by Staff Writers
Ouagadougou (AFP) Nov 27, 2012
The trial of soldiers implicated in a mutiny that rocked the regime of Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore last year opened Tuesday in Ouagadougou, with verdicts handed down in a handful of cases.
In all, 346 people who are currently in detention were due to go to court in a series of trials. They are soldiers, two-thirds of whom have been dismissed from the army, with the exception of about 15 civilians.
According to a source close to the military tribunal, which began by trying five of the accused, the trials will last until the end of the "first quarter of 2013."
Between March and June last year, almost all army barracks mutinied, including that of the presidential guard, as civilians demonstrated in the streets. The events shook the regime more than any other since Compaore came to power in a military coup in 1987.
Tuesday's trial was for five soldiers, one of whom is on the run, who were accused of looting, criminal association, theft, and the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.
Suspected of taking part in the mutinies of March 22-23 and April 15-16 in the capital of the west African country, the men received light sentences considering that they faced between 10 and 20 years in prison.
Of the four soldiers present, two were sentenced to five and six years in prison, while two others were handed suspended sentences of five and six years. The soldier on the run, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The prosecution charged that weapons, notably Kalashnikov assault rifles, were found at the homes of the soldiers, as well as valuable objects.
The violent mutinies at the barracks in Ouagadougou led to the installation of a new government and the appointment of a new army chief of staff.
After a wave of uprisings across the country, accompanied by widespread looting and rapes, Compaore restructured the army and took charge of the defence ministry.
Last month, he said the crisis had passed and told troops "the mutineers had been unworthy of being in the army, and must therefore face justice."
Parliamentary and local council elections are due to take place on Sunday in this poor former French colony, which became independent in 1960. These first polls since the crisis last year are seen as a test for the regime.
Burkina Faso's army is slated to send troops as part of an African force scheduled to be deployed in northern Mali to dislodge armed Islamic extremists, though Compaore, as mediator for west African nations, favours negotiations.
Gunmen 'dressed as soldiers' kill 10 at Nigerian pub
The incident occurred in the Barkin Ladi area of Plateau state late Monday and saw gunmen storm the pub then open fire indiscriminately on customers, according to a military spokesman who denied soldiers were involved.
Barkin Ladi is a mainly Christian area of the region which lies on the fault line between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south of Africa's most populous nation.
"The gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on customers, killing eight on the spot, while two others died later as a result of the gunshot wounds they sustained," Captain Salisu Ibrahim Mustapha said.
"In protest to the killings, some members of the community barricaded the highway, preventing commuters from using the road."
Some residents claimed the gunmen were wearing army uniforms, while a Christian activist from the Stefanos Foundation made the same accusation.
"There was an attack on a drinking spot in Heipan last night by five gunmen dressed in army uniform," Mark Lipdo told AFP, referring to the neighbourhood in Barkin Ladi.
Mustapha denied any soldiers were involved. Criminals have in the past dressed as soldiers or police to carry out crimes or commit violence.
Nigeria's Plateau state has been hit by waves of clashes that have left scores of people dead in recent years. Policies favouring ethnic groups considered to be indigenous to the area have worsened the conflict.
The violence has often involved clashes between mainly Christian Beroms and Hausa-Fulani Muslims.
However, in addition to the ethnic clashes, Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has also carried out a number of attacks in the region as part of its insurgency.
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