end of the 19th century, the history of Upper Volta was dominated by the empire-building Mossi/Mossi Kingdoms, who are believed to have come up to their present location from present-day northern Ghana. For centuries, the Mossi peasant was both farmer and soldier, and the Mossi people were able to defend their religious beliefs and social structure against forcible attempts to convert them to Islam by Muslims from the northwest.[2]

When the French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, Mossi resistance ended with the capture of their capital at Ouagadougou. In 1919, certain provinces from Upper Senegal and Niger were united into a separate colony called the Upper Volta in the French West Africa federation. In 1932, the new colony was dismembered in a move to economise;[3] it was reconstituted in 1937 as an administrative division called the Upper Coast. After World War II, the Mossi renewed their pressure for separate territorial status and on 4 September 1947, Upper Volta became a French West African territory again in its own right.

The indigenous population was highly discriminated against. For example, African children were not allowed to ride bicycles or pick fruit from trees, "privileges" reserved for the children of colonists. Violating these regulations could land parents in jail.[4]

A revision in the organisation of French overseas territories began with the passage of the Basic Law (Loi Cadre) of 23 July 1956. This act was followed by reorganisational measures approved by the French parliament early in 1957 that ensured a large degree of self-government for individual territories. Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French community on 11 December 1958.[2][5]

Upper Volta achieved independence on 5 August 1960.[2] The first president, Maurice Yaméogo, was the leader of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV). The 1960 constitution provided for election by universal suffrage of a president and a national assembly for five year terms; however, soon after coming to power, Yaméogo banned all political parties other than the UDV.[6]

Colonial governors[edit]

Lieutenant Governors (1919–1932)[edit]

Governors (1947–1958)[edit]

High Commissioners (1958–1960)[edit]

People born in French Upper Volta[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Discoverfrance.net
  2. ^ a b c "Upper Volta". Background Notes. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communications. 1979. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Skinner, E.P. (1989). The Mossi of Burkina Faso: chiefs, politicians and soldiers. Waveland Press Inc.
  4. ^ Figures de la révolution africaine, de Kenyatta à Sankara, La Découverte, 2014, pp. 271-288.
  5. ^ "4 AFRICAN STATES ATTAIN FREEDOM; France Gives Independence to Ivory Coast, Niger, Dahomey and Volta". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  6. ^ Benin, The Congo, Burkina Faso, Politics, Economics and Society, 1989, Joan Baxter and Keith Somerville, Pinter Publishers, London and New York, (Book)