Between 1991 and 2002, the small West African nation of Sierra Leone was ravaged by a decade of war, which left between 50,000 and 200,000 people dead. The conflict was also marked by rapes, mutilations and the forced use of child soldiers in both the rebel and regular armies. Twenty years on, the country is still trying to recover from the civil war, one of Africa’s most brutal. Sierra Leone remains deeply divided and plagued by corruption. And despite its many riches, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.
For survivors, it is impossible to forget the horror of the war in Sierra Leone, which was fulled by cash from diamonds mined in the war zones and sold for weapons, as depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The conflict began when rebels of the Revolutionary United Front attacked the east of Sierra Leone in 1991 on the border with Liberia – an insurrection against the power base of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who sent in troops to crush the rebellion.
The clashes set off a chain of violence, leading to military coups and drawing in foreign forces, both officially and unofficially. In 2012, the former president of neighbouring Liberia, Charles Taylor, was sentenced by a special international court to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.