Saye Zerbo (27 August 1932 – 19 September 2013) was a Burkinabé military officer who was the third President of the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) from 25 November 1980 until 7 November 1982.[1]

Saye Zerbo
President of Upper Volta
In office
25 November 1980 – 7 November 1982
Preceded bySangoulé Lamizana
Succeeded byJean-Baptiste Ouédraogo
Personal details
Born27 August 1932
Tougan, French West Africa
(now Burkina Faso)
Died19 September 2013 (aged 81)
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Upper Volta.svg Republic of Upper Volta
Years of service1960–1982

He led a coup in 1980, but was resisted by trade unions and was overthrown by Major Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo and the Council of Popular Salvation (CSP).


Saye Zerbo was born Tougan, French West Africa, on 27 August 1932.[2] He went to school in Mali and Saint-Louis, Senegal. Then he joined the French military in 1950 and attended the military academy Saint-Cyr. As a paratrooper, Zerbo took part in both the First Indochina War and the Algerian War of Independence. After Upper Volta's independence from France in 1960, he transferred to that country's army in 1961.

In the military government of Sangoulé Lamizana, who ruled Upper Volta from 1966, Saye Zerbo was minister of foreign affairs from 1974 to 1976. He also held the positions of commander of the regiment in the capital Ouagadougou and director of the military intelligence agency.

On 25 November 1980, Zerbo staged a coup against President Lamizana, who had been re-elected democratically in 1978, and took on the positions of head of state and government. The constitution, which had been introduced in 1977, was suspended and the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress (Comité Militaire de Redressement pour le Progrès National; CMPRN) established. The trade unions in the country opposed his seizure of power, although they had supported Zerbo for a long time, and on 7 November 1982, Saye Zerbo was deposed in another coup d'état. He was succeeded by Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo as the head of the Council of Popular Salvation (Conseil du Salut du Peuple; CSP).

After being deposed, Zerbo was also incarcerated. On 4 August 1983, Ouédraogo was deposed by Thomas Sankara. In May 1984, Zerbo and Lamizana were put on trial for various crimes. Zerbo was sentenced to 15 years in prison. During his imprisonment, Zerbo converted from Islam to Christianity.[3] He was released from jail in August 1985. After Blaise Compaoré had deposed Sankara he sought Zerbo's advice. Zerbo's conviction from 1984 was annulled on 18 February 1997 by the supreme court of Burkina Faso.

Zerbo's third daughter Araba Kadidiatou Zerbo is married to the former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso Paramanga Ernest Yonli.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Burkina Faso: Décès de l'ancien président Saye Zerbo". 2013-07-18. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2013-09-20.
  2. ^ "Saye Zerbo : L'ex-putschiste aux champs". Jeune Afrique L'intelligent (in French). Groupe Jeune Afrique (2334): 57. 8 October 2005.
  3. ^ Saye Zerbo, président of the republic from 1980 to 1982 (article in French) "At once stopped, Saye Zerbo is thrown in prison. After his imprisonment, the deposed president contemplated and read the Qu'ran through whole nights. He also asked for the Bible that the archbishop of Ouagadougou, the cardinal Paul Zoungrana, had offered to him at the time of the first Christmas following his takeover. At this point in time he had the revelation which changed his life. In a mystical dash, Saye Zerbo was brought to his knees, returned thanks to God and converted to Christianity. His entire family did the same thing thereafter."