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1980: Deposed ministers executed in Liberia

Thirteen leading officials of the ousted government in Liberia have been publicly executed on the orders of the new military regime.

The dead men included several former cabinet ministers and the elder brother of William Tolbert, the assassinated president of the west African state.

They were tied to stakes on a beach next to the army barracks in the capital, Monrovia, and shot.

Journalists who had been taken to the barracks to watch the executions said they were cruel and messy.

They said four men were forced to watch the others die before being shot themselves as there were only nine stakes.

The 13 men had been accused of treason, corruption and violation of human rights.

However, only four were condemned to death after their trial by a military tribunal.

But the tribunal's verdicts were overruled by the so-called "Redemption Council", headed by Sergeant Samuel Doe.

Sergeant Doe seized power 10 days ago in a coup during which President Tolbert was shot dead.

More awaiting trial

Since then Sergeant Doe has since been trying to rally support for his regime with promises of economic recovery.

He has already doubled civil service and army salaries and announced free tuition for students.

Another 80 people associated with the deposed government are awaiting trial by the tribunal.

Most of the deposed Tolbert government belonged to Liberia's elite -the descendants of freed slaves from the United States who founded the country 133 years ago.

However, the so-called "Americo-Liberians" now make up only 5% of the population and resentment has built up over the years at their dominant social and economic position.

Last year riots occurred when the government proposed sharply increasing the price of rice, the nation's staple food.

In Context
By the late 1980s economic collapse in Liberia culminated in civil war when dissidents of Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front overran much of the countryside and executed Samuel Doe.

Fighting intensified as the rebels splintered and fought each other, the Liberian army and West African peacekeepers.

In 1995 a peace agreement was signed, eventually leading to the election of Charles Taylor as president.

But by October 2000 Liberian forces were engaged in battles with rebels based in neighbouring Guinea.

There were also border skirmishes with Guinean forces, resulting in the displacement of thousands of people.

A power-sharing government was set up in 2003 to end 14 years of civil war.


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