Saturday, 23 May 2015


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Maurice Yaméogo

Maurice Nawalagmba Yaméogo
Yameogo stamp 1960.png
1st President of Upper Volta
In office
August 5, 1960 – January 3, 1966
Preceded byNone (position first established)
Succeeded bySangoulé Lamizana
Personal details
BornDecember 31, 1921
KoudougouUpper Volta (now Burkina Faso)
DiedSeptember 15, 1993 (aged 71)
OuagadougouBurkina Faso
NationalityUpper Voltian
Political partyUnion Démocratique Voltaïque
Spouse(s)Felecite Zagre
Suzanne de Manaco
Maurice Yaméogo (December 31, 1921 – September 15, 1993) was the first President of the Republic of Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso. He proclaimed the independence of the country on August 5, 1960 and also tried (but failed) to create a union between Cote d'Ivoire and Upper Volta. On January 3, 1966, he left the Presidency because of a nation-wide syndicalist strike.

Private life


Maurice Nawalagmba Yaméogo was born on December 31, 1921 in an animist family of farmers at Koudougou. “Nawalagmba”, in Mossi, the most spoken language in Burkina Faso means: “The one coming to unite, to gather the others”. Nawalagmba had a twin sister called Wamanegdo. It is only after his baptism, on July 28, 1929 that he was given the name “Maurice”.[1]


Yaméogo attended the public primary school of his native village. Subsequently, he went to the Small Seminar of Pabrel . Pabre is the institution in which most of Upper-Volta priests were trained. However, during his training, the young Maurice lost his sacerdotal vocation and left Pabre.[2]


Yaméogo wanted to be a priest but he finally left the Small Seminar of Pabre. Maurice fell in love with Felecite Zagre who later became his wife. But, on October 17, 1965, he would marry Suzanne de Monaco, a young Ivorian woman. Félix Houphouët-Boigny (President of Côte d'Ivoire) andHamani Diori (President of Niger) were the witnesses at his marriage. However, this union would not last long and Maurice would get married a third time with Jeannette.[1] Yaméogo had many children.


Professional career

Yaméogo started his professional career just after leaving Pabre. He started as a simple clerk for the French Colonial Administration. For this reason, Maurice worked in Côte d'Ivoire where he was shocked by the fact that some Upper Volta businessmen were illegally practicing some kind of workforce traffic to supply huge plantations with workers. In Upper Volta, Maurice also worked as a clerk for the Administrative, Accounting and Finance Services (SAFC) of the French Colonial Administration. For this purpose, he was appointed in towns like Dedougou and Koudougou. Yaméogo was later appointed head of the CFTC syndicate (French Confederation of Christian Workers) of his corporation, and vice-president of CFTC Upper-Volta.

Political career

Yaméogo started his political career as the general counsellor of Koudougou before reaching, after several steps, the Presidency. This very active political career started when he was elected general counsellor of Koudougou and then territorial counsellor in 1948 with re-elections in 1952. On March 31, 1957, he was elected Grand Counsellor of AOF (French Occidental Africa) on an MDV list (Voltaic Democratic Movement), and two months later, he was appointed minister of the agricultural economy in the first council of government headed by Yvon Bourges, last French Governor in Upper-Volta (May 18, 1957) that was later replaced by Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly. On February 6, 1958, after a Government change, Yaméogo was appointed Minister of Interior.[2] This was a sign of recognition of Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly because Maurice helped him during difficult political periods and was now part his political party, the UDV (Voltaic Democratic Union), affiliated to RDA.[3] Actually, Yaméogo was now the second in the government because at this time, the Minister of Interior was the one designed to replace the President of the council of Government if this one was away. The “National Fate” of Yaméogo was being clearer from this time.

Presidency of Haute-Volta (Burkina Faso)

Yaméogo meeting Golda Meirduring a visit to Israel in 1961

Way to presidency

When Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly was taken to Paris for health reasons, Yaméogo was the one ensuring the interim (July 28, 1958).[4] On October 21, 1958, he was appointed President of Upper-Volta council of Government after Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly, the former President of the council of government who died in Paris on September 7, 1958. From now, the road to the Presidency seemed all shaped for Yaméogo. Then, his political career followed these steps:[2]
December 11, 1958 – April 25, 1959
  • President of Upper-Volta council of Government
  • Minister of Information
  • Elected Secretary of the youth section of UDV/RDA
April 20, 1959 – December 11, 1959
  • Deputy UDV/RDA in Upper-Volta legislative body
April 25, 1959 – December 11, 1959
  • President of Upper-Volta council of Government
  • Minister of Justice and war veterans


On December 11, 1959, Yaméogo became the first President of the new Republic of Upper Volta and proclaimed the country's independence on August 5, 1960.[4]Yaméogo obtained this Independence by simple transfer of powers, without negotiation or any referendum. Yaméogo was a close friend of Félix Houphouët-Boigny(President) who inspired him all his lifelong. Yaméogo favored a “Federation of Mali” that would gather Senegal, French Soudan (called Mali today), Dahomey (Benin), and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso). However, he would finally adopt anti-federalist ideas developed by France and Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Yaméogo would follow Houphouët-Boigny in his ambition to create the “Conseil de l'Entente” (Agreement Council), an organization to promote peace and solidarity between west African countries. Yaméogo and Houphouët-Boigny also worked on a project of double nationality between Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. However, when Yaméogo left the presidency on January 3, 1966, Houphouët-Boigny abandoned this project of double nationality.


On December 27, 1965, Yaméogo was in Côte d'Ivoire to negotiate the project of double nationality. Having heard about serious decreases in salaries and budget, Voltaic syndicates drove a nationwide strike. The Upper Volta Army then decided to seize power, and Yaméogo resigned the Presidency on January 3, 1966 in order to avoid a civil war.[5] The Army was in control; a military coup caused Yaméogo to be abdicated, the Constitution to be suspended, the National Assembly to be dissolved, and Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana to be placed at the head of a government essentially run by senior army officers. The army remained in power for four years, and on June 14, 1970, the Voltans ratified a new Constitution that established a four-year transition period toward complete civilian rule. Lamizana remained in power throughout the 1970s as president of military or mixed civil-military governments. After a conflict arising over the 1970 Constitution, a new constitution was written and approved in 1977, and Lamizana was reelected through open elections in 1978.[6]

After the presidency

After resigning, Yaméogo was put in jail three days later. His son Hermann Yaméogo tried to free him, but failed and was put in jail too. On May 8, 1969, Yaméogo was condemned to five years of forced work and to a lifetime banishment. However, he was freed on August 5, 1970. Yaméogo also experienced political internment with other politicians during the revolution of 1983.[6]
From 1985 until 1990, Yaméogo was exiled in Côte d'Ivoire.
In May 1991, President Blaise Compaoré rehabilitated Yaméogo, giving him back his Burkinabé citizenship rights.[1] He would often play the role of “go-between” between the two countries. On September 9, 1993, Yaméogo died in Ouagadougou. During his funerals that took place in Koudougou on September 17, 1993, Blaise Compaore and his wife Chantal Compaoré were there, with other personalities. Among them were Alassane Ouattara (Prime Minister of Ivory Coast) and Laurent Dona Fologo (Secretary general of PDCI-RDA).[1]