Revolutionary United Front

Revolutionary United Front

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was a rebel army that fought a failed ten-year insurrection in Sierra Leone, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. It later developed into a political party, which existed until 2007.


The Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone initially coalesced as a group of Sierra Leoneans which led National Patriotic Front of Liberia elements across the border in an attempt to replicate Charles Taylor's earlier success in toppling the Liberian government. [Adekeye Adebayo, Liberia's Civil War, 2002, p.90, citing Paul Richards, 'Fighting for the Rainforest: War, Youth, and Resources in Sierra Leone,' (Oxford, James Currey, 1996) and papers presented by Ibraham Abdullah, Patrick Muana, and David Keen at University College London, 21 October 2005. Full bibliographical information is at Adebayo, p.98.]

When it was first formed, the RUF put forward the slogan, "No More Slaves, No More Masters. Power and Wealth to the People."cite web | title="Footpaths to Democracy" | url=] While its goal was clearly to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone, the RUF gave little indication of what sort of government would replace it. The group did not advocate Marxism or any similar leftist ideology, nor did it advocate extreme nationalism or Fascism. It also did not claim to be a force fighting for a certain ethnic group or region. [cite web | title="GlobalSecurity.Org" | url=] At one point, during ongoing peace negotiations in 1995, RUF published a pamphlet entitled "Footpaths to Democracy: Toward a New Sierra Leone", which contained some rhetoric references to social justice and pan-Africanism.

The RUF was created by Foday Sankoh, of Temne and Lokko background, and two allies, Abu Kanu and Rashid Mansaray, with substantial assistance from Charles Taylor of Liberia.David M. Crane cite web | title="Indictment proceedings of the special court for Sierra Leone Case No. SCSL - 2004-15-PT" | url=, Special Court for Sierra Leone (February 5th, 2004)] At first, the RUF was popular with Sierra Leoneans, many of whom resented a Freetown elite seen as corrupt and looked forward to promised free education and health care and equitable sharing of diamond revenues. However, the RUF developed a reputation internationally for enormous cruelty during its decade-long struggle.David M. Crane cite web | title="Terrorism Knowledge Base" | url=]


Foday Sankoh did not stand by his earlier promises of equitably sharing of diamond revenues and used these funds to buy arms for Charles Taylor and himself.Taylor Baines, cite web | title="When Crime Pays: West African Leaders' Brutality Reaps Rewards" | url=, Global Policy Forum, (February 1, 2001)] With the diamond mines under the control of the rebel group, the RUF became singularly focused on protecting its resource base. Sierra Leone's economy collapsed, with ordinary citizens trapped between the cruelty of RUF troops and starvation. After a coup by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in 1997, the RUF and AFRC created a joint junta to control the country before being evicted from the capital by the invasion of a Nigerian-led West African force that reinstated the rule of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The war is estimated to have cost the lives of 200,000 people. [ Piero Scaruffi, cite web | title="Wars and Genocides of the 20th Century" | url=]

Child Soldiers

There were many child soldiers in the RUF, up to 23,000 at one point. Most were used for attacks on villages and on guard duty at diamond fields. Today, about 20,000 are still left serving in the military of Sierra Leone.The RUF made extensive use of child soldiers,cite web | title="Brutal child army grows up" | url=, BBC News (May 10th, 2000)] using horrific methods to numb their new recruits to barbarity.Peter Takirambudde, cite web | title="Sierra Leone Rebels Forcefully Recruit Child Soldiers" | url=, Human Rights Watch (May 31, 2000) ] Thousands of abducted boys and girls were forced to serve as soldiers or as prostitutes, [cite web | title="The child soldiers of Sierra Leone" | url=, BBC News] and those chosen to be fighters were sometimes forced to murder their parents. [Joseph Opala, cite web | title="What The West Failed To See In Sierra Leone" | url=, Washington Post (May 14, 2000)] Guerrillas frequently carved the initials "RUF" on their chests, [cite web | title="UN: Sierra Leone should widen control" | url=, Washington Post (September 19, 2001)] [Douglas Farah cite web | title="Children Forced to Kill" | url=, Washington Post (April 8, 2000)] and officers reportedly rubbed cocaine into open cuts on their troops to make them maniacal and fearless. [Mar Roman, cite web | title="Former Child Soldiers Seek Redemption" | url=, The Associated Press (April 19, 2007)] [cite web | title="Sierra Leone - Childhood - a casualty of conflict" | url=$File/AFR5106900.pdf, Amnesty International (31 August 2000)] For entertainment, some soldiers would bet on the sex of an unborn baby and then slice open a woman's womb to determine the winner. [cite web | title="Foday Sankoh, an African revolutionary" | url=, The Economist (August 7th, 2003)] [cite web | title="Evidence of torture and human rights abuses Sierra Leone" | url=, Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture]


