The Liberian Civil War: How One of America’s First Experiments in Nation Building Descended into Madness Part II

Part II: Samuel Doe Eats the President, then gets Eaten while Chucky Enters Downstage

Things for the Americo-Liberian elite were getting bad by 1980. Riots, factional fighting, and assassination attempts were commonplace. On the morning of April 12, 1980 a group of military leaders made up of a cross-section of Liberian tribal groups and led by former staff sergeant Samuel Doe stormed the Presidential Mansion in Monrovia. They captured and executed 13 government ministers as well as the president, William Tolbert, Jr. (Just to make sure everyone was paying attention, they made sure to broadcast this part on Liberian television. Torture culminating in disembowelment is always a sure bet during sweeps week.) Doe named himself the new President, and Doe’s core supporters (now all Generals in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Thomas Quiwonkpa, Nicholas Podier, and Thomas Weh Syen were all named to high government posts. Within five years Doe had killed them all, saving his closest ally Quiwonkpa for last, finally dismembering and allegedly cannibalizing him on November 12, 1985.

Doe ran the Government almost exactly as you would expect, sending the nation spiraling into debt and attempting to alleviate this problem by simply printing more money when he couldn’t mutilate his debtors. When this didn’t work, Doe found a welcome ally in good ol’ Ronny Reagan. Ronny had been having some fever dreams about the Soviets taking over Africa, and was thrilled to offer hundreds of millions to the bloody regime of their new Cold War buddy in exchange for Doe severing ties with Libya and the USSR, establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, and allowing the US to use Liberian air and seaports whenever they wanted. A match made in heaven. But Sammy just couldn’t hold it together, perhaps having to do with him being hell-bent on repressing the very tribal groups that  got him into power and fucking up most of the industry that the Americo-Liberians had spent 133 years building on the backs of his people. But of course it might be because Doe was a sadistic, psychotic, murderous little shit. No matter, by  1990 the typical tribal warfare had morphed into a 7 year long struggle with two major opponents,  the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO). However, in no time at all a splinter group called the Independent Patriotic Front (IPF or IPFL) had broken off from the NPFL and the ULIMO and broken into the ULIMO-J and the ULIMO-K and so on and so on as these groups slid closer and closer into the tribal gangs they started out as.

None the less, this messy assortment continued to fight Doe’s AFL forces ferociously  until September 10, 1990, when the IPF (who, by the way, were led by a cat named Prince Yormie Johnson) finally caught Doe after a unsuccessful truce negotiation. Accounts of how Johnson killed Doe vary a lot, but most have some combination of smashing Doe’s legs at the knees and/or amputation of both arms and legs, cutting Doe’s ears off and pan-frying them before consuming, poking out one or both of his eye’s and having his genitals removed. Almost all accounts end with Doe’s (at this point meager) remains being trucked around downtown Monrovia, and some claim that Johnson had videotaped the initial torture sessions and had bootleg copies floating all over town by the end of the day. After the turmoil that ensued, Charles “Chuck” Taylor (I shit you not) and his NPFL eventually were able to scramble its way to the top of the rubble that had become the nation of Liberia. But rather than attempt to rebuild a nation that by this point had been devastated by over  eight or nine years of hell-on-earth style fighting… well, let’s just say that Chucky has other plans.


~ by herodotuswept on November 16, 2007.

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