Rebel-leader Sankoh to be charged with murder

The leader of a brutal rebel movement that killed and maimed thousands of people during Sierra Leone’s civil war will be charged with murder, a government minister reportedly said Monday.

Foday Sankoh, who led the West African nation’s Revolutionary United Front rebels for nearly a decade, was due to appear Monday before a court in the capital, Freetown, Justice Minister Solomon Berewa reportedly said.

Authorities have held Sankoh at an undisclosed location since he was imprisoned in May 2000.

The announcement comes just days after President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah lifted a four-year-old state of emergency, which had enabled the government to detain Sankoh indefinitely without charging him with a crime, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Berewa told the AP that Sankoh would be charged with murder and robbery.

Several members of the notorious West Side Boys gang, a renegade faction of the Sierra Leone army known for its brutality during the war, will also be charged, the AP reported.

Sierra Leone has been devastated by the war, which began in 1991 when Sankoh founded the rebel movement. The rebels tried to overthrow the government to gain control of the country’s lucrative diamond mines.

The war became a byword for brutality. Rebels cut off the arms and legs of thousands of civilians, and forced young children to fight their battles. Thousands of people were displaced.

The rebels signed-and abandoned-three peace accords before they agreed to a peace deal in November 2000 under pressure from forces of the United Nations, Britain, and neighboring Guinea.

The country has been largely peaceful since then and the war was officially declared over in January.

Sankoh is widely expected to be among those charged by a separate war crimes tribunal, set up by the government and the United Nations to judge those who bear the greatest responsibility for the war, the AP reported.