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Joseph Saidu Momoh

Joseph Saidu Momoh




Joseph Saidu Momoh, a prominent figure in Sierra Leonean politics and military, was born on January 26, 1937, in Binkolo, Bombali District, to Limba parents. His family's relocation to Freetown during his childhood marked the beginning of a journey that would shape Sierra Leone's history. Educated at the West African Methodist Collegiate School and the Government Clerks School, Momoh's early years showcased not only academic prowess but also a passion for sports, excelling in tennis, basketball, and volleyball while also showcasing his talents in football.

In 1956, Momoh embarked on a civil service career, working as a third-grade clerk before transitioning to the military in 1958, enlisting in the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF). His military training took him to Ghana, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom, where he honed his skills at prestigious institutions like the School of Infantry in Hythe and the Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot. Rising through the ranks, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Sierra Leone Military Forces in 1963, eventually reaching the rank of major-general in 1983.

Momoh's political ascent paralleled his military career. In 1971, following a coup attempt, President Siaka Stevens appointed him force commander, a position he held until his presidency. Momoh's journey to the presidency accelerated in 1985 when he became the secretary-general of the All People's Congress (APC) and succeeded President Stevens in a one-party election. His presidency was characterized by economic challenges inherited from his predecessor, exacerbated by corruption and instability. Despite these obstacles, Momoh initiated anti-corruption measures, earning praise from international leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who bolstered support and aid to Sierra Leone.

Momoh's tenure faced numerous trials, including a treason trial in 1987 and involvement in the Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait. However, his efforts at reform, including the introduction of multiparty democracy and dissolution of tribalism in 1991, were overshadowed by the eruption of the Sierra Leone Civil War and his subsequent overthrow in a military coup led by Valentine Strasser in 1992. Forced into exile in Guinea, Momoh spent his remaining years under political asylum until his passing on August 2, 2003, leaving behind a complex legacy marked by both achievements and challenges in his quest to lead and transform Sierra Leone.


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