Thursday, October 15, 2009


The peaceful days before Liberia's brutal civil war
Having lunch while her dad was mending his net
By JVick Images at

Liberia was once the pride and hope of black Africa. Founded in 1821 by American freeborn blacks and former slaves who returned to West African shores, Liberia was also the home of indigenous tribes who were not always welcoming to the American expatriates. Trace the struggles, wars and volatile political history that led to the establishment of Africa's first independent republic and to the devastating civil war of the 1980's which left the country in poverty and despair.
Some 200 years after the first Africans were transported against their will, their descendants sailed back to the land of their ancestors. Soon, thousands of freeborn blacks and former slaves settled on Africa's west coast, in what would become Liberia.
(Documentary Educational Resources)
One hundred fifty years later, Liberians were divided into two distinct groups: the often privileged American descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, and the indigenous population. It was a division that would lead to political unrest and, ultimately, sow the seeds of war.

Mano children in Gipo, Liberia, 1968
The white VW has Sierra Leone plates
The Blue one has Liberia plates
By gbaku at

Loma washday, Liberia,1968
By gbaku at

Kpelle Girl, Kpaiyea, Liberia, 1968
By gbaku at

Arrival of William Tolbert, Jr., President of Liberia
White House, May 1973
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

President Jimmy Carter, USA & President William Tobert
A visit to Monrovia, Liberia, 1978
White House photo, Bill Fitz-Patrick
National Archives and Records Administration
Wikimedia Commons


On April 12,1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of noncommissioned army officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe. The soldiers were a mixture of the various ethnic groups that claimed marginalization at the hands of the minority Americo-Liberian settlers. In a late-night raid, they killed William R. Tolbert, Jr., who had been president for nine years, in his mansion. Constituting themselves the People’s Redemption Council, Doe and his associates seized control of the government and brought an end to Africa’s first republic. Significantly, Doe was the first Liberian head of state who was not a member of the Americo-Liberian elite.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Public Execution carried out by this new regime:
APRIL 22, 1980: Thirteen high officials of the deposed government, including: Foreign Minister, C.Cecil Dennis, Jr.; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Richard A. Henries; Chief Justice, James A.A. Pierre; the Director of the Budget; the Minister of Commerce; Chairman of the ruling True Whig Party, were all publicly executed on the beach in Monrovia. Over 200 Liberians were reported to have been killed during the upheaval.
APRIL 14, 1981: Major General Thomas Weh-Syen, Vice Chairman of the People's Redemption Council, and four other officers, were executed for plotting to kill Head of State Samuel Doe. Weh-Syen was considered leader of the left wing of the PRC, which opposed close relations with the United States.
1982, the PRC issued "Decree 2A," banned all intellectual activities critical to the PRC.
NOVEMBER, 1983: An alleged putsch involving Commanding General Thomas Quiwonkpa was uncovered; Head of State Samuel Doe granted him clemency. However, Quiwonkpa was demoted to Secretary General of the PRC, a position that he refused. Subsequently, he moved to Nimba County, the region where he was born, but fled the country, when he determined that his life was in danger. During that same year, Charles Taylor, the current President of Liberia (he served as the Director of General Services Agency, and Deputy Minister of Commerce under President Doe) was charged with corruption, and went into self-imposed exile.
JULY 3, 1984, a new constitution for the Second Republic, drafted in 1983, is approved in a national referendum. The PRC was replaced by the Interim National Assembly, (Doe became President of the Assembly and Dr. Harry Moniba became Vice President) which was to pave the way for general elections in 1985 and civilian rule in 1986.
AUGUST, 20, 1984, Dr. Amos Sawyer, a professor at the University of Liberia, and chairman of Liberia People's Party, was arrested for being part of a "socialist plot" to overthrow the Liberian Government. The University faculty responded by demanding the release of Dr Sawyer. President Doe responded to the faculty demand by dismissing the entire administration and faculty of the university . Over 1,000 students responded to the arrest and dismissals by going on a strike in support of Dr. sawyer and the faculty of the university. On AUGUST 22, 1984, President Doe gave the following orders to his military: "Mr. Minister of Defense, Mr. Army Chief of Staff, I want the students at the University campus to disperse without delay. Now! And you will move or remove!" Over 200 soldiers from the Executive Mansion Guard stormed the University campus, shooting, beating, and raping students. Over 100 students were injured, and about $2 million dollars in damages to University property was reported.
APRIL 1, 1985, Colonel Moses M.D. Flanzamaton, Assistant Commander of the Executive mansion Guards, allegedly attacked President Samuel Doe as he returned from his Sinkor home in a 4-wheel Mitsubishi SUV. Flanzamaton was later executed.
OCTOBER 15, 1985: General elections that was intended to return Liberia to civilian rule were held. Head of State, Samuel Doe, and his National Democratic Party of Liberia claimed that they won 50.9 percent of the vote. However, the Doe Administration was accused of vote rigging; thousands of ballots were destroyed, but later uncovered. It was generally believed, that Jackson F. Doe, a former Minister of Education in the Tolbert Administration, and leader of the Liberian Action Party was the winner of the election.
NOVEMBER 12, 1985, Thomas Quiwonkpa, former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and former member of the PRC, returned to Liberia via Sierra Leone, and staged a putsch. Quiwonkpa was later apprehended by Doe's forces, killed, dismembered, and according to reports, part of his body was consumed by his executioners. Nation-wide reprisals against the plotters, and the Gio people (Quiwonkpa's ethnic group) erupted into a national frenzy of executions, castrations, dismemberment of bodies, rapes, flogging, and imprisonment without trials. Between 500 to 1,000 Liberians were reportedly killed.
JANUARY 6, 1986, Samuel Doe was inaugurated President of Liberia, beginning the era of the Second Republic.

