Burkina Faso profile
President: Blaise Compaore
Blaise Compaore came to power in a coup in 1987. He subsequently won four presidential elections, the latest in November 2010.
He has become a regional power-broker, serving as a key mediator in the Ivory Coast peace process and moves to restore civilian rule in Guinea.
This surprised some critics, as previous UN reports had accused Mr Compaore of supporting insurgents during Sierra Leone's civil war before 2002.
Born in 1950 and trained as a soldier in Cameroon and Morocco, Blaise Compaore served under Thomas Sankara as minister of state to the presidency, before deposing and killing him in 1987.
He disarmed local militias and, despite his reputed left-wing leanings, embarked on a programme of privatisation and austerity measures sponsored by the International Monetary Fund. He officially rejected socialism prior to being elected president unopposed in 1991.
In early 2011 he faced a serious challenge to his authority when mutinous soldiers joined protesters demanding better wages and action against declining living standards. The mutinies were successfully quelled, and hundreds of soldiers put on trial or sacked.
The president exercises executive power, appoints the prime minister and keeps a tight hold over the military and government bodies. He portrays himself as the guarantor of political stability and economic progress.
His current term is supposed to be his last, but there have been suggestions that he is preparing to change the constitution to remove limits to the number of terms a president can serve.