At 13 he was forced into military Service during the Sierra Leone Civil War of the early 1990s. With the aid of UNICEF, he escaped the terrible situation and relocated to New York City, where he graduated from the U.N. International School.
He earned a political science degree from Oberlin College in Ohio.
He spent his childhood years in Mogbwemo, Bonthe District, Sierra Leone, and later lived in the United States with his foster parent, Laura Simms. He married Priscillia Kounkou in 2013.
On a 2007 episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he discussed his harrowing experiences as a child soldier and his readjustment to civilian life.