Full Honors Arrival, 18 August 1982
Commander in Chief Samuel Kanyon Doe
Head of State of the Republic of LIBERIA
Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger
Source, Author FRANK HALL
Wikimedia Commons

Doe favored authoritarian policies, banning newspapers and outlawing various opposition parties. His tactic was to brand popular opposition parties as "socialist", and therefore illegal according to the Liberian constitution, while allowing less popular minor parties to remain as a token opposition. Unfortunately for Doe, popular support would then tend to realign behind one of these smaller parties, causing them to be labeled "socialist" in their turn.
In October 1985, Liberia held the first post-coup elections, ostensibly to legitimize Doe's regime. Virtually all international observers agreed that the Liberia Action Party (LAP) led by Jackson Doe (no relation) had won the election by a clear margin. After a week of counting the votes, however, Samuel Doe fired the count officials and replaced them with his own Special Election Committee (SECOM), which announced that Samuel Doe's ruling National Democratic Party of Liberia had won with 50.9% of the vote. In response, on November 12 a counter-coup was launched by Thomas Quiwonkpa, whose soldiers briefly occupied the Executive Mansion and the national radio station, with widespread support throughout the country. Three days later, Quiwonkpa's coup was overthrown. Government repression intensified, as Doe's troops killed more than 2,000 civilians and imprisoned more than 100 opposing politicians, including Jackson Doe and BBC journalist Isaac Bantu.
Samuel Doe had taken power in a popular coup of 1980 but opposition from abroad to his undemocratic regime led to economic collapse. At first, Doe crushed internal opposition, but after his Krahn tribe began attacking other tribes – particularly in Nimba County – conflict seemed inevitable.
Charles Taylor, who had left Doe's government, assembled a group of rebels in Côte d'Ivoire who later became known as the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). They invaded Nimba County on 24 December 1989. The Liberian Army retaliated against the whole population of the region, attacking unarmed civilians and burning villages. Many left as refugees for Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, but opposition to Doe was inflamed. Prince Johnson, an NPFL fighter, split to form his own guerrilla force soon after crossing the border, based on the Gio tribe and named Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Liberian civil war erupted in December 1989, when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), an insurgent organization led by Charles Ghankay Taylor invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast, with the assistance of regular soldiers from Burkina Faso, and mass recruits from the Mano and Gio ethnic groups. NPFL forces obtained their training from Libya, and received their financial support from Libya, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and from Liberian opposition groups abroad. The Mano and Gios (both groups comprise about 15 percent of the Liberian population and are linguistically related) were motivated to join the rebellion against the Doe regime because both suffered disproportionately during the 1985 putsch. Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast had a personal grudge against President Doe because his regime murdered A.B. Tolbert and his father, President Tolbert. A. B. Tolbert was the son-in-law of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny. After A.B. Tolbert's murder, Daisy Delafosse-Tolbert, the wife of A.B. Tolbert and the stepdaughter of President Felix Houphouet, reportedly married Captain Blaise Compaore, Head of State of Burkina Faso.

Rebel leader Charles Taylor in Buchanan,1990
A march to oust President Samuel Doe in Monrovia
Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP © Guardian News and Media Limited

Close-ups of Charles Taylor

According to Amnesty International and reports by the United States Department of State "Liberian Country Report on Human Rights Practices," the NPFL committed massive human rights violation against the Liberian people. In Maryland County, the NPFL reportedly killed hundreds of civilians, when it fought the Liberian Peace Council, another rebel group. The NPFL also robbed and kill unarmed civilians in Bong County, as they fled for their life. In 1994, the NPFL was reported to have executed 80 of its own fighters without trial. Most of this information was reported to have been revealed after Tom Woewiyu and Sam Dokie, two leaders of the NPFL, broke away from the NPFL and formed the Central Revolutionary Council. Woewiyu is reported to have said that, Charles Taylor ordered the execution of Jackson F. Doe, leader of the Liberian Action Party; Gabriel Kpolleh of the Liberia Unification Party; Stephen Yekeson, President of the University of Liberia; Nimba County Senator David Toweh; and Commerce Minister David Dwanyen. In 1994, the NPFL reportedly executed senior commanders who allowed Gbarnga to fall to ULIMO.
Although the Liberian-civil war was ignited by the brutal dictatorship of President Samuel Kanyon Doe, there were underlying ethnic hatred coupled with political dictatorship which permitted the crisis to implode. For over 174 years of its history, the Liberian governments fostered ethnic hatred and political dictatorship. This national-ethnic rivalry and political dictatorship began during the early years of the Liberian state. The first political movement that was formed to oppose political dictatorship in Liberia was called "Independent Volunteer Company". This organization which was disguised by the African-American repatriates as a social organization, was actually formed to check the political excesses of Jehudi Ashmun, the white American from Champlain, New York, who was sent out by the ACS and the American Government to run the colony. Ashmun was totally convinced that African-Americans were not capable of running their own political affairs, and therefore single handily ran the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the colony, although these powers had not been granted to him by the Board of Managers of the American Colonization Society.
Institutionalized ethnic and racial hatred also contributed to the crisis. Back in 1822, after the ACS and the American government took possession of the Liberian settlement through fraudulent means, the indigenous people who own the land rose up and attempted to evict the new emigrants through lethal means, but failed. For another 158 years, the struggle continued between the descendants of repatriate African-Americans and "Congos" (those recaptured by the American navy and settled in Liberia) on the one hand, and the indigenous people who attempted to gain for themselves, a prominent place in Liberian political and economic life.
Within the Liberian state itself, a bitter class struggle between the mulattoes and African-Americas of pure African ancestry divided the nation . In 1870, E.J. Roye the first African-American of pure African heritage was elected President of Liberia. In 1871 he was murdered in a civilian coup that was headed by Joseph Jenkins Roberts and a group of prominent leaders of the mulatto community.
On April 12, 1980, that status quo was brutally reversed, when a group of noncommissioned officers, led by Sergeant Samuel Doe from the Khran nation; Thomas Quiwonkpa, from the Gio nation; and Thomas Weh Syen from the Kru nation, stormed the Executive Mansion, executed President William Richard Tolbert, the nineteenth President of Liberia, seized power, and declared military rule under the aegis of the People's Redemption Council, PRC. Samuel Doe became Head of State, Weh Syen became Vice-Head of State, and Thomas Quiwonkpa became Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Like all military dictatorship, the jockeying for power subsequently began between Doe and Quiwonkpa, when Quiwonkpa allegedly called for civilian rule, while Doe was determined to stay in power. In 1983, Quiwonkpa was demoted, and was subsequently charged with an attempt to overthrow the Doe Administration. The charges forced Quiwonkpa to flee the country.

