Origins and causesEdit
In 1985, Joseph Momoh, a military leader, was installed as president of Sierra Leone. One major opposition group consisted of students including Foday Sankoh, Abu Ahmed Kanu, and Rashid Mansaray. Many students were expelled from the country and this group fled to Ghana and then Libya where they attended Moammar Qaddafi's secret service military training facility. The group recruited unemployed young men and students, but as the group grew, internal squabbles arose, and many left the group, some students to universities in Ghana, others back to Sierra Leone. However, others (including Kanu, Mansaray, and Sankoh) were still interested in revolution. The group then went to Kono District and toured the diamond mines, talking with workers about their situation, and spreading a revolutionary ideology.
Control of Sierra Leone's diamond industry was a primary objective for the war. Although endowed with abundant natural resources, Sierra Leone was ranked as the poorest country in the world by 1998. With the breakdown of all state structures, wide corridors of Sierra Leonean society were opened up to the trafficking of arms and ammunition, and an illegal trade in recreational drugs from Liberia and Guinea.
The RUF launched its first campaign into eastern Kailahun (Sierra Leone) from Liberia on March 23, 1991. In the four months following, about 107,000 refugees fled the conflict into Guinea. Foday Sankoh was head of the military wing of the RUF. According to Sierra Leone and writer Abdul Koroma, the rebels were quick to demonstrate their brutality, decapitating community leaders and putting their heads on stakes.
Forced recruitment of children was also a later feature of the government strategy. The intellectuals in the RUF opposed the methods being used, but within the first year of the rebellion these individuals had been eliminated as Sankoh took over the movement. Among the victims were two of Sankoh's allies.