Majority of the people (70%) live below the poverty line despite its vast wealth as there is an uneven distribution of its wealth. Once a British colony, it gained its independence back in 1961 with Sir Milton Margai as the first prime minister and was succeeded by his own brother Albert Margai when he (Milton) unexpectedly died three years later. Albert himself lost by a landslide during a next electoral exercise to Mr. Siaka Stevens. At any rate, during its early years as an independent country, the majority of its politicians were notoriously corrupt and only enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Widespread corruption in the government and the mutual distrust of all the tribes against each other were the primary causes of the particularly brutal civil war. Discussion Sierra Leone suffered tremendously during Stevens' rule due to mismanagement of its resources. He also practiced cronyism by putting only trusted people from his own tribe to important government positions. Agriculture was largely neglected due to lack of government support and farmers could hardly make a living on their cash crops. Its diamond industry was also a losing proposition to many and the majority of the people continued to live in poverty with its government employees sometimes not paid for weeks and even months. The seeds of these discontent provided the fertile breeding ground for many insurgent groups such as the RUF. It was just simply a matter of time before a coup can succeed and there were many
planned that were not necessarily violent but merely to replace the corrupt government in power. The Revolutionary United Front (or RUF) forced Stevens to leave office but this was only after he had ravaged the country's economy. Gen. Momoh who succeeded Stevens made a few promises but largely unkept such as a redistribution of the country's wealth. He was also widely seen as a puppet of Stevens who was believed to still control the government. Chaotic conditions in the country made it inevitable that the country will soon plunge into a civil war as people had gotten more desperate. Civil society and political governance soon disintegrated with the RUF stepping into the breach and plunged the country into a vicious civil war. Many experts are aghast at the brutality shown by both sides but many concluded the war was really a fight for the country's diamonds (MacAndrew & Goode 31), with government troops used to displace or drive the people away from rich mining areas by using terror while the insurgents coveted the same areas to get their hands on the diamonds and exchange them for firearms. It was into this violent environment that Ishmael Beah was thrown in when he was a boy soldier forced into service by government troops when he was captured when these troops entered his village and massacred everyone except those they can conscript into service. The young boys were drugged using cocaine so they will become addicted and will not run away or desert the army and more likely to follow orders. His book is a haunting recollection of the horrors of war seen from the eyes of a boy soldier; he was merely 12 years old when abducted and soldiered for six years until he was eighteen (Helgesson 3). By then, he already learned to kill and also fighting both drug addiction and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).