Chairman of Liberia Samuel Doe
President Reagan
The White House colonnade, 1982

On October 15, 1985, pressure from the international community forced the military government, under the aegis of Doe, to schedule an election that was to return Liberia to civilian rule. Unfortunately, General Doe reneged on his promise, and decided to formed his own political party (the National Democratic Party) to contest the general elections.The campaign, which was reportedly marked by intimidation and vote rigging by the Doe and his supporters, ended in victory for Samuel Doe. Despite Doe's claim that he won the elections, international observers who witnessed the election, reported that Jackson F. Doe (no relationship to General Doe) of the Liberia Action Party, was the actual winner. Jackson Doe was former Minister of Education in the Tolbert Administration, and like General Quiwonkpa, was from the Gio ethnic group.
On November 12, 1985, one month after the election, Quiwonkpa, supported by about 24 heavily armed men, covertly entered Liberia through Sierra Leone, and launched a putsch against President Doe. Bad timing, unorthodox methods used by Quiwonkpa, coupled with the fact that the United States did not support the uprising, couped with the allegation that Quiwonkpa had been mislead by an American CIA agent in Sierra Leone, resulted in the disastrous failure of the uprising. Quiwonkpa was later captured, killed, and mutilated by Kran soldiers loyal to President Doe. In a massive campaign of retribution against the coup plotters and their supporters, General Doe and his army, allegedly went on a national killing spree, especially against innocent civilians who were associated with Quiwonkpa's Gio nation, and the ethnically related Mano people.
Despite the bloodletting that ensured, General Samuel Doe was sworn in as President of Liberia, on January 6, 1986, and thereby set the stage for Liberia's national nightmare. In December 1989, the civil war began. By August 7, 1990, the situation in Liberia had become so onerous, that a group of West African states under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) decided to intervene militarily to save the nation from descending further into anarchy. They formed ECOMOG or ECOWAS Monitoring Group.
In early 1990, the NPFL was dismembered when Prince Yormie Johnson formed his own rebel force, which he called the Independent national Patriotic Front (INPFL.) In August, 1990, 5,000 soldiers from Nigeria, Ghana and other west African nations, under the command of Lieutenant General Arnold Quainoo of Ghana, landed at the Freeport of Monrovia. In August 1990, ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) formed a "Standing Mediation Committee, (SMC) in Banjul, Gambia to monitor the situation in Liberia. In July, 600 persons who were seeking refuge in the Lutheran Church in Monrovia were massacred by soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). In August, the SMC convened a meeting of Liberian political leaders, in an attempt to install an interim government. Charles Taylor of the NPLF refused to attend. Dr. Amos Sawyer, a political science professor at the University of Liberia was elected President of the "Interim Government of national Unity (IGNU).

Two rebels from NPFL, 09 Aug 1990
Congo Town, Liberia
Image by © Patrick Robert/Sygma/Corbis
Uploaded by a1e2000 at

Two rebels (above) from the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) crouch in the bush underneath a cigarette advertisement telling them to "Play it KOOL." Responding to years of government corruption and oppression, in 1989 the NPFL launched a revolt against President Samuel Doe, seizing control of much of Liberia and plunging the country into massive civil war until 1996.
In September, 1990, when President Doe ventured out of his besieged residence at the Executive mansion, in an attempt to pay an official visit to General Quainoo, head of ECOMOG, he was captured by INPFL forces in a bitter fire fight; tortured--his ears were severed in a violent scene that was videotaped--and later executed. Prince Y. Johnson, epitomized all that was deadly about the war. He captured and brutally murdered President Samuel Doe; he cold-bloodily murdered a Liberian who was working for the international relief agency, on grounds that the worker stole and sold some of the food that was rationed for displaced Liberian refugees; and he is reported to have summarily executed some of his own soldiers for raping civilians. Opposing forces reportedly cut and ran when they heard that he was in their vicinity. He was reportedly the judge and the executioner in the areas that he controlled.

