Name of leader         Foday Sankoh

 

Organization                   Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

 

Conflict country             Sierra Leone

 

Gender                             Male   

    

Year of birth                    1937[1]

 

Place of birth                 Masang Mayoso, Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone[2]

Year of death                  2003 [3]

 

 

Deceased

 

Yes, he died in 2003 of natural causes.

 

Birth order

 

His birth order is unknown.

 

Age at start of rebel leadership

 

His age at the start of his leadership role is unknown.

 

Leader entry method

 

He founded the RUF sometime in the 1980s while he was in Libya.[4] There are conflicting reports as to the year it actually began, some say as early as 1982, others say late 1980s.

 

Powersharing

 

No, there is no evidence of powersharing.

 

Education (also name universities attended, if any); note any relevant experiences while a student

 

He only attended primary school.[5] He was reportedly illiterate.[6]      

 

Ever married? If yes, age of first marriage

 

Yes, he is survived by his wife, Fatou Sankoh, an elegant Senegalese lawyer, who married him in late 1999 after visiting Sierra Leone for a postwar project of helping displaced women and children.[7]

 

Children

 

Yes, he had a daughter.[8]

 

Religious identification

 

His religious background is unknown.

 

Family background

 

He was the son of a farmer.

 

Political affiliations and intellectual circles; note any relevant social connections made

 

His support from Gaddafi and Charles Taylor are of particular note. He trained in Libya at the World Revolutionary Center where Taylor, Blaise Campaore, Laurent Kabila, and Idress Deby also trained. The RUF was assisted by Gaddafi, Campaore and Taylor during its war in Sierra Leone.[9]

 

Physical and mental health

 

No, there is no evidence of poor physical or mental health.

 

Pre-militant leader occupation

 

He was a soldier and also a freelance photographer after he left prison in the 70s.[10]

 

Experience in a state military, and role; any relevant social ties

 

Yes, he was a corporal for the Sierra Leone army, which at the time was the British colonial army. He joined in 1956. He served a tour of duty as a UN peacekeeper in the DRC in the early 60s.[11]

 

Experience in a nonstate military, and role; any relevant social ties

 

Yes, he helped Charles Taylor in Liberia with their revolution. “The late R.U.F. leader Foday Sankoh was at Taylor’s side when, in December 1989, fresh from military training in Libya and with weapons provided by Muammar Qaddafi, Taylor invaded his own country with the intention of ousting Liberia’s government.”[12]

 

Combat experience prior to assuming resistance organization leadership?

 

He was deployed as part of a UN peacekeeping operation in the Congo in the early 60s.[13]

 

Held government position prior to assuming leadership?

 

No, there is no evidence he held a government position.

 

Lived in exile?

 

Yes. He was in exile in Nigeria in 1997. Also, his move to Libya in the 80s may be considered as an exile as well.[14]

 

Study abroad?

 

No, there is no evidence he studied abroad.

 

Did the leader receive military training abroad?

 

Yes, he received training while with the Sierra Leone army (British Colonial army in 1956) and trained in Nigeria and the UK at some point.[15] He trained in Libya sometime around the late 70s early 80s.

 

Did the leader have extensive work experience abroad?

 

No, there is no evidence of extensive work experience abroad.

 

Serve time in prison? Social connections during that time?

 

Yes. He was imprisoned in 1971 after being kicked out of the military and served 7 years in prison.[16] Also, in 1997, Sankoh went into exile in Nigeria, which imprisoned him.[17]

 

Was there an assassination attempt on the leader by the state?

 

No, there is no evidence of an assassination attempt by the state.

 

Cause of Death?

 

He died of natural causes.[18]

 

Primary language, and other languages spoken as adult

 

English is the official language and Krio is the most widely spoken in Sierra Leone. [19]

 

 

Image Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/73/Foday_Sankoh.jpg

[1] Special Court for Sierra LEone, Indictment - Prosecutor Vs. Foday Saybana Sankoh, (Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2003), http://www.rscsl.org/Documents/Decisions/Other/Sankoh/SCSL-03-02-I-001.pdf.

[2] Special Court for Sierra LEone, Indictment - Prosecutor Vs. Foday Saybana Sankoh, (Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2003), http://www.rscsl.org/Documents/Decisions/Other/Sankoh/SCSL-03-02-I-001.pdf.

[3] Victoria Brittain, “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Guardian (The Guardian), July 31, 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/jul/31/guardianobituaries.westafrica.

[4] Victoria Brittain, “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Guardian (The Guardian), July 31, 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/jul/31/guardianobituaries.westafrica.

[5] “Obituary: Foday Sankoh”, The Economist, August 7, 2003, accessed February 21, 2017, https://www.economist.com/obituary/2003/08/07/foday-sankoh

[6] “Harvard for Tyrants,” Foreign Policy, March 5, 2011, accessed February 21, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/03/05/harvard-for-tyrants/.

[7] Victoria Brittain, “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Guardian

[8] “Ex-Rebel Leader’s Sanity Questioned,” LA Times, June 6, 2002, accessed February 21, 2017, http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jun/06/world/fg-leone6.

[9] “Harvard for Tyrants,” Foreign Policy

[10] “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Economist

[11] Norbert C. Brockman, “SANKOH, Foday" in An African Biographical Dictionary, (Grey House Publishing, 2006); Victoria Brittain, “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Guardian.

[12] Jon Lee Anderson, “Jon Lee Anderson,” The New Yorker, July 17, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/charles-taylor-and-the-killing-tree.

[13] “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Economist

[14] “SANKOH, Foday." In An African Biographical Dictionary

[15] Victoria Brittain, “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Guardian (The Guardian), July 31, 2003

[16] Norbert C. Brockman, “SANKOH, Foday" in An African Biographical Dictionary, (Grey House Publishing, 2006).

[17] Norbert C. Brockman, “SANKOH, Foday" in An African Biographical Dictionary, (Grey House Publishing, 2006).  

[18] “Obituary: Foday Sankoh,” The Economist

[19] “Languages," Central Intelligence Agency, Accessed July 4, 2020, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/402.html