The 1st Liberian Civil War (1989-1996)

NPFL fighters walking in Monrovia. (Public Domain photo. Info can be found here)

Liberia was an interesting country in regards to the independence movements. This country was created by moderate people in the US to have a location they can send former slaves to instead of allowing them to stay in the US. This may seem strange but it was a very popular view after the civil war, in fact, even Abe Lincoln was a huge proponent of it. A civil war would start many years later because the Africans who had not been deported there by America were tired of not having any power in the government.

This resentment led to a wave of attempted coups, but when the military got involved in them it changed things quickly. The short presidency of Samuel Doe was unique due to the fact that he was the first president of non Americo-Liberian descent. This caused him a great deal of paranoia though because the native population (prior to African-Americans being sent) was a small minority and he started jailing a ton of opposition leaders. The military would revolt against him for these actions, kill President Doe, and place Prince Johnson as the new leader. The fighting in this civil war was pretty intense, with people attacking civilians often and even the occasional burning of whole villages. It was so bad that 16 seperate African countries stepped in

to protect the civilians here from being killed. In the end a ceasefire was called by a host of other countries and the Liberians really didn’t have an option but to take it. They created elections (1997) in which Charles Taylor won in a landslide (75% of the vote), although many observers claimed that this victory was due to widespread voter intimidation.

This became one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars, with 1 out of 17 people in the country dying and millions more being forced to flee their homes. This fight also caused the economy to collapse and destroyed valuable infrastructure, which would haunt them for years to come. It also furthered the use of Child Soldiers in Africa, who were used to commit some of the worst atrocities of the war, including rape and murder.

Two years after the end of the civil war, the country plunged into another civil war to rid themselves of the current president. President Taylor actually led quite an interesting life prior to this civil war. He had been arrested in the US prior to the first civil war, but had broken out by saying a window bar to escape the prison. He then claimed (with no real proof) that the US had let him leave to Liberia so that he could start a coup and change Liberian leadership. During the elections he had the craziest slogan to gain votes, which was “he killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him.” After the war was over, he was accused of buying weapons with money from blood diamond sales and sending weapons to other conflicts in Sierra Leone, which caused the UN to start a trade embargo (boycott) against him. As time progressed he was accused of even more ethical violations. The UN believed that he helped hide members of Al-Qaeda after their bombings in Africa and he was accused of forcing his military to use cannibalism to scare their enemies. For all of these reasons, it didn’t take long before the country was upset enough with him that they revolted. Taylor was quickly forced to resign after rebels took the capital and he was sent to Sierra Leone to wait for his trial as a war criminal.

The location of Liberia in Africa. (Public Domain photo. Info can be found here)