Executive Mansion, Monrovia, Liberia
Wikimedia Commons

President Doe tortured and executed, Sept 1990
by westwatchblog at

In March 1991, another rebel group called, "United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) was formed, under the leadership of Alhaji Kromah, a former official of the Doe Administration. This rebel group was one of the most brutal organizations in Liberia. In March 1993 the rebel group was responsible for the summery execution of a family; they looted the property of a Lebanese national named Hassan Taggedine, and executed him; and they killed Justin Kpakolo, who served as an officer of the Lofa County Development Project (LCADP). They also looted the property of private citizens in Voinjama and private agencies and sold them in Macenta, a town in Guinea. According to Amnesty International, ULIMO murdered and tortured hundreds of people in Lofa County. Some of the people had their ears and hands cut off; the heart of murdered victims were removed; and villages throughout the county. ULIMO also burned towns and villages in Cape Mount and Lofa County, including the towns of Fassama, and Zuana. The murderers leaders of this group included, Alhaji Kromah and Commander Keita. Guinean troops reportedly allowed ULIMO rebels to inspect refugee camps in Guinea for suspected supporters of NPFL and LDF.
In October, 1992, the NPFL reneged on the "Yamoussoukro IV Accord," rearmed, and began a major assault on the city of Monrovia, which was code named "Octopus." The attack on Monrovia, which was already overpopulated, brought death to thousands of people.

NPFL-rebels, 1992
Photo:Peter Strandberg

"NPFL-rebels" 1992
Photo:Peter Strandberg

"The battle for Monrovia" 1992
Photo:Peter Strandberg

The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Nov 1992
By a1e2000 at

In November 1992, five innocent American nuns of the "Precious Blood Order," were brutally murdered. On November 19, 1992, the Security Council of the United Nations passed "Resolution 788," which placed an embargo on all arms to Liberia, except those that were intended for the peace keeping forces of ECOMOG. Trevor Gordon-Somers was appointed Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (STSG) to Liberia
On June 6, 1993, 600 innocent civilians were massacred in Harbel, Firestone. The United Nations launched an investigation, and later determined that members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were responsible for the massacre. Later that year hundreds of innocent civilians were beheaded. Reports by international refugee organizations and the United Nations, estimated, that over 200,000 people had been killed in the civil war, and over 700,000 Liberians were refugees in the following countries:(227,500 in Ivory Coast; 324,000 in Guinea; 125,000 in Sierra Leone; and 6,000 were in Ghana, Gambia, and Mali.
In July 1993, a series of peace initiatives were launched. These included the "Geneva Peace Conference" which was held under the auspices of ECOWAS, the OAU, and the UN; and the Cotonou Accord, which was held in Cotonou, Benin. On July 1, 1993, the rebel leaders and IGNU (Interim Government of National Unity) signed the Cotonou Peace Agreement. Under this agreement, the rebel leaders and IGNU agreed to constitute a new interim government, which would be called, the "Liberia National Transitional Government (LNTG)". A cease-fire was consummated, and rebels agreed to the encampment and demobilization of their forces. They also agreed to the scheduling of elections. Those that signed the Cotonou Accord included: IGNU, NPFL, and ULIMO.
In September 1993, another rebel group was organized under the auspices of the Armed Forces of Liberia. It was called the "Liberian Peace Council," and was lead by Dr. G.E. Saigbe Boley, Sr., a former official in the Doe Administration. According to Amnesty International, this group was responsible for killings and torture of hundreds of innocent civilians in Grand Bassa County and other regions in southeastern Liberia.
In September, 1993, the Security Council of the United Nations passed "Resolution 866" which created "United Nations Observer Mission In Liberia," UNOMIL. The UN mission had a force of 651 persons, including 303 Military observers, 20 military medical personnel, 45 military Engineers, 58 UN volunteers, 89 international civilians, and 136 local civilians staff.
In September, 1993, the Akosombo Accord was signed by NPFL, ULIMO-K, and AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia.) This agreement augmented the Cotonou Accord, but was opposed by civilian groups in Monrovia because the accord granted too much executive powers to the NPFL, ULIMO and the AFL. During this same month, there was a further breakup of the NPFL, when Tom Woewiyu, who served as Defense Minister in the government of the NPFL, and Sam Dokie (he was murdered after the 1997 election) formed the Central Revolutionary Council (CRC_NPFL) another rebel group. An attempt to overthrow the LNTG , was staged by Charles Julu, but the putsch was crushed by ECOMOG.
In November 1993 the "Lofa Defense Force" which was sponsored by the NPFL, was organized in Lofa County. This rebel group was led by Francois Masaquoi. According to Amnesty International, this rebel group was responsible for the torture and murder of over 80 innocent civilians in Lofa County.
On December 21, 1994, another agreement was signed by the rebel groups. It was called, "Accra Acceptance and Accession Agreement and Accra Clarification." This accord incorporated other rebel groups not included in Akosombo Agreement. To allay the fears of civilians groups, Chief Tamba Taylor, an indigenous leader from northern Liberia, was selected to represent the civilians. The new signatories of this agreement included: Lofa Defense Force; Liberia Peace Council; Central Revolutionary Council; and ULIMO-J. Roosevelt Johnson signed for ULIMO-J; Francois Masaquoi signed for LDF; Dr. Saigbe Boley, Sr. signed for LPC; Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, signed for NPFL-CRC; and J.D. Bayogar Junius signed for Liberia National Conference, (LNC)

