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Valentine Strasser: Youngest African president ever

Born April 26, 1967, Valentine Esegragbo Melvine Strasser is an ex-military leader who served as head of state of Sierra Leone from 1992 to 1996.

He had been a junior military officer but in 1992, he became the world’s youngest Head of State when he seized power three days after his 25th birthday.

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Strasser was the leading member in a group of six young Sierra Leonean soldiers who overthrew president Joseph Saidu Momoh on 29 April 1992 military coup.

They executed the coup through a military junta called the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).

During Strasser’s time at the war front in Kailahun District against the RUF, the Government of Sierra Leone led by president Joseph Saidu Momoh hardly supplied enough boots to the soldiers and the necessary military equipment.

The soldiers never received their salaries on time and their welfare was hardly at the top of the government’s list of priorities.

After many appeals, warnings or threats, the young soldiers decided to march down in their combat from Kailahun to the State House in Freetown on 29 April 1992, to protest about their setbacks in pursuing the war, demanding their outstanding salaries.

The appearance of the soldiers in the capital city forced president Momoh to flee the country and he went into exile in Conakry, Guinea.

This power vacuum motivated Strasser and his men to seize power, forming the NPRC, with Strasser as its leader and the Head of State of the country.

However, in January 1996, after nearly four years in power, Strasser was ousted in a second military coup, but this time it was his own NPRC soldiers who were not satisfied with his handling of the peace process.

The coup was led by his deputy, Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio.

Following his overthrow, Strasser was given a fellowship by the UN to study law at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, but stopped his studies after 18 months.

In 2000, Strasser’s application for asylum in England was rejected; he then left for the Gambia, only to be denied entry.

He eventually returned to Sierra Leone, where he lived in poverty on a small pension in Grafton, east of Freetown and worked at the ICT Institute providing computer skills for youths.

In January 2019, he fell gravely ill and was flown to Ghana for treatment.

His left leg was partially amputated due to peripheral artery disease.

After undergoing rehabilitation, he returned to Sierra Leone in July 2021, and received an apartment from President Bio.

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Amadu Makalo Koita, a member of the opposition All People’s Congress, later alleged that the government was keeping Strasser under house arrest.

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