The Last Day on Earth for Liberian President Samuel K. Doe


Doe visits the USA. On the right is Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger

Doe visits the USA. On the right is Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger

There is no definitive biography written about Samuel Doe, former President of Liberia. Thus, it is hard to piece together everything that happened towards the end of his life. This article attempts to do that.

A former officer of slain President Samuel K. Doe’s disbanded Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU) has given an eye-witness account of how the former president was captured and killed by the erstwhile Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) rebels in 1990.The INPFL broke away from Charles Taylor’s NPFL, after Taylor and Prince Johnson, now a Senator for his native Nimba County, fell out. Jeff Neeray told a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia on Thursday that in September 1990, Doe’s military high command received a communication from the then Commander of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), General Arnold Quainoo from the Freeport of Monrovia, informing Doe that then Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida had invited him to Nigeria for political asylum.

However, as one of Doe’s bodyguards, Neeary said he was driving one of the vehicles in the convoy that carried the late president to the Freeport. He said upon arrival at the entrance of the port, all of Doe’s soldiers were disarmed by ECOMOG soldiers before allowing them to enter the port. Neeray said after they had entered, Doe was led to a building hosting the ECOMOG headquarters, where General Quainoo came and met him on the stairs. Neeray, who said he survived a rocket propelled grenade attack at the time, said General Quainoo put up an argument that the people accompanying the former president were too many. “Minutes later, I heard a siren blowing, thinking that the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers had sensed something fishy and were coming to rescue us. I then heard the firing of a M203 and machine guns at the gate. Then Prince Johnson and his men entered. They went upstairs and grabbed Doe from the back of his shirt and dragged him down the stairs,” Neeray said.

DIFFERING ACCOUNTS

This story is debatable, however, since BBC was present at the port that day. Their reporters claim that after an altercation with Prince’s men in the parking lot, Doe and company exchanged fire and then were holed up and trapped in a conference room at the port administration building. They were hiding in the exact same room as Doe. During the firefight Doe was shouting to Prince, “You are embarrassing us!” (meaning Liberia). After an hour-long shootout, Doe was wounded and his bodyguards fell on top of him as a last ditch effort to protect him. Contrary to the story of the BBC journalists, the witness Neeray said after Doe had been grabbed, General Quainoo turned his back and walked into his office. Neeray said after Doe’s capture, Prince Johnson and his fighters opened fire on the disarmed soldiers accompanying Doe. He said Prince Johnson’s men launched a grenade where Neeray, together with Nelson Paye and one Siewon Manyea had taken cover near a 40-foot container at the port. He added that the grenade hit the container and that particles from the grenade entered his jaw and made a deep cut on his head. “After killing all the men and women that accompanied Doe, Johnson’s men decided to counter-check if all of them were dead, and two of his fighters started to shoot at the dead bodies on the ground,” Neeray added. He said he and other survivors were later taken into a ship to Ghana (this could have been the ship meant for Doe and his party). But, that was not to be. It is estimated that Johnson had over 100 heavily armed men with him, while Doe’s group numbered about 60, armed mostly with smaller caliber weapons. It is not known if Doe was seeking asylum or escape, or if he was going to the port to ask ECOMOG to help in his cause in order to hang on to power in Liberia. There are no facts to support either decision. One this is certain, Doe’s family had been evacuated to London about a month earlier on the regime’s last remaining Boeing state-owned jet.

DOE’S MORTAL REMAINS

Johnson, the leader of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, has for the first time revealed that the body of slain President Samuel Doe was burnt to ashes. Mr. Prince Johnson, now Senator of Nimba County told the TRC hearing on Tuesday the dismembered body of President Doe was briefly put on display in the street on a stretcher, but later the burnt body was thrown into a river at his former Caldwell base.

PRINCE JOHNSON’S VERSION OF EVENTS

Prince Johnson explained that Doe was arrested at the Freeport of Monrovia where he had gone to meet the command of ECOMOG.  He said the late President and bodyguards violated a truce that called for officials from one territory to give prior notice before visiting another. According to Senator Johnson, he ordered his INPFL forces to open fire on Doe’s bodyguards and during the gun battle the late President was wounded, as he and his bodyguards took refuge in a small administrative building at the port that was shot to pieces in the firefight. Doe’s bodyguards were all killed and fell on top of him in a final attempt to protect him. He was then apprehended. The firefight “seemed to go on forever”, according to one BBC journalist who was present in the two-story port admin building. Doe was then captured and while suffering from an abdominal bullet wound, was hustled away in a small four door car to the Caldwell headquarters of Prince Johnson’s gang, which was but 8 miles away. A small crowd of about 75 local Liberians gathered to yell and cheer in the street outside the port, when Doe is taken away from there. This is seen in the video cited below. Viewer discretion.

DOE’S TORTURE AND DEATH

Senator Johnson said the late President was taken to the Caldwell base of the INPFL, where he was mutilated, tortured, interrogated and subsequently locked up in a room. There is no doubt that this occurred. News sources present at Caldwell state that after his torture and “interrogation” which in the video simply shows Johnson yelling “Where’s the people’s money?”, and later while Doe was tied up in a dark bathroom, that Doe himself pounded his head on the concrete walls until his brain hemorrhaged. If he had lived through the night, then more shame was due, as Johnson wanted to exhibit him on State television and parade him alive through the streets of Monrovia. But, Doe died later that night from bashing his own head against the walls. He had his ears cut off and was missing a few fingers from the torture. Doe apparently had only $5 million dollars in a foreign bank account. It is assumed that he probably transferred some other money to his wife and family in London, but this $5M is almost the exact amount that Ellen Sirleaf Johnson’s new government attempted to, or did seize, during the past couple of years.

Prince Johnson said the body of President Doe was exhumed months after it was speculated by others that he had been given no grave. Senator Johnson said the INPFL through suggestions from Gen. Samuel Varney reached the decision not to rebury but to burn the body so as not to create a shrine for Doe loyalists and the Krahn tribe.

All of this seems to be a fitting tribute and a bit of karma, seeing what happened to President William Tolbert when Doe and his cronies took power ten years earlier. Karma is a real bitch sometimes.

Bibliography:

The Liberian Civil War – Mark Huband
Liberia – America’s Stepchild. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94j2DMWCErg on June 25, 2012.
Wikipedia articles on Samuel Doe and Liberia.
Google searches and various photo sites.

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