The Civil War

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Sierra Leone

In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by former SLA Corporal Foday Sankoh, began a campaign against the government of Sierra Leone, who was led by President Joseph Momoh. Thus, a conflict would start that lasted for just over a decade and would result in the deaths of over 50,000 people, while displacing over 2.5 million more. A brutal fight that pitted neighbors and children against each other in mortal combat until its conclusion in 2002. In this post, I will enumerate upon the two key aspects to this war: the causes and the fighting. (Sierra Leone Civil War)


In the 1980’s, Sierra Leone was in dire economic straits contributing to their high level of poverty. They, the Leonan people, were largely unable to improve their living conditions despite an abundance of natural resources. But what contributed to this lack of monetary momentum? Put simply, political corruption and treason on a massive scale.

After the death of Sierra Leone’s first Prime Minister in 1964, Sir Milton Margai, the government was inept, mismanaged, and corrupt. This is largely due to the rule of Siaka Probyn Stevens, who came to power from 1967 to 1985. I will examine this man’s impact on Sierra Leone in a later post.

DiamondsBut perhaps the most famous example of this criminal activity involves the fraud surrounding alluvial diamond mining. Leonan government officials profited enormously while the workers were barely given any compensation. Such nonequivalent gains led to a significant displeasure among the working class of Sierra Leone.

When the RUF began their campaign, many workers gravitated to their message, as well as forced labor from cash crops (coffee, cocoa) and gold mining. All of which served to further arm the RUF through smuggling just before and during the war. (Blood Diamonds)


Instead of focusing on the gruesome brutality, I will simply give a timeline of the events.

  • 1991: Civil War begins as RUF capture border towns.
  • 1992: President Momoh replaced in military coup by a Captain Valentine Strasser.
  • 1996: Strasser is then ousted by Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio, his Minister of Defence.
  • 1996: Newly elected Ahmad Kabbah signs a peace agreement with RUF.
  • 1997: Peace agreement is nullified after yet another military coup, orchestrated by a Major Johnny Paul Koroma.
  • 1997: UN Sanctions are imposed, but are ignored though the black market and private security firms.
  • 1998: African Intervention Forces drive rebels out as Kabbah returns to Freetown from Guinea.
  • 1999: RUF forces establish a foothold in Freetown which leads to gruesome fighting and yet another withdrawal by the rebels.
  • 1999: A UN-negotiated peace accord is reached – parties are hopeful of resolution.
  • 2000: UN directed forces are dispatched to suppress rebel fighting.
  • 2001: Disarmament begins.
  • 2002: War declared over. Rebels are said to be completely disarmed.

(Civil War Timeline)


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