Agacher Strip War

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Coordinates: 14°54′N 0°24′W / 14.9°N 0.4°W / 14.9; -0.4

Agacher Strip War
Burkina Faso Agacher.png
Agacher Strip highlighted
  • 25 November 1974 – 30 December 1985
  • (11 years, 1 month and 5 days)
Agacher Strip, Burkina Faso
Result Ceasefire


Diplomatic support:


 Burkina Faso

Diplomatic support:

 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Commanders and leaders
Moussa Traoré Thomas Sankara
10,000 (Total Mobilized) 11,200 (Total Mobilized)
Casualties and losses
  • 50 dead
  • 40 wounded
  • 20 dead
  • 10 wounded
Total:70 dead & 50 wounded = 120 casualties

The Agacher Strip War was a war fought by Burkina Faso and Mali over a 100-mile (160 km) long strip of land located in the northern Burkina Faso province of Oudalan. The area, thought to contain considerable amounts of natural gas and mineral resources, was the center of a long-term border dispute between the two countries that erupted into an armed conflict on two occasions (in 1974 and 1985).


Both Mali and Burkina Faso thought that the Agacher Strip contained substantial natural resources and hoped that these resources would help improve their dire economic situations.[1]

Some observers believe that the dispute may have been deliberately provoked to divert attention from domestic problems brought on by the return of military rule in Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta) and the growing unpopularity of Moussa Traoré's military regime in Mali.[1]

Early skirmishes[edit]

The dispute between the two countries first erupted into an armed conflict on 25 November 1974. The conflict involved only a few border skirmishes with exchanges of small arms-fire in late November and mid-December 1974. Notably, there was a lack of military operations and significant fighting; casualties on both sides were minimal.[citation needed]

As tensions escalated, mediation efforts by President Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo and President Seyni Kountché of Niger to resolve the conflict proved unsuccessful. Sporadic clashes continued into early 1975 with numerous reprisals against Malians in Upper Volta, prompting the Organization of African Unity to create a commission to mediate the crisis. The organization recommended that a neutral technical commission be created to demarcate the boundary. Both countries accepted this proposal at a meeting held on 18 June 1975, in Lomé, Togo.[citation needed]

Beginning in 1977, Upper Volta and Mali engaged in political mediation through the Non-Aggression and Defense Aid Agreement (ANAD), a regional West African group.[citation needed]

Christmas War (1985)[edit]

Part of a series on the
History of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso
c. 3rd–13th century
Mossi Kingdoms c. 11th century – 1896
French Upper Volta
Republic 1958–1984
Burkina Faso
Agacher Strip War 1985
Assassination of Sankara 1987
Compaoré rule 1987–2014
Burkinabè revolution 2014
Transitional period 2014–2015
Burkinabé coup d'état 2015
2015 elections and aftermath 2015–present

In 1983, military captain Thomas Sankara seized power in Burkina Faso in a coup and was tasked with resolving the country's many problems, including the Agacher Strip dispute. Negotiations between Sankara, Malian President Traoré, and the countries' top diplomats were strained. Additionally, under Sankara's rule, Burkina Faso expelled Drissa Keita, a Malian diplomat, further deteriorating bilateral relations. Some Burkina Faso newspapers accused Mali of preparing an invasion; Mali rejected the accusations and accused Burkina Faso of escalating tensions.

By 1985, both countries experienced several years of drought. Rainfall finally arrived in late 1985 but washed out the roads, hindering the distribution of food and medical supplies to the Agacher region. During this period, the Burkina Faso government organized a nationwide census. The census agents visited Fula camps in Mali, which sparked outrage from the Malian government, who saw it as a violation of their sovereignty. Reports about Burkina Faso ground troops present in the Agacher Strip also upset Mali because, although Burkina Faso believed they had sovereignty over the area, no formal deal had been made up to that point. Traoré publicly denounced the act and campaigned for African leaders to pressure Sankara. However, the Burkina Faso soldiers did not leave the area, escalating tensions further.[1]

On 25 December 1985, the Malian military launched several ground attacks against Burkina Faso border posts and police stations. The Burkina Faso army responded by mobilizing soldiers in the region and launching counterattacks. However, the Malian army, which was better prepared and organized, conducted many successful assaults that captured several of the villages and outposts. The Libyan government attempted to negotiate a ceasefire on 26 December, but negotiations failed. The war culminated in an airstrike by the Malian Air Force on a marketplace in Ouahigouya, in which a number of civilians were killed. A second ceasefire instigated by the governments of Nigeria and Libya on 29 December also failed. The countries agreed to a third ANAD-sponsored truce on 30 December, finally ending what became known as the "Christmas War." Estimates of the total number of casualties from the war range from 59 to 300 people.


In mid-January 1986, at a Non-Aggression and Defense Aid Agreement summit in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, presidents Moussa Traoré of Mali and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso agreed to withdraw their troops to pre-war positions. Prisoners of War were exchanged in February and full diplomatic relations were restored in June. Despite this, the dispute remained unresolved. The case was taken to the International Court of Justice.[2]

In the ICJ's judgement delivered on 22 December 1986, the court split the 1,150 square miles (3,000 km2) of disputed territory almost equally. Mali received the western portion and Burkina Faso the eastern.[3] President Traoré called the settlement "very satisfying" and a victory for the "brother peoples" of Mali and Burkina Faso.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c "OECD Report" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  2. ^ "Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali)". 7 December 1999. Archived from the original on 7 December 1999. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  3. ^ "International Court settles West African land dispute". Chicago Sun-Times. 1986. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Agacher Strip War 1985". 16 December 2000. Archived from the original on 13 January 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Mali". Archived from the original on 20 November 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2014.