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Agacher Strip War

Agacher Strip War

Map of Burkina Faso with Gorom-Gorom in red
Date 25-30 December 1985 (5 days)
Location Agacher Strip, Burkina Faso


  • Dispute brought to the International Court of Justice
Division of the Agacher Strip amongst the two countries
 Mali  Burkina Faso
Commanders and leaders
Moussa Traore Thomas Sankara
7,600 4,600
Casualties and losses
38 killed
57 wounded
141 killed
257 wounded
59-300 killed in total[1]
Part of a series on the
Burkina Faso
Emblem of Burkina Faso
Bura /
Prehistoric /
c. 3rd–13th century
Mossi Kingdoms 11th? century – 1896
French Upper Volta
Republic 1958–1984
Burkina Faso
Agacher Strip War 1985
Burkinabè protests 2011
Burkinabè revolution 2014
Burkinabe coup d'état 2015
Burkina Faso portal

The Agacher Strip War was fought over a 100-mile (160 km) long strip of land located in northern Burkina Faso, in the province of Gorom-Gorom. The area, thought to contain considerable amounts of natural gas and mineral resources, was the center of a long running border dispute between Upper Volta (renamed Burkina Faso in 1984) and Mali, which erupted into an armed conflict on two occasions (in 1974 and 1985).


  • Background 1
  • Pre-Christmas War conflict 2
  • Regional mediation 3
  • The Christmas War (1985) 4
  • Post-war 5
  • References 6


The Agacher Strip was thought to contain substantial natural resources. Both sides hoped that the exploitation of these resources would help improve the dire economic situations in their respective countries.[2]

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 Upper Volta, and the growing unpopularity of Moussa Traoré's military regime in Mali. [2]

Pre-Christmas War conflict

The dispute between the two countries first erupted into an armed conflict on 25 November 1974. The conflict was characterized by a lack of military operations or any significant fighting. Only a few border skirmishes that involved exchanges of small arms fire were reported in late November and mid-December of 1974. Casualties on both sides were minimal.[1]

Regional mediation

Mediation efforts by President

  1. ^ a b c d e "Burkina Faso and Mali, Agacher Strip War, 1985". 31 July 2004. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "OECD Report" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali)". 7 December 1999. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "International Court settles West African land dispute". Chicago Sun-Times. 1986. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Agacher Strip War 1985". 16 December 2000. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mali". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 


In its 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.[4] President Traoré called the settlement "very satisfying" and a victory for the "brother peoples" of Mali and Burkina Faso.[5][6]

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 was still unresolved. The case was taken to the International Court of Justice.[3]


On 25 December 1985, 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. A third ANAD-sponsored truce was signed on 30 December, bringing to an end what became known as the "Christmas War". Estimates of the total number of casualties from the war range from 59 to 300.[1]

In 1983, military captain 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 were made that Burkinabé ground troops were present in the Agacher Strip, as Burkina Faso believed they had sovereignty over the area, and that no formal deal had been made up to that point. Malian President Traoré publicly denounced the act, and for ten days asked African leaders to pressure Sankara. However, the Burkinabé soldiers did not leave the area, and tensions grew further.[2]

The Christmas War (1985)

From 1977, Upper Volta and Mali engaged in political mediation within a regional West African group known as the Non-Aggression and Defense Aid Agreement (ANAD).[1]


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