When Compaoré took power in 1987, many West African states condemned the assassination of Sankara. The following year, Compaoré conducted a series of diplomatic visits to neighboring countries in an attempt to normalize relations. Since then, Burkina Faso has established close ties with Côte d'Ivoire and Togo—two countries that had been hostile to the Sankara government. Compaoré has assumed active mediation and regional peacekeeping roles in Africa, helping to resolve internal conflict in Togo and assisting in negotiations between Tuareg rebels and the governments of Niger and Mali. He has sent troop contingents to Rwanda and to the military observer mission in the Central African Republic. In June 1989, Burkina received the chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional group which includes all West African nations. Compaoré has also improved relations with France, which had grown cool under Sankara's leadership. His rebuilding efforts were so successful that Burkina Faso was chosen to host the Franco-African summit in December 1996. Compaoré has managed to maintain links with Libya that had been forged under Sankara. In February 1998, he met with the presidents of Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Libya for the creation of a sub-regional cooperation group: the Sahara-Sahelian Community States Rally (RCES in French). The group is headquartered in Tripoli, Libya, and the first chairman was Muammar Qadhafi. In June 1998, after a good deal of politicking, Compaoré was elected chairman of the Organization of African Unity, giving him an international platform.
Relations with the United States have been strained by Burkina's ties with Libya. In January 1989, the United States recalled its ambassador after Compaoré denounced the U.S. downing of two Libyan planes. Relations between the two countries were further strained when Burkina's assistance to Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor became known. In 1997 and 1998, Compaoré moved to join the West African peace-keeping force, ECOMOG. This action helped to improve relations with the United States. In 2001, Compaoré projected a more moderate image by meeting with Liberian opposition leaders Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson and Amos Sawyer, and by withdrawing his support for UNITA and for the RUF of Sierra Leone. A visit from Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire in December 2001 improved dialog with this neighbor and enhanced prospects for Burkinabe migrant labor. Following a 19 September 2002 military uprising in Côte d'Ivoire, Compaoré focused on ensuring the safety of Burkinabe citizens living in Côte d'Ivoire, as violence against them has been alleged. By November 2002, tensions had relaxed between the two countries, and Compaoré reaffirmed Burkina's friendship with Côte d'Ivoire.
The questions surrounding the Zongo assassination raised questions about the ruling party and harmed diplomatic relations. Amnesty International and numerous international human rights organizations have called on the government for an independent investigation and report. In early 2002, Denmark announced a reduction in aid to Burkina from US $27 million to US $21 million because of failure to control arms imports and for lack of progress in the Zongo case.