Today In African History (April 12) – Samuel Doe Assumes Power In Liberia After Coup d’Etat


On this day in 1980, President William R. Tolbert Jr. was overthrown and murdered in the violent Liberian coup d’├ętat staged by an indigenous Liberian faction of the Armed Forces of Liberia under the command of Master Sargent Samuel Doe.

Following a period of transition, Doe would go on to rule the country throughout the 1980s until his murder on 9 September 1990 during the First Liberian Civil War.

The coup, which ended over 130 years of national democratic presidential succession, involved a total of 17 non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia. All of the conspirators were indigenous Liberians, while Tolbert was a member of Americo-Liberian community (which had ruled Liberia since independence in 1847).

The group entered the Executive Mansion (presidential palace) and killed Tolbert, whose body was dumped into a mass grave together with 27 other victims of the coup. A crowd of angry Liberians gathered to shout insults and throw rocks at the bodies

By the end of April, most of the cabinet members of the Tolbert administration had been put on trial in a kangaroo court and sentenced to death.

Many of them were publicly executed on 22 April at a beach near the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia.

Only four members of the Tolbert administration survived the coup and its aftermath; among them was the Minister of Finance, future President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the Vice President Bennie Dee Warner.

Following the coup, Doe assumed the rank of General and established the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), composed of himself and 14 other low-ranking officers, to rule the country.

The PRC was dissolved after the 1985 general election, in which Doe was elected President; he was sworn in on 6 February 1986.

Doe continued to rule the country until he was murdered on 9 September 1990 by the INPFC, led by Prince Johnson, during the First Liberian Civil War.



1877: British annexe Transvaal, South Africa.
1883: French troops under Lt-Colonel Borgnis-Desbordes occupy Bamako, Mali.
1893: Battle at Hoornkrans Southwest-Africa: German Schutztruppen chases away Hottentotten under Hendrik Witbooi.
1894: British & Belgian secret accord on dividing Central Africa.
1943: Allies conquer Soussa, North Africa.
1952: Salaheddine Baccouche forms the Tunisian government.
1959: France Observator reports torture practice by the French army in Algeria.
1973: Sudan adopts constitution.
1973: Swaziland suspends the constitution.
2012: Civilian rule in Mali is returned after Dioncounda Traore is sworn in as interim president.


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