A TYRANT FALLS: Gruesome Story Of How The First Indigenous President Of Liberia Was Tortured To Death On Video And Laid Naked In State

The Old Times

July 16, 2021

A leader’s duty is to his people and should always have their best interest at heart. The same goes for heads of states whose first and foremost duty is to serve their country. Presidents are revered by their people and when they die they are given befitting burials worthy of them. However, some presidents tread on cruel paths and meet very gruesome ends. One such president who met a horrible fate was Samuel Doe. After Charles Taylor was able to put together a local army labelled the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) with the help of Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 1989, Liberian defence forces stood very little chance.

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A Friendship Turns Sour

Charles Taylor had harboured aspirations of becoming Liberia’s leader for a long time. This was even before he returned to Liberia to become the Director-General of the General Services Agency (GSA), the government’s purchasing authority, under the government of Samuel Doe. Barely less than a decade before Taylor’s rebel warfare against the government, he and Doe had been good friends. However, in 1983, Samuel Doe fired Taylor after he was accused of stealing $1 million that belonged to the Liberian state. Charles Taylor escaped to the United States, where he became involved in fighting a deportation request by Liberia. While he was detained at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, Massachusetts, Charles Taylor and a few others escaped imprisonment under very mysterious circumstances. Charles later claimed at the International Criminal Court that the CIA had helped him break free from prison. Now, whatever mystery surrounded his escape from prison, the intention behind Taylor’s return to Liberia in 1989 was actually clear. That is to go back to be lord of Liberia.

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Samuel Doe was the man Taylor sought to eliminate when NPFL forces marched to Monrovia from the Ivory Coast in December 1989. No one was spared in their path as both government-friendly vigilantes and army soldiers were laid to waste by Taylor’s men. The NPFL’s chief training, a frightening man named Prince Yormie Johnson, effectively cleared the way for Taylor’s return to Liberia. Johnson had been a faithful Liberian soldier, but he turned on Samuel Doe, mentioning mismanagement of the country. Doe’s horrible end was a perfect example of friendships turning sour.  But there have been others who argue that in order to kill him, Doe was forced to drink from wells he had poisoned.

Samuel Doe Becomes Liberia’s First Native President

After the 1800s, Liberia became a classed society along the lines of superior American and inferior native identities. Those who traced their lineage to the freed Black men and women as well as to white Americans who settled in Liberia bought by the American Colonisation Society (ACS) in 1817, refer to themselves as Americo-Liberians. When Samuel Doe led a bloody coup against the Americo-Liberian President William Tolbert in 1980, he laid to rest, a tradition of more than 130 years of Americo-Liberian domination in Liberian politics. After he claimed victory in a deceitful election in 1985, Doe became the first “indigenous” Liberian head of state. After overpowering the government’s stronghold of the capital Monrovia, Johnson captured Doe and made a dishonourable show of torturing him. The torture session was recorded on video. As his troops cut off Doe’s body parts, Johnson sat in a chair, laughing and drinking beer. Eventually, Johnson had Doe killed and his body was laid in state, naked. For a while, Johnson assumed the presidency of Liberia but fearing a possible attack from Taylor loyalists, the former soldier fled the country and settled in Nigeria until 2004.

The Horrible Fate Of Samuel K. Doe

Samuel Kanyon Doe was born on May 6, 1950/51 in Tuzon, Liberia. He died on September 9/10, 1990 in Monrovia) and was the Liberian head of state from 1980 to 1990. Doe who was a member of the Krahn (Wee) tribe, enlisted in the army at age 18. He rose through the ranks to become a master sergeant in 1979. Like other native Liberians, Samuel Doe hated the privilege and power granted the Americo-Liberians, descendants of the freed American slaves who founded the colony of Liberia in 1822. In April 1980 Doe led an attack by a group of Krahn soldiers on the Liberian executive mansion, killing President William R. Tolbert. Later, 13 prominent associates of assassinated Tolbert were also tried and executed. After the coup, Doe assumed the rank of general and established a People’s Redemption Council (PRC) that included himself and 14 other low-ranking officers to rule the country. 

Doe suspended the nation’s constitution until 1984 when a new constitution was approved by referendum. In 1985 he won a presidential election that was condemned as fraudulent by some observers. Doe faced opposition both at home and abroad, where his administration was often described as corrupt and brutal. His term of office was suffered a deteriorating economic backlash, which he suppressed with considerable brutality. These actions, along with Doe’s favouritism toward his own Krahn tribe, sparked a rebellion against him that began in eastern Liberia in late 1989. By July 1990 the rebel forces had marched into the capital city of Monrovia, but Doe refused to yield power. As the civil war continued, he was captured and assassinated.

The Gruesome Torture And Assassination Of Samuel Doe

 No matter how much time passes, the death of Samuel Doe is still a gruesome incident. Doe’s regime was overthrown by Charles Taylor who actually proved to be worse than Doe. During the war, a rebel leader Prince Yormie Johnson split from Taylor’s NPFL and formed the INPFL. That was when he and his forces captured, tortured, and executed President Doe in Monrovia on September 9, 1990. Johnson was livid when he heard that Doe was dead from bleeding profusely. He had previously ordered Doe to be locked in a bathroom but Doe knocked himself out against the bathroom window causing a cerebral haemorrhage that finally killed him. Doe’s horrible assassination was recorded by the INPFL on videotape. Journalists Stephen Smith of Liberation, Mark Huband and Patrick Robert of French photo agency Sygma who were present at the INPFL camp were given the videotape. 


They then released the video which was seen on news reports around the world and was a best-selling film in West Africa. Now even twenty years later, it is still doing well in the markets of Monrovia; Johnson sipping a Budweiser as Doe’s ear is cut off became almost an image transplanted from a Shakespearean play. Samuel Doe who staged a televised execution of the Tolbert government on a sunny beach became the first world leader to be tortured on camera before being executed and his body laid naked in state. His execution should have brought Liberia some closure, but it did not. More violence under Charles Taylor witnessed the brutal killings of more Liberians and this was a sad decline for Africa’s first republic.

By The Old Times