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FACTBOX: Sierra Leone's civil war
May 31, 2007 / 9:03 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: Sierra Leone's civil war

(Reuters) - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, goes on trial in The Hague on June 4 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone’s civil war.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges arising from his alleged support for Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. Here are some key facts about Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

* The war began in 1991 when ex-army corporal Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front took up arms against then President Joseph Momoh, seizing towns near Liberia’s border.

* Although the rebels found some popularity at first, they earned a reputation for murder, rape, mutilation and recruiting child soldiers. Other factions also committed atrocities.

* The war was funded partly by diamonds mined in southern and eastern Sierra Leone. This helped lead to a global campaign against so-called “blood diamonds” mined in conflict zones.

* A group of army officers allied to the rebels overthrew elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1997. A Nigerian-led regional force reinstated Kabbah within a year.

* A truce was agreed in 1999 after heavy fighting in Freetown, but it fell apart in 2000. Former colonial power Britain sent troops to help a struggling U.N. force.

* Driven back into the countryside, rebels allowed U.N. troops to deploy to the areas they held in 2001 and disarmament was completed in 2002. The war was formally declared over.

* Kabbah was re-elected in May 2002. The RUF, standing as a political party, won little support in the ballot. Sankoh died in prison in 2003 while facing a war crimes indictment.

* The death toll from the war is estimated at 50,000 in a country that now has over 6 million people. Sierra Leone was the world’s second poorest country in 2006 going by a U.N. ranking.

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