RUF Issa Sesay Cries From Prison

The former leader of the disbanded Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, Gen. Issa Sesay has called on the international community and President Julius Maada Bio to have him transferred to serve the rest of his 52-year jail term in Sierra Leone.

According to a local newspaper report Gen Issa Sesay who was convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by a UN-backed Special Court, said, “there is no place like home”. He said he wanted to be able to have access to his family whom he said could not visit him because of distance and cost.

Sesay said his wife was only allowed to visit him once a year and that he had not seen his two sons since he was transferred to serve his sentence in the east African nation.

He said his health was fine: “I am having three meals a day with proper health care here, but I miss seeing my friends and family”, he said.

Sounding contrite, the 50-year-old former rebel chieftain said he was sorry for the mayhem the RUF unleashed on Sierra Leone during the 10-year-long war in the 1990s which killed, maimed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

But Sesay stressed that his role in bringing back peace was “immeasurable”. He was appointed by west African leaders as an interlocutor for the rebels when his then boss, Foday Sankoh dithered about the peace process.

“I was dedicated to and genuine in the search to bring back peace to Sierra Leone”, he said, adding that his commitment had angered some of his commanders who accused him of “sell-out”.

He said his 19-year-old son had already gained admission to study at Fourah Bay College and he would like to see him progress even if from behind bars, but in his home country.

While in prison, he went on, he had lost both his parents, and appealed for a return home to serve the rest of his prison term.

“I want President Maada Bio to think of me,” Sesay pleaded, adding: “he knows the role I played as the head of state who held the first face-to-face talks with the then RUF leader Foday Sankoh in 1996”. He said he was a young Major then in the rebel ranks and had accompanied Sankoh whom he said he persuaded to follow the peace path, albeit unsuccessfully.

Bio was then a military head of state and those talks led to further talks which culminated in the Lome Peace Agreement. That Lome agreement itself collapsed when Sankoh reneged and his rebels took hundreds of UN peacekeepers hostage.

Credit Umaru Fofana