Revolutionary United Front

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Revolutionary United Front
Participant in Sierra Leone Civil War
Sl RUF.png
Active1991–2002 (as rebel group)
2003–present (as political party)
Ideology Nationalism
Area of operations Sierra Leone
AlliesFlag of Libya (1977-2011).svg  Libya
Flag of Burkina Faso.svg  Burkina Faso
Opponent(s)Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone
Flag of the United States.svg  United States
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of India.svg  India
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan
Flag of Jordan.svg  Jordan

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was a rebel army that fought a failed eleven-year war in Sierra Leone, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. It later developed into a political party, which still exists today. The three most senior surviving leaders, Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, were convicted in February 2009 of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [1]

Sierra Leone Civil War civil war between Commonwealth-backed government and rebel factions

The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002) was a civil war in Sierra Leone that began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years, enveloped the country, and left over 50,000 dead.

A political party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement the party's agenda.

Issa Hassan Sesay served as senior military officer and commander in the Revolutionary United Front and AFRC/RUF forces in their insurrection against the government of Sierra Leone. He was said to be subordinate only to Sam Bockarie, the Battlefield Commander, and Johnny Paul Koroma, leader of the AFRC.



The Revolutionary United Front 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. [2]

The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) was a rebel group that initiated and participated in the First Liberian Civil War from 1989 to 1996.

The RUF was created by Foday Sankoh, of Temne background, and some allies, Abu Kanu, Rashid Mansaray, with substantial assistance from Charles Taylor of Liberia. [3] 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 its terrible cruelty towards the civilian population during its decade-long struggle, especially its practice of hacking off limbs to intimidate and spread terror among the population, and its widespread use of child soldiers. [4] [5]

Foday Sankoh Sierra Leonean warlord

Foday Saybana Sankoh was the founder of the Sierra Leone rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which was supported by Charles Taylor-led NPFL in the 11-year-long Sierra Leone Civil War. Starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. An estimated 50,000 people were killed during the war, and over 500,000 people were displaced in neighbouring countries.

Temne people West African ethnic group

The Temne people, also called Time, Temen, Timni or Timmanee people, are a West African ethnic group. They are predominantly found in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, as well as the national capital Freetown. Some Temne are also found in Guinea. The Temne constitute the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, at 35% of the total population, which is slightly more than the Mende people at 31%. They speak Temne, a Mel branch of the Niger–Congo languages.

Liberia republic in West Africa

Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers and has a population of around 4,900,000. English is the official language, but over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.

When it was first formed, the RUF put forward the slogan, "No More Slaves, No More Masters. Power and Wealth to the People." [6] While its goal was clearly to change 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. [7] 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 rhetorical references to social justice and pan-Africanism. [6]

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Nationalism is an ideology and movement characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.

Fascism Form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism

Fascism is a form of far right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I, before spreading to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.


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Foday Sankoh did not stand by his earlier promises of equitably sharing of diamond revenues and used these funds to buy arms for himself. [8] With the diamond mines under the control of the rebel party, the RUF became singularly focused on protecting its resource base. [8]

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.

Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebel group in Sierra Leone

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was a group of Sierra Leone soldiers that allied itself with the rebel Revolutionary United Front in the late 1990s. While the AFRC briefly controlled the country in 1998, it was driven from the capital by a coalition of West African troops. It was no longer a coherent and effective organization by the elections of 2002.

Nigeria Federal republic in West Africa

Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa, bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Its coast in the south is located on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The federation comprises 36 states and 1 Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja, is located. The constitution defines Nigeria as a democratic secular state.

West Africa Westernmost region of the African continent

West Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The population of West Africa is estimated at about 362 million people as of 2016, and at 381,981,000 as of 2017, of which 189,672,000 are female and 192,309,000 male.

Child soldiers

Child soldiers were heavily recruited in the Sierra Leone Civil War; a total of 11,000 are thought to have participated in the conflict. [9] Most were used for attacks on villages and on guard duty at diamond fields as well as guarding weapons stockpiles. Today, about 2,000 are still left serving in the military of Sierra Leone. The RUF made extensive use of child soldiers, [10] using horrific methods to numb their new recruits to barbarity. [11]

Thousands of abducted boys and girls were forced to serve as soldiers or as prostitutes, [11] [12] and those chosen to be fighters were sometimes forced to murder their parents. [13] Guerrillas frequently carved the initials "RUF" on their chests, [3] [14] [15] and officers reportedly rubbed cocaine into open cuts on their troops to make them maniacal and fearless. [5] [16] [17]

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. [18] [19] The RUF abducted children aged 7 to 12, but were known to take children as young as 5 years old. The children were notoriously known by captains and civilians for their unquestionable obedience and enormous cruelty.


In response to the immediate execution of rebels by government forces, the RUF 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." [20] Brandishing machetes, RUF rebels amputated the hands, arms, and legs of tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans. [20] 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. [21]

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. [21] RUF members are also said to have practiced cannibalism. [22] [23] 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. [24]

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. [25]

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 Indian and British special forces and the revolution ended. Sankoh was captured by a mob [26] 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. [5]

Four years later, during the sessions of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, prosecutors claimed that Charles Taylor had actively participated in directing the RUF's strategy from Liberia; among the allegations was that he had arranged to transport RUF commanders to Monrovia to meet with them personally. [27]

Political party

Revolutionary United Front Party
Ideology Nationalism

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. In the May 10, 2001, 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 voting in Kailahun, 7.8% in the parliamentary election. [28] [29]

The RUF most recently ran in the 2018 general elections in Sierra Leone and had the 6th highest vote tally in the country. It was not considered to be a significant contender.

Cultural references




The RUF's activities also formed the central focus of the autobiographical book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah which was published in 2007. [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

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