Investigative: How the CIA Helped Ruin Liberia

U.S. puppet the late Samuel Doe
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The Liberian puppet, the late Samuel K. Doe. Photo: Wikipedia

In the 1980s, Samuel K. Doe was the CIA’s boy. He was one of Africa’s worst rulers, who provided bases used for subversion campaigns across Africa and upheld the interests of Firestone Rubber. When Doe lost his utility, the CIA supported Charles Taylor who helped trigger Liberia’s ruinous civil war in the 1990s. [In 1975, CIA whistleblower Philip Agee wrote an exposé of the CIA called Inside the Company, which detailed the Agency’s criminal activities in countries that he had worked—Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. These criminal activities included illegal surveillance, financing of right-wing extremists, incitement of violence, sponsorship of illegal coups and empowerment of government officials who tortured and massacred political leftists. Written in Agee’s spirit, this series will spotlight sordid episodes in the CIAs history. We aim to shed fresh light on well-known CIA operations, spotlight more obscure ones, and examine how the CIA has corrupted American democracy.—Editors

On April 12, 1980, just before midnight, soldiers loyal to Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe attacked the executive mansion and shot and killed Liberia’s President William R. Tolbert, Jr. (1971-1980) in front of his family. At least six of the attackers—whose bodies were painted for war in traditional ethnic fashion— had been trained by the U.S. military. Afterwards, government ministers were walked around Monrovia in the nude, and then summarily executed by a firing squad on the beach. Just 28 years old at the time, Doe was an ethnic Krahn from eastern Liberia with only a fourth-grade education. He had received military training from the U.S. after enlisting in the Liberian army in 1975.

Doe’s base was drawn from the Krahn and other indigenous Liberians who felt marginalized under the rule of African-American settlers who helped establish modern Liberia after being shipped there by slave owners and escaping slavery with the aid of the white-led American Colonization Society (ACS). Doe stated that a purpose of the coup was not merely to rid Liberia of the corrupt Tolbert regime, but to “liberate the indigenous people from enslavement by the Americo-Liberians.” However, Doe mismanaged Liberia’s economy while building himself sumptuous country estates and was perceived by Liberians as a Western puppet. 

For the rest of the story please see Covert Action Magazine 

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