Joseph Saidu Momoh

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Joseph Saidu Momoh
2nd President of Sierra Leone
In office
November 28, 1985 – April 29, 1992
Vice President Francis Minah (1985-87)
Abu Bakar Kamara (1987-91)
Abdulai Conteh (1991-92)
Preceded by Siaka Stevens
Succeeded by Valentine Strasser
Personal details
Born (1937-01-26)January 26, 1937
Binkolo, Bombali District, British Sierra Leone
Died August 3, 2003(2003-08-03) (aged 66)
Conakry, Guinea
Nationality Sierra Leonean
Political party All People's Congress (APC)
Spouse(s) Fatmata Momoh, Hannah Momoh

Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, OBE (January 26, 1937 – August 3, 2003) served as President of Sierra Leone from November 1985 to April 29, 1992.

Early life and education[edit]

Joseph Saidu Momoh was born on January 26, 1937 in Binkolo, Bombali District in the Northern Province of British Sierra Leone to Limba parents. He was a Christian.

President of Sierra Leone[edit]

Momoh served as President of Sierra Leone from November 28, 1985 to April 29, 1992. A professional soldier drawn into politics, Momoh rose from the enlisted ranks to the highest position in the Sierra Leone Military Forces (Major-General), during his presidency.

In 1985 Momoh succeeded President Siaka Stevens by becoming the only candidate in a one-party election in the form of a referendum under the banner of the All People's Congress party (APC).

Momoh declared a state of economic emergency early in his rule, granting himself greater control over Sierra Leone's economy, but he was not regarded as a dictator. Instead, his people viewed him as far too weak and inattentive to the affairs of state, allowing his notoriously corrupt advisors to manipulate matters behind the scenes.

President Momoh appears on the Leone

Momoh has inherited a disintegrating economy from his predecessor and he was unable to stop the trend. The country's currency decreased in value. Sierra Leone reached the point under President Momoh where it could not afford to import gasoline and fuel oil, and the country went without electricity for months at a time.

1987 Treason Trial[edit]

On 23 March 1987, police reported that a group of conspirators was plotting to assassinate Momoh and stage a coup d'étet after they raided a house in Freetown and discovered a cache of weapons, including rocket launchers.[1]

James Bambay Kamara, the formidable Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police, gave the order to arrest First Vice President Francis Minah, G.M.T. Kaikai, Jamil Sahid Mohamed and fifteen others.[2][1]

Minah was a personal friend of Momoh and while he did not personally believe that Minah was involved in the plot, he did not want to oppose Inspector General Kamara.[2] Momoh did not intervene on behalf of Minah.[2]

The Treason Trial went on for five months until October 1987 when the jury delivered a guilty verdict.[1] The former First Vice President and 17 others were convicted of treason and sentenced to death.[1] Jamil Sahid Mohamed escaped to Lebanon where he remained in exile.[1] They were executed on warrants signed by Momoh.[2]

The SCIPA Group[edit]

The SCIPA Group was an Israeli mineral company led by Nir Guaz that arrived in Sierra Leone in 1989.[3] SCIPA bought it's way into Momoh's favor by providing the government with loans and enabling Sierra Leone to enter into negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.[3] On Christmas Eve 1989, Momoh had Guaz arrested, charged with economic sabotage and deported from Sierra Leone.[3]

In September 1991, after the start of the Sierra Leone Civil War, Momoh ushered in a new constitution which dismantled the one-party state established in 1978 and instituting multiparty democracy. He also played a great part in dissolving tribalism.

Marriage and family[edit]

Momoh was marriage Fatmata Neppie Momoh, a Fulani woman from Kono.[4] They later divorced.[4]

He fathered a natural child Abdul Momoh with a woman called Hawa Marah.[4]

His second marriage to Hannah Momoh was also unsuccessful as she felt humiliated by his incessant infidelities.[5] Shortly into his presidency, the Fullah community of Kono offered Momoh a young girl from their community as a "bribe".[5] When Momoh openly made the girl his mistress, First Lady Momoh left their residence at Wilberforce Road and relocated to London, England.[5] She never returned.[5]

Momoh later reconciled with his ex-wife Fatmata.[4]

Military Coup[edit]

However, Momoh's efforts at reform came too late to rescue Sierra Leone from chaos. He was overthrown in a military coup staged by Valentine Strasser, a 25-year-old army captain, in April 1992.

In April 1992, a group of young soldiers marched to Freetown from the war front where they had been fighting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh.[6] Incesenced by terrible working conditions, unpaid salaries and a lack of government support they staged a coup d'état.[6]

On 29th April 1992, while Momoh was giving a speech to a group of schoolchildren, the soldiers, led by Captain Valentine Strasser announced the military coup on the radio.[6]

Momoh fled immediately to Guinea and sought political asylum.[6]

Exile and Death[edit]

Momoh was granted political asylum in neighboring Guinea by President Lansana Conté.[4] He took up residence in a mansion in Nongo Tadi, Conakry.[4][3]

He was active with a group of Sierra Leonean exiles that included his former ministers.[3] He made several attempts to stage counter coups to reinstate his government but all of them were unsuccessful.[3] One of Momoh's plots was uncovered on 22 November 1992 and another on 29 December 1992.[3] Inspector General Bambay Kamara was implicated in the second attempted coup.[3] The military junta had Kamara and 26 co-conspirators extrajudicially executed by firing squad.[3]

He reconciled with his first wife Fatmata, who joined him there with their children.[4]

He died from hypertention in 2003.[7] He bequeathed his property, including seven homes in Sierra Leone, to Fatmata.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Former Vice President Convicted Of Treason, Sentenced To Death". AP News. Retrieved 2018-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d Berewa, Solomon E. (2011-12). "A New Perspective on Governance, Leadership, Conflict and Nation Building in Sierra Leone". AuthorHouse. Retrieved 2018-07-10.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pham, John-Peter (2005). "Child Soldiers, Adult Interests: The Global Dimensions of the Sierra Leonean Tragedy". Nova Publishers. Retrieved 2018-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "On Ex-President Momoh's will. Wife reveals it all". 2005-12-24. Retrieved 2018-06-18. 
  5. ^ a b c d Tumoe, Tatafway (2010-11-03). "Sia Nyama Koroma : Sierra Leone's Special First Lady". Retrieved 2018-06-17. 
  6. ^ a b c d Mansaray, Ibrahim Sourie (2013). "Was the 1992 coup a blessing or a curse for Sierra Leone?". Retrieved 2018-06-17. 
  7. ^ "Joseph Momoh, 66; Sierra Leone President Ousted in Coup". Los Angeles Times. 3 August 2003. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  • Reno, William. Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1995.
  • Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Joseph Saidu Momoh,” Encyclopedia of Modern Dictators, ed. by Frank J. Coppa (New York: Peter Lang), 2006, pp. 189–191.
  • Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Joseph Saidu Momoh: A Legacy of Missed Opportunity,” Awoko (Freetown, Sierra Leone), 25 July 2003, p. 7.
  • Tuchscherer, Konrad. “Joseph Saidu Momoh: Human Rights,” Daily Observer (Banjul, The Gambia), 14 August 2003, p. 12.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Siaka Stevens
President of Sierra Leone
Succeeded by
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah