Foday Sankoh bigraphy, stories - Sierra Leonean warlord

Foday Sankoh : biography

October 17, 1937 - July 29, 2003

Foday Saybana Sankoh (17 October 1937 – 29 July 2003) was the leader and founder of the Sierra Leone rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the 11-year-long Sierra Leone Civil War, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. An estimated 50,000 people were killed during the war, and over 500,000 people were displaced in neighbouring countries.

Civil war

On 23 March 1991, the RUF, led by Foday Sankoh and backed by Charles Taylor, launched its first attack in villages in Kailahun District in the diamond-rich Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.

The RUF became notorious for brutal practices such as mass rapes and amputations during the civil war. Sankoh personally ordered many operations, including one called "Operation Pay Yourself" that encouraged troops to loot anything they could find. After complaining about such tactics, Kanu and Mansaray were summarily executed. In March 1997, Sankoh fled to Nigeria, where he was put under house arrest, and then imprisoned. From this time until Sankoh's release in 1999, Sam Bockarie performed the task of director of military operations of the RUF. During the ten-year war, Sankoh broke several promises to stop fighting, including the Abidjan Peace Accord and the Lomé Peace Accord signed in 1999. Eventually the United Kingdom and ECOMOG intervened with their own small, but professional, military forces, and the RUF was eventually crushed. Sankoh was later arrested after his soldiers gunned down a number of protesters outside his Freetown home in 2000. His arrest led to massive celebrations throughout Sierra Leone. Sankoh was handed to the British and, under jurisdiction of a UN-backed court, he was indicted on 17 counts for various war crimes, including use of child soldiers and crimes against humanity, including extermination, enslavement, rape and sexual slavery.


Sankoh died of complications arising from a stroke whilst awaiting trial. In a statement by the UN-backed war crimes court, chief prosecutor David Crane said that Sankoh's death granted him "a peaceful end that he denied to so many others."

Early life and career

Foday Sankoh was born on 17 October 1937, in the remote village of Masang Mayoso, Tonkolili District in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone to an ethnic Temne father and a Loko mother. Sankoh was the son of a farmer.

Sankoh attended primary and secondary school in Magburaka, Tonkolili District and took on a number of jobs in Magburaka before he joined the Sierra Leone army in 1956. He undertook training in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. In 1971, then a corporal in the Sierra Leone army, he was cashiered from the army's signal corps and imprisoned for seven years at the Pademba Road Prison in Freetown for taking part in a mutiny.

On his release he worked as an itinerant photographer in the south and east of Sierra Leone, eventually coming in contact with young radicals and finding his way to Libya for insurgency training in 1988. This was organized by Muammar Gaddafi who also helped to bring Charles Taylor to power. According to Douglas Farah, "The amputation of the arms and legs of men, women and children as part of a scorched-earth campaign was designed to take over the region’s rich diamond fields and was backed by Gaddafi, who routinely reviewed their progress and supplied weapons".

On their return to Sierra Leone, Sankoh and confederates Rashid Mansaray and Abu Kanu solicited support for an armed uprising to oust the APC government. They then traveled to Liberia, where they reportedly continued recruiting and served with Charles G. Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

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Living octopus

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