Rebel-leader Charles Taylor
Gbarnga, Liberia 1994
Photos:Peter Strandberg

In 1995, a "Rapid Response Unit" (RRU) was constituted by the interim government to fight the high incidence of armed robbery and murders which had permeated the city of Monrovia. According to the U.S. State Department, RRP became corrupted, when it was infiltrated by the NPFL.
On August 26, 1995, an all-party talk was held in Nigeria, which resulted in the signing of the Abuja Accord. This agreement, established a six-man Council of State to run the country until a national election was held. The Council included two noncombatants: Wilton Sankawulo, Chairman of the Council; and Chief Tamba Taylor, Vice-chairman. The other members of the council, who were all Vice-Chairmen, included: Charles Taylor, of the NPFL; Alhaji G.V. Kromah of ULIMO-K; Roosevelt Johnson, of ULIMO-J; Oscar J. Quiah of the LNC; and George Boley of the Coalition. Those who signed the Abuja Accord included: Charles Taylor, NPFL; Alhaji G.V. Kromah, ULIMO-K; Roosevelt Johnson, ULIMO-J; Dr. G.E. Saigbe Boley, Sr. LPC; Francois Massaquoi, (LDF) ; J. Hezekiah Brown, AFL; NPFL-CRC, was represented by Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, and Chea Cheapoo represented LNC.
On Saturday, April 6,1996, everything that Liberians and the international community worked for ---bringing peace to Liberia---went into flames, when some members of the LTNG attempted to arrest Roosevelt Johnson, one of the members of LTNG and leader of ULIMO-J on murder charges. Roosevelt Johnson had been fired by LNTG and was wanted for murder. Early on Saturday morning forces loyal to Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah surrounded Roosevelt Johnson's residence in Sinkor, and attempted to arrest him. Roosevelt Johnson already had intelligence on his imminent arrest, and therefore had his fighters armed with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade. As the fighting escalated , Roosevelt Johnson and his fighters moved to the Barclay Training Center, not too far from the Executive Mansion, taking along "human shields" including 22 ECOMOG soldiers and several Lebanese nationals.
When the fighting deteriorated, the United States began removing Americans and foreign nationals out of Liberia. Lockheed C5A Galaxy transport aircraft were waiting in Freetown, Sierra Leone; and a flotilla of five ships armed with 1,800 marines were waiting off the coast of Monrovia. Navy Seals and Green Berets were sent to the American Embassy; and A-130 attack helicopters, and Sikorsky MH-53 helicopters removed over 450 Americans and 1,300 foreign residents to freedom in Sierra Leone, where Lockheed C5A Galaxy transport planes took them Dakar, Senegal.

Desperatly fleeing the fighting
© Robert W. Kranz (May-2002) at

Boarding a ship in the Freeport of Monrovia
Heavy fighting between NPFL and ULIMO-K
Heavy civilian casualties between April – May 1996
© 1996 Corinne Dufka at

Hundreds of thousands of Liberians were not so lucky. On May 5, 1996, about 3,000 Liberians paid $75.00 per person, and boarded the "Bulk Challenge," a leaky Nigerian owned vessel, which promised to carry them to safety in Ivory Coast. When the Bulk challenge arrived in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, the authorities there refused to allow the vessel to enter its harbor. After international humanitarian organizations appealed to Ivorian authorities, the women and the children were removed from the vessel;however, the captain was told that Ivory Coast already had too many refugees and could no longer accommodate additional Liberian refugees. The Bulk Challenge proceeded to Takoradi, Ghana were the Ghanian Coast Guard fired warning shots at the bow of the vessel, in an attempt to make the vessel go away. Ghana also had a large Liberian refugees community, and therefore refused to take in anymore Liberians. On May 12, after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and foreign governments intervened and offered the Ghanian Government assistance in accommodating the refugees, they were allowed to land in Ghana.
Back in Liberia, over 3,000 people perish in the fighting and almost every business establishment was destroyed. Automobiles and other assets that belonged to the United Nations and ECOMOG were stolen. The ECOMOG troops were reported to have also participated in the looting. Their participation in stealing and looting of the assets of Liberians became so oppressive, that some Liberians began to interpret ECOMOG as "Everything that can be moved is gone."

Shooting of rebel in the streets of Monrovia
© Robert W. Kranz (May-2002) at

Taylor´s rebells kicking dead Krahn at checkpoint
© Robert W. Kranz (May-2002) at

Child soldiers celebrating victory
© Robert W. Kranz (May 2002) at

Ensuing clashes between NPFL and ULIMO-J fighters
Civilians flee the street fighting in Monrovia
©Patrick Robert / Corbis at

Wounded civilians are treated in a make-shift clinic
Liberian capital Monrovia in April 1996
Thousands of civilians were wounded and hundreds killed
© 1996 Corinne Dufka at

Nigerian peacekeepers patrolling
Bodies of several NPFL fighters (foreground)
© 1996 Corinne Dufka at

A lull in the fighting in April 1996
Many fighters from Sierra Leone fought with NPFL in Liberia
© 1997 Corinne Dufka at

Young fighters with NPFL
A lull in the fighting in April 1996
© 1996 Corinne Dufka at

Liberian children jump rope
A lull in the fighting in April 1996
© 1996 Corinne Dufka at

A woman and her child Killed in fighting
Pascal Guyot/AFP at

A NPFL militiaman kills an injured rival Krahn
Monrovia, May 1996
AFP at

A NPFL militiaman steps on headless body of a Krahn fighter
Monrovia, May 7 1996
Christophe Simon/AFP at

NPFL fighters drag and stripped a rival Krahn fighter
Front line in Monrovia, May 5 1996
He was shot later
AFP at

