Sierra Leone


Guerrilla forces of Foday Sanko (for Charles Taylor)

South African Mercenaries

Government forces





Ivory Coast


Sierra Leone


The troops of the former Liberian president Samuel Doe invaded parts of Sierra Leone and used it as a base and source of plunder. After his overthrow they seem to have been aided and encouraged by Charles Taylor, a criminal (jailed in the United States) who became 'elected' president of Liberia after leading a rebel military group. He was a warlord.

Like the MNR guerrilla forces in Mozambique and the UNITA forces in Angola this seemed to be a conflict in which there was no political control. The invading forces appeared to be out of control and enjoying random violence, looting and killing for its own sake. However, they controlled mainly the diamond producing areas and shipped diamonds out to Liberia where they came into the hands of Taylor.

UN reports 500,000 refugees October 1993.

This was a nasty war in which the civilians were the main victims. For a period the South African contract troops (Executive Outcomes) working for the government seemed to improve the position of the government - but in whose interest? Nigerian peacekeeping troops may not have been much better than either the government or the rebel forces. The rebels specialised in cutting off the hands and other limbs of civilians (without hands they could not work).

Eventually, after a civilian government, ostensibly elected, faced a rebellion by rebel troops, the British government sent a military team that prevented the government from being overthrown, and with a UN peacekeeping force, restored the elected government. The leader of the rebels, Foday Sanko, was arrested and has since died, before coming to trial.

It seems that while a British force remains in the country (training a new government army) the war may be over. But the whole area including Ivory Coast has become unstable in recent years. There is also assistance from British civil servants in the SL ministries.

Charles Taylor is on trial at the Special Criminal Court for Sierra Leone at the Hague in the Netherlands.

Interesting reading

Ishmael Beah - A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier

Craig Murray - Catholic Orangemen

The inside story of African negotiations.

Last revised 9/08/10


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