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Burkinabe Soldiers Face Prosecution After Mutiny

  • Anne Look

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (file photo)

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (file photo)

At least 57 mutinous Burkinabe soldiers now face prosecution after government troops violently squashed a rebellion at a military camp outside Burkina Faso's second-largest city this weekend.

The government sent a joint force of presidential guardsmen, parachute commandos and police on Friday to the country's commercial capital, Bobo Dioulasso, where disgruntled troops demanding higher wages had spent several days looting and shooting into the air.

Security Minister Jerome Bougouma says one week ago, soldiers broke into an arms and munitions store and proceeded to pillage downtown. He says they targeted private citizens, breaking into safes and retaining control of areas by force. During this crisis, he says, the authorities were open to negotiation and dialogue. But Bougouma says that faced with the obstinacy of the mutineers and the serious threat to public order, the prime minister called on the armed forces to re-establish order.

Military authorities said seven people were killed and 33 injured before the mutiny was put down on Saturday. It was the first military intervention since unrest broke out three months ago in barracks nationwide.

Security Minister Bougouma says the intervention was justified because undisciplined members of the army should not become a danger to the population or disobey the law. He says the army should defend the population, not attack it.

Authorities said at least 57 mutineers were arrested and that they continue to search for others.

Justice Minister Jerome Traore says those arrested will now be questioned to determine their involvement in various infractions, including acts of theft and violence against individuals. He says it is essential that the law be respected and that the accused be able to defend themselves with the help of legal counsel.

Many in the capital, Ouagadougou, expressed support for the government's actions.

This resident says the government's reaction was late but necessary. Enough is enough, he says. Those soldiers who would rob, destroy public property and attack women are no longer soldiers and should be dealt with.

The chief of the army, General Honore Traore, has apologized for the mutineers' actions and attempted to reassure the nation.

General Traore said he is ashamed of their behavior and the damage they caused. He says these soldiers were in the minority, and adds the army aims to win back the population's trust.

The mutiny was the latest in a string of military and civilian protests since February against the government of longtime Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who seized power in a 1987 coup and was re-elected to another term last November.