NPFL militiamen shot a rival Krahn fighter
May 8 1996
AFP at

NPFL militiamen seen on a street in Monrovia, May 1996
AFP at

In July, 1996, the last rebel group was formed. It was called, the "Congo Defense Force." This rebel group represented the ethnic group commonly referred to as Americo-Liberians.
On August 17, 1996, after 134 days of killing and mayhem, Nigeria and other West African states brokered a cease fire between the warring factions. While Monrovia, the nation's capital, the last haven in the country lay in utter devastation, the war lords signed another peace accord, which was called "Supplement to the Abuja Accord." Within this accord, Mrs. Ruth Perry replaced Mr. Wilton Sankawolo as Chairperson of the Council of State. Those who signed this agreement included: Charles Ghankay Taylor of NPFL; Alhaji G.V. Kromah of ULIMO; Dr. G.E. Saigbe Boley Sr of LPC; Lt. General Hezekiah Bowen of the AFL; Major General Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO-J; Francois Massaquoi of LDF; Juncontee Thomas Woewiyu of NPFL-CRC; and Chea Cheapoo of the Liberia National Conference. Those who signed as witnessed of the document included Nigeria, Ghana; Organization of African Unity; and the United Nations. The document essential reaffirmed the Abuja Accord.
On September 3, 1996, Ruth Sando Perry, a Liberian lady, assumed leadership of the Council of State of the "Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG).
In 1997, the Liberian civil war finally came to an end, when general elections were held. Charles Taylor's National Democratic Party, reportedly won 75 percent of the vote; he was subsequently inaugurated President of Liberia. Although the international observers to the election reported that the election was fair, the political opposition indicated that the election was conducted under intimidation, and was essentially rigged.

"City in ruins"
Liberia.Monrovia 1997 Photo:Peter Strandberg

Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because he had controlled most of Liberia outside of Monrovia for several years, and his opponents in the election had limited campaign resources. The elections were administratively free and transparent, but were conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation, because most voters believed that Taylor's forces would have resumed fighting if he had lost.
in 1999, the capital Monrovia, was at its worst since the first rebel insurgency . On-going fighting between government troops and rebels had increased. Although internal travel restrictions no longer appeared to be imposed by the Liberian government, a nationwide state of emergency has been declared by the President of Liberia. Approximately 12,000 displaced persons had arrived in Monrovia, taxing food and shelter resources and there had been a large influx of returnees from the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) causing further instability. Rebel forces were reported near the capital. Continuing violence between various Liberian factions, and rebel activity spilling over from Guinea, made the areas bordering Sierra Leone and Guinea dangerous and unstable. Crime was high in the capital, Monrovia, with theft and assault prevalent, particularly at night. Police forces were ill-equipped to provide effective protection.

President Taylor sits on a throne during a ceremony
Ghanian immigrants crowned him Chief Okatakyie
(the Greatest of Warriors), 2000
Photograph: David Guttenfelder/AP

A Liberian child soldier
fighting for Taylor's government
Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

Bullet casings and cartridges in Monrovia
Second Liberian civil war
The LURD successfully exiling Taylor
Photograph: Jehad Nga/Corbis
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

A key strategic bridge in Monrovia
A Liberian militia commander loyal to the government
exults after firing a rocket-propelled grenade
Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images Europe
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

A nine-year-old Liberian government gunman
the Old Bridge in Monrovia
Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

A child soldier in Monrovia, June 2003
pointed his gun at a photographer
Georges Gobet/AFP at

As of early June 2003 rebels were engaged in clashes with government troops in a number of areas throughout the country. The President of Liberia had called for the resignation of his cabinet, which may lead to further instability. Due to the fighting, principal roads to Sierra Leone and Guinea, and from Monrovia to the western part of the country, are closed. Travel over many other roads has become prohibitively dangerous. There is also a high threat of common crime. The presence of heavily armed government security personnel constituted a serious danger as well. Military roadblocks throughout the country serve as potential flash points. Furthermore, periodic inflammatory statements in the local media regarding US policies and presence in Liberia could also incite violence against American interests.
With pressure increasing for President Bush to send troops to Liberia, the US administration was reported to be weighing the options available to it. Bush, once again called on Charles Taylor to step down from power. Meanwhile, on July 2, UN officials made it known that Taylor had refused a Nigerian offer of safe haven, were he to step down.
As of July 6, 2003, President Taylor reportedly had axcepted an offer of asylum from the Nigerian government, insisting however he alone would decide on the time line for his departure from power. Controlling only a part of his own capital, Mr. Taylor was repeatedly told to resign and leave the country by the United States. He is also wanted for war crimes by a UN backed tribunal in Sierra Leone.
On 11 August 2003 Liberian President Charles Taylor arrived in Nigeria, where he was granted asylum after he relinquished the Liberian presidency. Former President Taylor was met at the airport in the Nigerian capital of Abuja by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Taylor officially handed over the presidency
to his vice-president, Moses Blah
Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Taylor with his wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor
after officially relinquishing power
Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Charles Taylor handed over power to his Vice-President Moses Blah in a historic ceremony, attended by the presidents of South Africa, Mozambique, and Ghana. Blah is expected to serve out Charles Taylor's term, which ended in October 2003. Ghana's president, John Kufuor said Mr. Blah will be then replaced by a new interim leader and government, currently being formed in talks taking place in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. Efforts were made by African leaders – notably Presidents Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, John Kufuor of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria – to resolve the crisis. President Obasanjo intervened with the timely deployment of Nigerian peacekeeping troops, and the former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdelsalami Abubakar, facilited the Accra talks.
Liberia's main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which had been fighting to topple the Taylor regime, declared the war is over.
(Copyright © 2000-2009

Eyes and Smiles by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Waterside Market by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Mother and daughters coming home by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) - which is composed of rebel, government, and civil society groups - assumed control in October 2003. The new political situation and the arrival of a UN mission are all encouraging signs that the political crisis is coming to an end.
Civil war and misgovernment have destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia. Many businessmen have fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them. Some have returned, but many will not. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favourable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products - primarily raw timber and rubber. Local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, has been small in scope.
The restoration of infrastructure and the raising of incomes in this ravaged economy depend on the implementation of sound macro-and micro-economic policies, including the encouragement of foreign investment, and generous support from donor countries.

