- Title: SIERRA LEONE: FORMER REBEL FODAY SANKOH HAS DIED
- Date: 1st August 2003
- Summary: (EU) FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (FILE - MARCH 11, 2003)(REUTERS) 1. SLV STREET SCENES; SLV CROWDS OF PEOPLE 0.16 2. MV FODAY SANKOH (GREY BEARD) BEING DRIVEN FROM PADEMBA ROAD PRISON TO THE HIGH COURT IN FREETOWN (9 SHOTS) 1.18 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 16th August 2003 13:00
- Location: FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE
- Country: Sierra Leone
- Reuters ID: LVA5EUC3M52CEMATGZ5920QVUC5C
- Story Text: Former Sierra Leonian rebel Foday Sankoh has died.
Rebel leader Foday Sankoh was a populist who
promised to share Sierra Leone's diamond riches with the
masses but his fighters spread terror hacking off hands and
feet with machetes, raping and robbing thousands of people.
Sankoh, who was reported dead on Wednesday (July 30),
was one of 12 people indicted for war crimes by a United
Nations (U.N.)-backed court in Sierra Leone, including
murder, rape and other acts of terror.
Grey-bearded Sankoh, his hair twisted in dreadlocks,
had been in detention since mid-2000.
Known to his fighters as "Popay" or "Papa," Sankoh suffered
a mild stroke last October and court doctors said in June
the man who once spread fear through the West African
nation was unable to walk, talk or feed himself.
He faced the U.N. court in March in a wheelchair, his
head slumped on his chest and his right leg shaking
constantly. Staring blankly, he made no reply to the
charges of war crimes.
Many of those he led in the Revolutionary United
Front's (RUF) bush war from 1991 remained utterly loyal to
Sankoh and were devastated that his detention meant he
could not stand in presidential elections last year.
"He has the character of the lion," top rebel official
Jonathan Kposowa said before the election. "If he were able
to express his ideology, he would win this election by so
many votes. His ideology would fill many books."
Sankoh's message was that Sierra Leone's diamond wealth
should be shared by all the people and not just a clique of
corrupt political schemers. He promised schools, hospitals
and food, but never had the chance to deliver.
Under Sankoh's leadership, RUF fighters, backed by
President Charles Taylor of neighbouring Liberia fought one
of Africa's most brutal wars. He was charged with crimes
against humanity including rape, sexual slavery and
extermination. Taylor has also been indicted by the court.
Sankoh, a veteran dissident in his mid sixties, was an
army corporal and radio operator critical of officers who
staged Sierra Leone's first coup in 1967 and later handed
power to President Siaka Stevens.
Accused of coup plotting, he served six years in jail
in the 1970s. While in jail he became a born-again Christian.
He spent the first half of the 1990s in the bush training
his guerrillas, who started their rebellion in 1991. He
signed two peace agreements but both fell apart. The last
one in 1999 granted Sankoh an amnesty, the rank of vice
president and allowed him to keep control of rich diamond
But fighting resumed and Sankoh's fighters took
hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers hostage. Former
colonial power Britain sent troops to beef up the U.N.
force, and Sankoh was captured in May 2000 after his
fighters shot more than a dozen protesters outside his
The war was declared over in January 2002 after U.N.
peacekeepers disarmed more than 47,000 fighters.
Some 50,000 people are estimated to have died in the
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