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
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
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.