Liberian Refugees Yearn to End a Life of Fleeing
October 28, 2004
Davin O'Regan/
Copyright © 2009 AllAfrica Global Media

Over the course of 13 years of civil war, approxiamtely 340,000 Liberians fled their country seeking refuge in other West African nations. Among those who fled are some 4,000 Liberians who live in a refugee camp in Oru, Nigeria operated by the Nigerian Commission for Refugees in conjunction with the Nigerian Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The experiences of the Liberians - who share the camp with Sierra Leoneans, Rwandans, and Sudanese - vary. While some arrived as the Liberian civil war climaxed in mid-2003, others have been living in Oru for over 10 years.
The elderly Liberian pictured on the right (above) has fled to the Oru refugee camp twice. Originally he left Liberia in the early nineties, but returned during a period of peace following elections in 1997. He was forced to flee again during heavy fighting in the capital Monrovia in the summer of 2003, in which he lost several family members. He has decided not to attempt repatriation a second time, and is waiting for the opportunity to settle in another country. Here he stands in the doorway of his home in Oru, a single room he shares with six people.
(opyright © 2009 AllAfrica Global Media)

Rural Filling Station by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Ganta Mosque - After The War by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Food Stand by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Market Boys by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

A road outside Monrovia
A Liberian girl well prepared to weather a brief, sunny shower
Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
© 1996-2009 National Geographic Society

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
Elected president of Liberia in November 2005
Africa’s first elected female Head of State

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official who waged a fierce presidential campaign against the soccer star George Weah, emerged victorious on Friday, November 11, 2005 in her quest to lead war-torn Liberia and become the first woman elected head of state in modern African history.
"Everything is on our side," said Morris Dukuly, a spokesman for Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf. "The voters have chosen a new and brighter future." Indeed, when supporters of Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, 66, a onetime United Nations official and Liberian finance minister, marched through the broken streets of Monrovia in the final, frantic days of the campaign for Liberia's presidency, they shouted and waved signs that read, "Ellen - she's our man."
Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, who has been known as Liberia's Iron Lady since she ran against Mr. Taylor for president in 1997 and was jailed for more than a year under the former dictator Samuel Doe, will have no trouble fitting into the all-male club of African heads of state. Said Ms. Fall, an economist, who has known her for years.
"She is fearless," Ms. Fall said. "No men intimidate her."
(Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company)

Marcia Cirello /Tribeca Film Festival
© 2009 Syracuse Online LLC

In this photo (above) provided by the Tribeca Film Festival, actor Robert De Niro and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf attended the premiere of the film "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," April 30, 2008 in New York. The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, tells the overlooked story of how thousands of women in Liberia peacefully ended the country's second bloody Civil War and helped elect President Sirleaf.
(© 2009 Syracuse Online LLC)

Girls Combing Hair by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Tapeta Youth by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

40% of Liberians have experienced sexual violence

In Liberia's brutal 14-year civil war, rape was used as freely as guns to devastate people's lives. When peace was signed in 2003, optimism flooded the country. Women especially welcomed the arrival of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's - and Africa's - first elected female head of state. Yet despite her efforts, sexual violence continues. MERLIN has trained staff working in clinics and hospitals in sexual and gender-based violence. MERLIN ensureS women are given appropriate counselling, medical help and surgery. They're working with communities so everyone understands that rape and abuse are simply not acceptable. And they're lobbying at the highest level to ensure those guilty of sexual violence are brought to justice.
(© Merlin 2009 Registered charity)

Living in fear

Sexual violence has forced itself into the fabric of society here. Many victims arrive at Merlin clinics having been attacked while out collecting water, firewood and food - the everyday tasks women have to perform to keep their families clothed and fed. One of Merlin patients was even raped by a neighbour as she stepped outside to go to the toilet
(© Merlin 2009 Registered charity)

The tide slowly starts to turn

Whoops of delight and street partying accompanied Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's swearing in as President of Liberia in November 2005. One of her first initiatives to help end sexual violence was to call for an all-female United Nations peace-keeping force. Many believe the force concentrates more on guarding the elite, than protecting the rights of everyday women.
(© Merlin 2009 Registered charity)

Safeguarding women with an all-female police unit

The President has also stipulated that at least 20% of all new recruits to the national police force are female. Women are thirsty for the opportunity to protect their communities, although reaching desired numbers is proving difficult: education standards suffered massively during the war and few women have the minimum qualifications needed. Still, many believe that the skills and understanding women have as mothers and household managers make for more effective police officers than their sometimes gung-ho male counterparts.
(© Merlin 2009 Registered charity)

Standing up and shouting out

The message that rape is not acceptable is getting out in Liberia. Go to most cities and villages and we'll find at least one poster calling for 'Rape no more'. Women too are being educated in how to call for prosecutions and stand up for their rights.
(© Merlin 2009 Registered charity)

Downtown Tapeta - After The War by mwaite
© 2009 TrekEarth

Taylor takes his first appearance, 2006
UN-backed special court for Sierra Leone in Freetown
Photograph: George Osodi/AFP

