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“From Grace to Grass” – The Sad Story of Africa’s Youngest Dictator Who’s Now a ‘Pauper’, Captain Valentine Strasser

In 1992 at just age 25, Captain Valentine Strasser seized power from His former boss President Joseph Momoh and became Sierra Leone’s Head of State making him the youngest ever in the World.

They established a military junta called the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).

The young military officer, who was born on April 26, 1967, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and had enlisted in the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), had probably never imagined being the world’s youngest leader and founding leader of the NPRC at the age of 25.

Events that unfolded landed him these huge opportunities.

The young ambitious Strasser had then been dispatched to the eastern district of Kailahun to deal with a rebellion and insurgency that was led by a former army corporal who was fighting against the legitimate government of Momoh.

As things got heated up at the war front, Strasser and his colleague soldiers ran out of supplies such as boots and other necessary military equipment.

Their numerous appeals to the Sierra Leonean government to get them these items fell on deaf ears, coupled with the frequent delay in their salaries.

On April 29, 1992, Strasser led a team of young soldiers to march in their combat gear from Kailahun to the State House in protest of their conditions.

The appearance of the soldiers in the capital shocked many, with President Momoh even being forced to flee the country into exile in Conakry, Guinea.

This created a power vacuum, and Strasser and his men took advantage of that; they seized power, formed the NPRC and made Strasser its leader and Head of State.


Young people were so elated to have Strasser in power, with the belief that he had come to fight for their cause.

Strasser sat on wealth and had many opportunities. Soon he allowed his youthful exuberance to be his waterloo. He engaged in high level of profligacy and failed the war against rebel leader Forday Sankoh.

He grew unpopular with accusations of mismanagement and ordering the killing of many of dissenters of his regime. Majority of his soldiers defected to the rebel army after he employed the services of mercenary front Executive Outcomes.

Strasser was ousted in 1996 through a palace coup staged by his deputy Julius Maabo who assumed his position afterwards. Strasser fled to London and attempted studying law at Warwick University on scholarship. He couldn’t feed nor afford a decent accommodation.

Strasser, after his overthrow, left for the United Kingdom, where he studied law at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.

Hardship, together with divorce and constant harassment from a daughter of one of his victims soon forced him to abandon the school.

He was granted amnesty and returned to Sierra Leone where he’s been living with his mum and struggling so hard to survive daily.

World’s youngest Head of State now living in poverty

He laments over his joblessness and takes solace in the Palm wine bars.

During his regime, the youngest leader was reported to have managed to survive a civil war, two coup attempts and widespread condemnation for executing opponents, gagging the press and drafting young boys into the army.

He also endorsed a two-year transition to democracy, cut street crime and resumed tax collections.

The young military leader further slashed civil service rolls by one-fourth and cut inflation from 115% annually to less than 15%.


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