Valentine Strasser: Ex-president who begged for food after exiting State House by force
On April 29, 1992, six military officers stormed Sierra Leone’s State House in Freetown armed to the teeth.
Among the soldiers were Valentine Strasser and two of his best friends, Sargent Solomon Musa and Captain Sahr Sandy.
The troop had marched to the State House to express their angst over delayed salaries. They also accused President Joseph Said Momoh of failing to address their welfare, including failure to supply the military with boots, as they fought against the Liberian invasion of Sierra Leone, in 1991.
Sensing danger, President Momoh, who all along was hiding inside a bathroom, when the youthful soldiers stormed his residence, fled the country in a chopper – to Guinea.
The power vacuum that arose saw Strasser, who was the leader of the group, take up the seat, making him the youngest president in the world, to date.
Strasser, born on April 26, 1967, had just celebrated his 25th birthday three days earlier before he took over as president of Sierra Leone on April 29, 1992.
But unlike most African presidents born into power, Valentine Strasser didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his hands.
Strasser, now 56, never even had the best education that most African affluent enjoy that propels them to power.
After completing his high school education, Strasser enlisted in the army at the age of 18. Eight years later, he slept and dined in the State House as the head of state.
After nearly four years in power, Strasser’s world came tumbling down when he was overthrown in Sierra Leone’s second military coup, by Brigadier General Julias Maada Bio, on January 1996.
After leaving power, Strasser was given a UN fellowship to study law in England. Though he was good in science and mathematics while in high school, Strasser, a former president who had gone back to class, dropped out at the University of Warwick after just 18 months into the programme.
In 2000, Strasser’s application for asylum in England was rejected. He then left for the Gambia, only to be denied entry.
Devastated, the former head of state, who by now was stateless and homeless eventually returned to Sierra Leone, where he lived in poverty on a small pension.
The money was so little that Strasser decided to take up another job as a teacher at an ICT institute providing computer skills for youths.
In January 2019, Strasser fell gravely ill and was flown to Ghana for treatment. There, doctors amputated due to peripheral artery disease.
When he finally recovered, the homeless ex-head of state returned to Sierra Leone in July 2021. Surprisingly, he received a gift—a house, President Bio who had kicked him out of power.
Though little has been heard of him lately, unverified information says that Strasser, a one-time world’s youngest head of state who once lived on the street, is now being kept under house arrest.
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