On this date in 1990, deposed Liberian strongman Samuel Kanyon Doe was tortured and summarily executed in Monrovia by the putschists that overthrew him … and gruesomely filmed in the process.
Doe had come to power killing his predecessors — personally murdering, some sources say, President William Tolbert in 1980, then executing his chief aides.
That coup toppled civilian authority in the west African country now permanently prefixed with the adjective “troubled.” “The first of the monsters,” the War Nerd called him: Doe’s murderous rule through the 1980’s set up the succession of current war crimes prisoner Charles Taylor.
Samuel Doe’s turn in the obituaries arrived in particularly grisly fashion, with Taylor rival/semi-ally* Prince Johnson swilling beer as he interrogated — and ordered the ear sliced off — the groveling former head of state before having him executed. (Or if you like, just plain murdered.) The video shot of Doe’s ordeal became an international sensation … so it’s a little surprising that only this paltry excerpt seems to be readily available online:
* And current Liberian Senator! He feels just awful about the whole torturing-the-President-to-death thing.
On this date in 1980, days after the coup d’etat that overthrew the Liberian government, thirteen of its former officials were shot on the beach near an army barracks in Monrovia.
This day’s scene — messily conducted, according to journalist witnesses, and with four forced to watch the first nine shot owing to a shortage of stakes — got its start in antebellum America, where a weird coalition of slaveholders, abolitionists and slaves themselves conceived ex-slave colonies in Africa as the way to let off the domestic pressure of the “peculiar institution.”
And thus was born Liberia, where African-American settlers promptly assumed the role of privileged elite vis-a-vis the natives that white colonists had elsewhere in the colonial world. The tiny “Americo-Liberian” population ran the country for over a century through the True Whig Party — an aptly retro title.
This was a better deal for the Americo-Liberians than for the other 15 or so ethnic groups, and resentment over economic disparities started gathering head through the 1970’s.
On April 12, 1980, an ethnically Krahn officer named Samuel Doe overthrew — and personally murdered — the last Americo-Liberian president, William Tolbert.
Ten days later, Tolbert’s older brother and an assortment of cabinet officers and other ministers of the True Whig government followed the ex-president into the hereafter* — setting the stage for Doe’s brutal turn in power and the almost continual civil war that has become Liberia’s watchword over the past generation.
* Only four had actually been death-sentenced by their military tribunals, but Doe had the more lenient sentences overruled.