Coup Makers Arrive!

By: Shelton F. Gonkerwon

Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted April 12, 2005


Today, April 12, certainly reminds Liberians of the first Military coup d’tat launched in by seventeen enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) on the fatal morning of April 12, 1980.

Those who personally witnessed the event could certainly remember the permeating spiraling dust of jubilation, and the permeating quivering of the echoes of revolutionary drums, sasa, dances and all elements of joy and happiness.

Liberia’s 18th President, William Richard Tolbert had been overthrown in a bloody coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Several government officials were also executed on charges of rampant corruption.

A new day could be seen beaming through the persistent promises to lift the living standard of the masses. Then came the golden revolutionary slogan: “No tribalism, no corruption.” The Krahns of Grand Gedeh and the Gio and Manos of Nimba County emerged as heroes in the 1980 revolution. Samuel Kanyon Doe and Thomas Quiwonkpa were embraced, loved and cherished by the masses for what was considered the “people’s redemption.” The flag of national expectation was being raised from all four corners of the land. The expectation of national unity, love, the respect for law and order, fair division of labor and the elements of nationalistic virtues would be placed over ills of the immediate past – abuse of law and order by certain members of the long ruling Congo elites, little or no regard for the aborigines among others. From the beginning there was smooth sailing along the revolutionary drive way.

Power was proportionally shared while corruption could be suppressed; justice was being pegged alongside the masses who would define the revolution in the context of its reality. Moreover, there was joyful noise here, there and yonder. The philosophy of Tolbert “from mats to mattresses; I will build thee a great nation; let’s go back to the soil; against poverty, ignorance and disease…” now appeared thrown into oblivion. Then came political contamination after the first one year in office by the young harbingers of the People’s Redemption Council government.

The political contamination had to do with marginalization of potential members of the PRC blaming it on coup plot. Gen Thomas Wehsyen and several others were expelled from the corridor of the PRC on charges of wanting to overthrow the Samuel Doe government having been hastily tried before a seeming kangaroo military tribunal. Indeed, the Doe led PRC soon turned cannibalistically cruel thereby behaving like cats that have the tradition of eating their kittens before turning to the rats. Tribalism which was made a known taboo of the revolution, has now taken firm roots while the strategy for political perpetuation remained principally the focus of Doe.

The Gios, Manos on the one hand and the Krahns on the other have turned gladiators when Quiwonkpa was killed in an abortive invasion November 13, 1985, shortly following the 1985 elections said to be shamelessly rigged by Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL). The Gios and Manos began to look over their shoulders seeking the redeeming hand of anything that would stretch its hand, in the face of general transferred aggression. Then came Charles Taylor and delivered bags of souls, guns, machetes, and all other warlike materials thereby answering their prayer. They then turned crusaders of avenge against the Krahns.

Charles Taylor’s war was said to be sponsored by certain big people of the minority Congo elites whose strategy was basically said to be bringing the two revolutionary heroes together in a battle- a battle that would cause deaths and destruction – a battle that would see potential politicians from the class of the aborigines crushed. Unquestionably, that turned to be the reality. The politically potential ones were crushed. Towns and villages were burnt down, the resources massively depleted while untold suffering, hunger, poverty; disease became the roof of the nation.

Today, Tolbert is remembered as a true patriot and visionary whose dreams and nationalistic actions are being realized as panacea for Liberia’s growth and development. Many are of the opinion that given his vision and dream as well as his political philosophy, Tolbert would have given Liberia a realistic birth in the context of economic vibrancy, educational excellence, food security, health, etc. were he allowed to go another term. Many of them are making public confession that Tolbert was the right man who was wrongly killed. Consequently, Liberia has continued to ramble and wrangle hopelessly and chaotically in what is practically a political, economic, cultural and economic wilderness.

The acts of patriotism no more form part of governance, instead rampant acts of thievery, greed and lawlessness now form the crux of today’s political affairs, especially that which constitute a conglomeration of many people coming from the background of war. Thus Liberia is in search of a patriotic leader whose vision, dream and actions would be like Tolbert. May be the God of democracy needs to hear their prayer, mold their democracy, grant them the wisdom to draw a Tolbert type of leader who would prove to be a unifier, coefficient of social justice, and a warrior against hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease.

The post Tolbert days as far as the current phenomenon is concerned could hardly sleep in peace, nor share the fragrance of co-existence with regard to political wisdom. Visible chaos and elements of national explosion could be seen through the fumbling declarations of political ambition, with every Tom, Dick and Harris wanting state power.

Doe’s administration was tyrannically thorny; Taylor’s regime was administratively hazardous while the current Bryantantic transitional era bears no redemptive solution as it is armed with the destructive swords of corruption, generating poverty, hardship and hunger.

© 2005: This article is copyrighted by the Forum newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved. Forum can reached at: