Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Political leader arrested in Liberia

From our own correspondent

Four people, a politician, two army officers and a student leader have been arrested hours after the return home of Gen Samuel Doe, Head of State, from his annual medical check up in West Germany.

General Doe was also scheduled to pay state visits to Romania and Austria but had to cancel these and return home for what Monrovia radio described as "important matters of state."

Those arrested include Dr Amos. Sawyer, a political science professor at the University of Liberia who has formed a party to contest elections against Gen Doe's party and others.

Others arrested are Colonel Larry Borteh and Colonel Jerry Friday, both members of Liberia's recently inaugurated interim National Assembly and Mr George Klay Kieh, a student leader at Dr Sawyer's University.

These developments followed the anonymous circulation of hundreds of leaflets in the Liberian capital claiming that a 'fake coup' was imminent. In another development, a warrant was issued for the arrest of a member of the special Elections Commission, which is organising the elections.

There was no explanation for the order and Mr Nyeplu, also a former Justice Minister in the Doe administration refused to turn up. Troops were ordered to search for him.

Although the arrest of Dr Sawyer and others is reported to be for security reasons it would also be recalled that in his Independence day address Gen Doe warned that political activity should be left to the politicians.

He singled out the universities and schools where he said politics will not be permitted and that anyone caught engaging in it would be arrested and detained without trial.

Liberia has been ruled since 1980 by 34 year old Gen Doe who seized power in a military coup. Gen Doe heads a five week old interim National Assembly which is scheduled to return the country to civilian rule in January 1986, after elections at the end of next year.

Gen Doe has announced the formation of National Democratic Party of Liberia which he will lead to contest the elections. Among his opponents are Dr Amos Sawyer who was also the chairman of the committee which drafted the country's new constitution.

The circumstances surrounding the arrest of Dr Amos Sawyer, chairman of the Liberian People's Party (LPP) have since been given by Gen. Doe. According to the Head of State, the aim of Dr Sawyer and his supporters was to pressurise him to resign by creating chaos and confusion among the people. It was further stated by Gen. Doe that after forcing his resignation, overthrowing the Government and making a mass arrest of other citizens, Dr Sawyer and his supporters had planned to install a socialist government in Liberia with the aid of foreign countries, including three African states.

Three basic strategies allegedly evolved by the Sawyer group are:

(1) A march on the Executive Mansion to demand Doe's resignation after creating confusion, fear, distrust and division among the people of the country by spreading lies and leaflets.

(2) During Dr Doe's absence from the country, it was rumoured that the Head of State had instructed the Minister of Defence to arrest members of the Interim National Assembly and declare himself prime minister, then the Defence Minister would advise the Head of State to return and declare himself president. The purpose of these and other rumours was to create division between members of the Assembly, the Minister of Defence, the armed forces, and himself.

(3) If the strategy of confusion did not work, according to reports, the Sawyer group will then revert to violence, blow up important public instal- lations and buildings. If all else had failed, the Sawyer group was to have set the city of Monrovia on fire with the aid of trained saboteurs of foreign origin.

The Head of State further gave as- surance that when investigations are concluded, Dr Sawyer and his collaborators will be given a speedy and fair trial.

talking drums 1984-08-27 Cameroon and Amnesty International - Ghana's public tribunals