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32 Yrs. Today
Today is April 12, the day Liberians awoke in 1980 to gunfire with news that the government has been overthrown, and that President Tolbert had been killed in the Executive mansion. Thirteen ministers of his cabinet and top officials were executed ten days later. The new leaders, all unknown, established the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) and abolished the constitution.
From 1847 to that fateful day, the country struggled under a one-party state, stifling dissent and cementing exclusion thus marginalizing all others that did not fit in its framework.
The coup, and its ferocity, hit Africa, a continent on which military coups had become common. Some neighbours, like Guinea under the nationalist Sekou Toure, opposed it, while others embraced.
This horrifically violent change of the guards led to jubilation in the streets of Monrovia as once powerful men and women were now a shadow of themselves.
Whether the aftermath of this coup justified it is left to various contentious interpretations. But one conclusion is evident. It did not ensure the promised democratic governance its leaders and their allies used as the rationale, and in many respects, the far more horrific war that descended 10 years after was the outcome of this coup in unfinished business amongst its leaders.
Like President William R. Tolbert, executed in the Executive Mansion by non-commissioned officers, many of them his bodyguards, the coup’s leader and thereafter President, Master Sergeant K. Doe, would be captured by now Sen. Prince Johnson of Nimba County, and executed before cameras in far more tragic manner. Sen. Johnson then commanded a splintered faction of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).
On trial in The Hague for different crimes in another country—Sierra Leone, one of the coup’s shining stars—Charles Taylor—paid homage to his role in an event that changed the history of this country forever. He told judges that he helped to consolidate it.
In order not to forget this historic event so that its horrors cannot be repeated, we bring you reminders:
The BBC—1980: Deposed ministers executed in Liberia
Thirteen leading officials of the ousted government in Liberia have been publicly executed on the orders of the new military regime.
The dead men included several former cabinet ministers and the elder brother of William Tolbert, the assassinated president of the West African state.
They were tied to stakes on a beach next to the army barracks in the capital, Monrovia, and shot.
Journalists who had been taken to the barracks to watch the executions said they were cruel and messy.
They said four men were forced to watch the others die before being shot themselves, as there were only nine stakes.
The 13 men had been accused of treason, corruption and violation of human rights.
However, only four were condemned to death after their trial by a military tribunal.
But the so-called “Redemption Council”, headed by Sergeant Samuel Doe, overruled the tribunal’s verdicts.
Sergeant Doe seized power 10 days ago in a coup during which President Tolbert was shot dead.
More awaiting trial
Sergeant Doe has since been trying to rally support for his regime with promises of economic recovery.
He has already doubled civil service and army salaries and announced free tuition for students.
Another 80 people associated with the deposed government are awaiting trial by the tribunal.
Most of the deposed Tolbert government belonged to Liberia’s elite-the descendants of freed slaves from the United States who founded the country 133 years ago (before the coup).
However, the so-called “Americo-Liberians” now make up only 5% of the population and resentment has built up over the years at their dominant social and economic position.
Last year riots occurred when the government proposed sharply increasing the price of rice, the nation’s staple food.
An international con artist who recently entered the country under the guise of making investment, took thousands of dollars’ worth of office equipment from business people on credit, employed dozens...
Ellen Fears Youth Unemployment
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