Sankoh, Foday Saybana

Foday Saybana SankohFoday Saybana Sankoh was the founder and top commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and one of the major leaders of the alliance between the RUF and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The RUF was formed in 1988/1989 and entered Sierra Leone in 1991 to launch a 10-year terror campaign within its territory. The violent strikes were directed against the civilian population, humanitarian assistance operations and UN peacekeepers and resulted in mass murders and pillaging. Sankoh’s forces used brutal tactics to seize and maintain control over Sierra Leone’s diamond mines, including extensive use of child soldiers and sexual enslavement as a means of terrorising civilians into submission.

In 1971, Sankoh was dismissed from the Sierra Leone army and imprisoned for his part in an attempted coup against the president. In 1998, Sankoh had been condemned to death for treason by the High Court of Justice in Freetown, but pardoned the following year after the RUF signed the Lomé Peace Agreement with the government granting the rebels a blanket amnesty for their atrocities. He was re-arrested in 2000.

Foday Saybana Sankoh and three other leaders of the RUF were indicted separately on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court of Sierra Leone in March 2003. The indictment against Sankoh was withdrawn on 8 December 2003 due to Sankoh’s death in hospital in UN custody on 29 July 2003.

The RUF trial began on 5 July 2004, with Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on 25 February 2009. Sesay was sentenced to 52 years’ imprisonment, Kallon to 39 years, and Gbao to 25 years on 8 April 2009.

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