Molly Kinder wrote in her blog MOLLY IN LIBERIA, June 19, 2007:
"Liberia has confronted me with an even more shocking face of inhumanity: violent conflict. It turns out that war sucks. Really, really badly. Not exactly earth shattering news, right? But for me, during these past two weeks as I’ve delved deeper into Liberia’s bloody history, it actually has been.
The personal stories I’ve heard from the mouths of survivors have caused me to seriously question the human race, and the male gender in particular. Family members being brutally murdered, raped, and tortured. People repeatedly fleeing as refugees to Guinea, Sierra Leone and the United States. Living in terror without food for days on end. Losing a decade of education. Even more disturbing are the stories printed daily in the newspapers here of Charles Taylor’s alleged war crimes -- so gruesome that I can barely process them as fact, and not the fictitious script of the most violent horror movie in Hollywood history. Women being forced into sex slavery with rebel leaders, children being forced to kill - or even eat - their parents, widespread amputations, and absolutely horrific rapes (that continue unabated to this day).
Thankfully Liberia is peaceful and stable, at least for now -- 15,000 UN peacekeepers will do that to a country -- and there is so much rebuilding and bustling life in the streets that it is hard to believe that this country just went through hell. But it did, and I am amazed by people's resilience in looking ahead to the future and not to the bitterness of the past.
Yet I can’t help but wonder: just how thin the veneer of calm is. How a society so ripped apart by unspeakable atrocities can possibly forgive, heal, and move on. How the small, incremental improvements along the very slow road to rebuilding will be enough to quell the urge of former combatants to return to chaos. How an entire generation of youth schooled with guns and not pencils can ever believe in their future. And how on earth we can stop this from every happening again."
Emily Staner wrote in her blog EMILY IN LIBERIA:
"Liberia became the victim of its own missed potential. Nearly 150 uninterrupted years of elite Americo-Liberian rule came to a screeching halt in 1980 when Samuel Doe, a semi-literate 29 year-old military sergeant, toppled the ruling government in a bloody coup. Doe came from Liberia's indigenous population: a population that, despite comprising 99% of the country's populace, had historically been denied political voice and economic power. Many indigeneous Liberians rejoiced over the news that a member of their own Khan clan was in charge for the first time.
Alas, any hopes of Doe's presidency delivering improved living standards to Liberia's indigenous majority were ultimately dashed. Egregious economic mismanagement, incompetence, and corruption by the Doe administration and the outbreak of civil war caused a precipitous crash of the Liberian economy. GDP fell by a shocking 90 percent between 1979 and 1996 -- a decline so great it was deemed by the World Bank "possibly the largest economic collapse of any country since World War II." Thus the same people who celebrate Doe's ascension fell deeper into poverty under his rule, and the country ultimately unfolded into a devestating fourteen-year civil war that would claim nearly 300,000 lives."

Charles Taylor in Nederland, 10 July 2009

Taylor during his war crimes trial in The Hague, 2009
pleaded not guilty to 11 charges during the Sierra Leone civil war
including murder, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers
Photograph: AP

Pulling the microphone toward him (above), the dapper 61-year-old man in sunglasses creased his forehead, cleared his throat emphatically and introduced himself to the war-crimes court in the Hague: "My name is Dakpenah Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, the 21st President of the Republic of Liberia." Taylor took the stand on July 14 at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for the first time since his trial began 18 months ago. He is accused of arming, training and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who rampaged across the country during its brutal 1991-2001 civil war.
Taylor's testimony is expected to last six to eight weeks, and a final verdict in the case is likely a year off. If convicted, he would serve his jail sentence — he's facing life imprisonment — in Britain. But even if he is acquitted, it doesn't mean his worries are over. Last week, the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report on the 1989-2003 civil wars. It has a list of eight warlords whom it wants brought to trial for crimes against humanity — and Taylor is on that list.
( 2009 Time Inc.)
A confident Taylor, appearing in a dark suit and dark glasses before a packed court, was the first of 249 witnesses that the defense said it will call to the stand. Taylor's testimony was expected to last several weeks. Prosecutors called 91 witnesses, many of whom provided graphic testimony, before wrapping up their case in February. In often graphic and disturbing detail, witnesses described amputations, murder of children and cannibalism.
Courtenay Griffiths, Taylor's lawyer, has said he would not contest the fact that atrocities took place, but said Taylor had no link to them. Instead, Taylor was trying to broker peace in Sierra Leone, his lawyer argues. Asked by Griffiths whether he ever received diamonds in exchange for arms for the RUF rebels, Taylor said, "Never, ever did I receive, whether it is mayonnaise or coffee or whatever jar, any diamonds from the RUF."
"It is a lie, a diabolical lie," he added.
( Thomson Reuters 2009)

Image from Nairaland

Liberia's Flag
© 2009 TravelBlog

Today, the Liberian people are just beginning the slow process of recovering from the economic, social, political, and psychological trauma of the war. The world waits and watches to see if the cycle of clashes between different populations has truly been broken, and if Liberia can rebuild itself as a unified nation to achieve the promise of its star of liberty:

Then forward sons of freedom march
Defend our sacred heritage
A nation's call from age to age
A nation's loud triumphant song
The song of liberty!

The Lone Star forever, the Lone Star forever
Oh, long may it flow over land and o'er sea
Desert it, no never!
Uphold it, forever!
Oh, shout for the Lone Starr'd banner, all hail.
(© 2002 WGBH Educational Foundation)

1 comment:

Noonya said...

Thank you for this comprehensive summary. Thank you so much. The pictures are so clear, the text so well written. Indeed War is Terrible. May the people of Liberia live in peace and may the guilty ones who forced children to kill and be killed (among the many other horrors they committed) come to justice, here or in the afterlife.