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Samuel Kanyon Doe (May 6, 1951 – September 9, 1990) was the leader of Liberia from 1980 to 1990. He served as chairman of the People’s Redemption Council and de facto head of state after staging a violent coup d’etat in 1980 where he killed the previous leader, William R. Tolbert, Jr., and executed many of his supporters. The constitution was disbanded and he headed the country’s military junta for the next five years. In 1985, he ordered an election as previously promised and officially became the 21st President of Liberia, despite heavy controversy sparked by evidence of election fraud. Nevertheless, he enjoyed decisive support from the United States thanks to the strategic anti-Soviet stance he had taken in the Cold War. He was the first indigenous head of state in Liberian history.

Doe was a member of the rural Krahn tribe from inland Liberia. The Krahn people are a minority ethnic group but, like the majority of Liberians, they are of indigenous descent. Liberians of indigenous descent were historically faced with economic and political marginalization by the Americo-Liberian elites, who were descended from the free-born and formerly enslaved blacks from America who founded Liberia in 1847.

A civil war began in December 1989, when rebels entered Liberia through Côte d’Ivoire with the intent of capturing Doe. He was captured and overthrown on 9 September 1990. Following his capture, he was tortured before being executed. (Source: Wikipedia)

Interesting Biographical Snippets
  • One of Doe’s first acts after seizing power was to order the release of about 50 leaders of the opposition Progressive People’s Party who had been jailed by Tolbert.
  • During his first years in office, Doe openly supported U.S. Cold War foreign policy in Africa during the 1980s, severing diplomatic relations between Liberia and the Soviet Union.
  • Doe attempted to legitimize his regime with a new constitution in 1984 and elections in 1985. However, opposition to his rule only increased, especially after the 1985 elections which were declared to be fraudulent by foreign observers, except the US which supported Doe regime.
  • Doe’s government became more repressive after an attempted coup on November 12, 1985 led by Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, by shutting down newspapers and banning political activity.
  • Doe was a Baptist. At one time, he was a member of the First Baptist Church in the town of Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County. He changed his church membership to the Providence Baptist Church of Monrovia on December 1, 1985.
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