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Valentine Esegragbo Melvine Strasser (born on April 26, 1967 in Freetown) is a former head of state of Sierra Leone from 1992-1996 . He was a junior military officer until 1992 , when he became the youngest Head of State in the world when he seized power just 3 days after his 25th birthday. He was the leading member of a group of six young Sierra Leonean soldiers who overthrew president Joseph Saidu Momoh in the April 29, 1992 military coup. Afterwards, the group formed the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), with Strasser as its leader.
Valentine Esegragbo Melvin Strasser was born on April 26, 1967 in the neighborhood of Murray Town in the west end of Freetown to a single mother from the Creole ethnic group of Jamaican ancestry. Strasser was raised by his mother and he never knew his biological father. Strasser completed his secondary education at the Sierra Leone Grammar School in Freetown. On graduation from secondary school in 1985, he enlisted in the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF) at the age of eighteen. After his training, he rose to the rank of junior officer.
As a young ambitious soldier, Strasser was commissioned to a military barracks in Daru, Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone in 1987 at the age of 19, along with his childhood friend and fellow soldier, Lieutenant Solomon Musa. Most of the soldiers in the barracks were in their teens or early twenties and most of them came from different parts of the country. Strasser spent almost five years at the military baracks in Kailahun District.
The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh began their first attack in 1992 in villages in Kailahun District. Strasser and other soldiers who were already in a military barracks in Kailahun, were sent to command and rout the rebellion against the RUF.
Unconfirmed reports state that during one of the initial battles between the RUF and Government forces he (Strasser) was shot and injured in the left leg.
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 to help fortify Strasser and his fellow soldiers in the war against the RUF. The soldiers never received their salaries on time and their welfare was hard
ly 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 April 29, 1992, to protest about their setbacks in pursuing the war, demanding their outstanding salaries. The group of soldiers was led by Strasser himself and his best friend Solomon Musa. The emergence of the soldiers into the capital city forced president Momoh to flee the country and he went into exile in Conakry, Guinea. That motivated Strasser and his men to seize power, forming the NPRC, with Strasser as its leader and the Head of State of the country.
On January 1996, after nearly four years in power, Strasser was ousted in another military coup, but this time it was his own NPRC members who were not satisfied with his handling of the peace process. The coup was led by his deputy, Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio, Colonel Tom Nyuma and Captain Komba Mondeh. Bio quickly rose as the leader of the coup, with the support of Nyuma and Mondeh and took over as Head of State of Sierra Leone.
Following his overthrow, Strasser left for the United Kingdom, where he studied law at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, but stopped his studies after a year. In 2000 Strasser left England for Gambia only to have his entry to that country denied.