The RUF was notorious for severing the limbs of those victims it did not murder, particularly children. In response to the immediate execution of rebels by government forces, the RUF instead instituted a policy of cutting off the hands of captured soldiers with the intent of sending the message, "You don't hold your weapon against your brother."Sorious Samura, cite web | title="Return to Freetown" | url=, CNN (December 23, 2001)] Brandishing machetes, RUF rebels amputated the hands, arms, and legs of tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans.Anthony C. LoBaido, cite web | title="Memorandum to a cannibal" | url=, (October 19, 2004)] The RUF indicated that the reason for these actions was that amputees could no longer mine diamonds, which might be used to support government troops.cite web | title="Diamond trade fuels bloody wars" | url=, CNN (January 18, 2001)] The election slogan at that time was that the people 'had power in their hands', so the RUF would hack the hands off to prevent voting. RUF members are also said to have practiced cannibalism. [cite web | title="Who is Foday Sankoh?" | url=,2763,221853,00.html, Guardian Unlimited (May 17, 2000)] [cite web | title="The rebels advance in Sierra Leone" | url=, The Economist (January 7th, 1999)] The government set up a refugee camp where they gathered amputees; the camp was situated next to the international hotels. They also helped fund the camps and gave them food and water. [cite web | title="Sierra Leone - Building the Road to Recovery" | url=, Monograph, No 80, (March 2003)]

Foreign Intervention

In March 1997, Sankoh fled to Nigeria, where he was put under house arrest, and then imprisoned. From this time until Sankoh's release in 1999, Sam Bockarie performed the task of director of military operations of the RUF. In 1999, an intervention by the USA, the United Kingdom, and other countries as well as the UN resulted in the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord on 7 July, 1999. [cite web | title="Crimes of War" | url=] Sankoh was allowed to return under the conditions of the agreement. However fighting again broke out, and the United Nations sent peacekeeping troops in hopes of integrating the RUF into a new national army. This intervention failed as well, and by 2000 they held 500 UN peacekeepers hostage until their release was negotiated by Taylor. The British and Guineans finally sent in a small professional force in 2001. The RUF was routed following several crushing defeats at the hands of the British forces and the revolution ended. Sankoh was captured by a mob and handed to the British where he was indicted for multiple war crimes by a UN-backed court. In 2003 Sankoh died in prison before the trial took place.

Political party

After peace was established, RUF was converted into a political party, the Revolutionary United Front Party. As of 2006 general secretary of the party was Jonathan Kposowa. In the May 14 2002, elections the party won 2.2 % of popular votes and no seats. Its candidate at the presidential elections, Alimamy Pallo Bangura, received 1.7% of the vote. The party received its highest votage in Kailahun, 7.8% in the parliamentary election. [] In July 2007, RUFP merged with the All People's Congress. [ [ As RUFP Merges with APC, Youth Groups Say ‘Ernest Koroma is Salone’s Saviour: Sierra Leone News ] ]

Cultural References

"Law & Order" episode "Blood Money" was heavily mounted around the strife in Sierra Leone and the traffic in conflict diamonds. Most recently, the RUF has been featured in the movies "Blood Diamond" and "Lord of War". It has also been featured in the book "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah. [cite book
last = Beah
first = Ishmael
authorlink = Ishmael Beah
title = A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
publisher = Farrar, Straus and Giroux
date = February 13, 2007
isbn = 978-0374105235


External links

* [ RUF manifesto - "Footpaths to Democracy"]
* [ The Empire in Africa]

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