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Liberia's Dark History


The Coup of 1980

The Rice Riot

In 1979 there were demonstrations in Monrovia  against the increase in the price of rice. In an effort to discourage the importation of rice (Liberia's staple food) and encourage the production of locally grown rice, the Tolbert Administration increased the prices of both types of rice.  The opposition group PAL, headed by G. Baccus Matthews, called for a massive demonstration through out Monrovia.  The week before the plan demonstration, the Tolbert administration made several public service announcements against the demonstration.

On Saturday, April 14, 1979, hundreds of Monrovians turned out to protest.  The government had called out both the Military and the Police to turn back the demonstrators.  The soldiers stood on the sidelines and watched, refusing to fire into the crowds, the police confronted the demonstrators.  Shots were fired, some people got killed and almost every store, shop and supermarket in Monrovia were looted.  Matthews was arrested and later released. 

The Coup

In the predawn hours of April 12, 1980, William R. Tolbert , 66, was overthrown by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe and 16 other enlisted men of the Arm Forces of Liberia (AFL).

In the coup, Tolbert was assassinated along with 27, other government officials.  13 top ranking ministers and members of the Tolbert family were tied to polls on South Beach in Monrovia and shot to death.

Some of the 13 executed  included:

  1. Frank Tolbert, brother of President Tolbert and President Pro-Temp of the Liberian Senate;
  2. Cyril Bright, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs;
  3. C. Cecil Dennis, Jr., Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  4. James A. A. Pierre, Chief Justice of Liberia;
  5. Richard A. Henries, Speaker of the House of Representatives;
  6. Frank Stewart, Director of the Budget
  7. John Sherman Minister of Commerce;
  8. Clarence Parker, Chairman of the National Investment Council;
  9. J. T. Phillips

Their bodies along with the president's, were dumped in a common grave.  During the coup, Foreign Minister Cecil Dennis had sought refuge at the U.S. embassy, but he was refused shelter. He was later arrested and executed at South Beach.

Many high ranking government ministers who survived were tried, beaten up and paraded through the streets of Monrovia without clothes and shoes.   The coup gave the indigenous inhabitants real political power for the first time, but Doe's violent overthrow was condemned by other African countries, allies and trading partners. A flight of capital and the upper class from the country occurred after the coup.

In president Doe first policy statement  on April 14, 1980, Doe said "The coup was most necessary, because of uncontrolled corruption; failure of the deposed government to be meaningfully responsive to the problems of the Liberian masses; as well as its disregard of the "civil, human and constitutional rights of the Liberian people"

Samuel Doe promoted himself to General and Commander in Chief and managed to survive several coup attempts. He was finally captured, tortured and killed on September 9, 1990 by Prince Johnson, ending Doe's 10 years of rule over Liberia.




One Night in Liberia's History

During the early days of the Liberian-Civil war, thousands of Gio and Mano Liberians had traveled to Monrovia, many on foot to escape the fighting in their home county of Nimba.  Many of them on their arrival to Monrovia, took refuge in the Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in Sinkor, Monrovia.

On the night of July 29, 1990, Doe's soldiers walked along the beach to Sinkor. They entered the St. Peter's Lutheran Church on the corner of 12th Street and Tubman Blvd, about 7:00 PM.

There were over 200 soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), headed by an infamous Liberian named Charles Julu. That night a horrible exercise in cruelty and the execution of mass murder occurred. When the soldiers were done and the screams were silenced, 600 Liberians had been slaughtered and 150 others wounded during this one night in Liberia's History. It is reported that President Samuel Doe stood by and watched as the massacre of 600 people took place, mostly with machetes.

Charles Julu & LURD

LURD is thought to be led by these individuals:

  • Charles Julue,
  • Joe Wylie,
  • Sekou Damate Conneh,
  • Laveli Supowood,
  • William Hanson,
  • Tarty Teh

Charles Julu won notoriety in early 1990s when he threw hundreds of children including babies into water-filled wells after massacring their families

He is also known to be the one who lead AFL soldiers during the  massacre of 600 Gio and Mano Liberians at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in Sinkor in July 1990.

Tarty Teh - had this to say in his May 23, 1998, Speech at a Gedeh Conference in New York City ..."With this in mind, we must look at where we are in terms of geography. We are very far from Monrovia; we are rich; we are full of trouble; and we know how to fight."

"Since we have already fought, all we need now is to promise to fight and they will know exactly what we are talking about. We have already earned the reputation. All we need now is to maintain it by taking real action against any group of people who endeavor to disrespect us. This means that we will keep them busy in Monrovia. Well let Charles Julu live in Monrovia, and let them wonder what hes up to from time to time."

The Liberian Civil War Links and Articles

  • Liberia: A Casualty of the Cold War's End - Half a decade ago, with the Berlin Wall coming down and the Soviet Union entering its final days, a small-scale conflict in West Africa quietly put post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy to an early test. Liberia's civil war, which began with a cross-border raid...

The War Against Liberia's Civilians: Grave Human Rights Violations

By: Anton Christen

An investigation by the American organization Human Rights Watch has revealed that both sides in Liberia's civil war are guilty of serious war crimes and human rights violations. The organization is therefore pushing for an extension and expansion of the UN weapons embargo.

Between June 2001 and March 2002, the U.S. human rights group Human Rights Watch interviewed hundreds of Liberian civilians who had been victims of war crimes and other grave human rights violations in their country. The interviews provided a clear and depressing picture of Liberian regular forces, and paramilitary units personally responsible to President Charles Taylor, conducting a campaign against the rebels of the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) without any regard for international law or human rights.


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