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Sierra Leone

Yearbook 1998

Sierra Leone. In February, Nigerian-led West African force ECOMOG entered the capital Freetown and expelled the military junta that had overthrown President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997. According to Countryaah, the entrance was preceded by fierce fighting on the outskirts of the city and bombings of the harbor to prevent the junta from breaking the trade sanctions imposed on it. At least 100 civilians were killed in the fighting and the state of supply in the city became precarious.

1998 Sierra Leone

Since President Kabbah returned from exile - and replaced the coup leader Johnny Paul Koroma as head of state - the state of emergency was announced to facilitate the arrest of people who cooperated with the junta and to seize their assets. A couple of thousand junta supporters were arrested, including former President Joseph Momoh.

During the spring and summer, mass trials were carried out against junta soldiers and fellow runners. 43 civilians were sentenced to death for treason. All appealed. Momoh was acquitted of the treason charges, but was sentenced to ten years in prison for conspiracy.

The most notable death sentence fell on Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) guerrilla movement. After the 1997 coup, RUF allied with the military junta and Sankoh was named vice president. However, he was never able to take up the post because he was arrested for illegal weapons possession in Nigeria in March 1997 and detained there until he was extradited to Sierra Leone after the fall of the junta. Sankoh had to take care of his defense himself as no domestic lawyer dared to take him on. He appealed against the verdict and was promised help in the higher court by British lawyers, including former Minister of Agriculture Douglas Hogg.

Twenty-four junta soldiers sentenced to death by a military court were executed a week after the verdict. They had no opportunity to appeal.

The ousted Junta soldiers and the RUF continued throughout the year to oppose ECOMOG. Many reports came of the rebels' bestial advances in the countryside. A UN commission led by the Swedish UN ambassador Hans Dahlgren accused them of killing or mutilating more than 4,000 civilians.

Despite ECOMOG claiming control of 90% of the country at the end of November, the rebels in December succeeded in a dramatic counter-offensive. They entered several important locations and stood at the turn of the year just outside Freetown. ECOMOG introduced reinforcements to the capital and foreign citizens began to be evacuated.

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