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Africa
Former S Leone militia men jailed
UN-backed court imprisons two former pro-government militia leaders.
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2007 20:56 GMT
Rights groups wanted a longer sentence for Fofana than the six years he received [File: AFP] 
Two former leaders of pro-government militia in Sierra Leone have been sentenced to six and eight years in prison for war crimes committed during the country's brutal decade-long conflict.

Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa escaped more severe sentences because of what the judge called their service to democracy.
Fofana and Kondewa were leaders of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), a paramilitary force which recruited traditional Kamajor hunter militias to fight rebel forces during the conflict between 1991 and 2001.

The two were sentenced to six and eight years respectively on Tuesday by the court in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, significantly shorter terms than the 30 years requested by the prosecution after the two men were convicted in August.

Disappointment

The pair was found guilty of war crimes but acquitted of the more serious charges of crimes against humanity including murder.

Rights activists expressed disappointment at the court's leniency, but Judge Benjamin Mutanga Itoe said the defendants' service to democracy had been taken into account.

The CDF "contributed immensely to re-establishing the rule of law in this country where criminality, anarchy and lawlessness ...  had become the order of the day," the court said in a statement.
 

Special report


- Country hopes election means brutal past is left behind


"We were expecting more than 30 years because of the crimes they committed," Alex Kaikai, director of local NGO Torture Watch, said.

"I see my brothers whose limbs have been amputated. I want them to feel the weight of what they have done."

Kondewa was also found guilty of recruiting child soldiers and was handed the longer, eight-year sentence on Tuesday.

The sentences take effect retroactively from their arrests in 2003.

New government

As a parallel force to the regular army, the CDF fought rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in a war fuelled by the illegal trade of "blood diamonds" that claimed, according to UN estimates, some 120,000 lives and left thousands mutilated.

The prison term contrasted with sentences imposed in July on three leaders of the rebel Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, which toppled Sierra Leone's government in 1997.

Alex Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu were jailed for 50 years each, and Brima Bazzy Kamara for 45 years.

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is the court's most high profile defendant and is on trial in the Netherlands on 11 counts of war crimes for allegedly arming the RUF in return for gems from the diamond fields near the Liberian border.
 

Ernest Koroma, the new president, named
the first members of his cabinet [AFP]

The West African country has emerged successfully from the conflict and in August elected Ernest Koroma from the opposition All People's Congress (APC) as its new president.

Sierra Leone is ranked by the UN as the world's second poorest country, and the vote was seen as a key test of the nation's democratic institutions.

Koroma was sworn in as president last month following his victory in a tense run-off vote with Solomon Berewa, the former vice president.

On Tuesday Koroma named the first 10 ministers of his new cabinet.

Zainab Bangura, an experienced good governance campaigner who had run as a presidential candidate against Koroma in a 2002 election, was  named as foreign minister.

Bangura was the only woman in the first 10 ministerial appointments and had been working with the UN in Liberia, as had the new agriculture minister, Sam Sesay.

Source:
Agencies
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