Valentine Strasser

Valentine Strasser

Country Ruled: Sierra Leone

Years Ruled: 1992 - 1996

Current Residence: Freetown, Sierra Leone


Losing your job, quitting school, going broke and moving back home with your mother after living abroad for years would be tough on anyone. It's even tougher when you're a former military dictator who once had the power to execute opponents at will.

Valentine Strasser became the world's youngest head of state when he seized power in 1992 at the age of 25. But the limelight didn't last - four years later he was ousted in another coup.

"I'm basically living off my mother now," Strasser later remarked. "She's been very supportive."

The human rights group Amnesty International in May called for the British government to investigate allegations of torture against the former NPRC leader, and accused his troops of "torture, ill treatment and arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians" while passing themselves off as RUF fighters. "Strasser's people were responsible for, among other things, torture of political opponents," an Amnesty International spokesman said. "The government has a responsibility to investigate because torture committed anywhere is a crime under U.K. law." Strasser, however, dismissed the allegations. "How can you say the claims Amnesty International is making are justified?," he asked. "They know it is the Revolutionary United Front that has been responsible for those abuses and violations." He also rejected criticism of the NPRC's execution of 26 political opponents, eight months after he took power. "They were tried, they were prosecuted, they were convicted, they were sentenced," he told the Sunday Times.

Strasser, who told the newspaper he is unemployed and dependent on his family and friends for financial support, showed scars above his eye and on his leg, and said he was recently attacked outside a London Underground station. "I was going to an off-licence, and then this guy just turned around and came at me with a knife - something like a Swiss Army penknife," he said. "I was stabbed and I had to be taken to hospital. I couldn't put it down to anything other than racial motivation."

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