The Coup d'etat in Liberia

Liberia achieved independence in 1847, and the coup d’etat of 12 April 1980 which deposed President William Tolbert upset a tradition of political stability. However, the coup was not unexpected. Disaffection with the regime had led to confrontation and violence between the Government and opposition elements. President Tolbert ran a one-party system, and Liberian politics and economy were dominated by the American-Liberian elite, while the indigenous population faced hardships and the country suffered various economic ills. The case of Ghana seems relevant to Liberia, because in both countries the incumbent government was unseated by a military coup led by a junior officer. The new rulers in both countries immediately started violent purges of the previous administrations. In Ghana, the armed forces handed over power to the civilian government, but are still acting as a watchdog. It seems that the military rulers of Liberia might follow the Ghanaian example and return Liberia to civilian rule following a general election. The overthrow and assassination of President Tolbert was a setback for the OAU since Tolbert was the chairman of the OAU. For the United States, the coup is a disappointment because it does not make Liberia a model of American ideals in Africa. South Africa also had links with President Tolbert; Prime Minister Vorster had visited Liberia in 1975, but President Tolbert remained a supporter of the OAU’s efforts to liberate South Africa.