THE COUP IN 1980


In 1980 Tolbert's opponents, emboldened by a court decision recognizing them as an opposition party, openly called for his overthrow. Their leader, Gabriel B. Matthews, and a dozen others were arrested in March 1980.
On 12 April 1980, a bloody coup was staged by army personnel under the leadership of Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe. Doe's forces executed President William R. Tolbert. More than a dozen officials of the previous regime, mostly of Americo-Liberian descent, were publicly executed. A People's Redemption Council (PRC), headed by Doe, subsequently suspended the constitution and assumed full legislative and executive powers. Americo-Liberian political domination ended with the formation of the People's Redemption Council. Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe was a indigenous Liberian from the Krahn ethnic group. The top coup leaders were Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, who was announced head of State; Sergeant Thomas Weh-Syen, Vice Head of State; and Sergeant Thomas Quiwonkpa, "Strongman of the Revolution" as Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Political parties remained banned until 1984. Elections were held on 15 October 1985, in which Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) was declared winner. The elections were characterized by widespread fraud and rigging. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions.

Doe's government increasingly adopted an ethnic outlook, as members of his Krahn ethnic group soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This caused a heightened level of ethnic tension leading to frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country. The Doe regime was an extraordinarily brutal one that not only disenfranchised many Liberians, it also effectively erased the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate political action.


© Robert W. Kranz (2005) 
Information courtesy of: www.GlobalSecurity.org