How the Man Died


He could eliminate the distraction but he was certain to give up his desire to win, since it had been rather too long now since he came to it. He detested the idea that he would have to succumb to the whims of his captors.

But it was all over. The former chief executive of the country sat
at the mercy of his captors, and he looked at the world with eyes unable to understand the trick that fate had played on him. Any sense of eagerness he had entertained faded from his eyes, leaving them cold as a winter sky after sunset.

They wanted him to resign and he refused. As the last moment of his life went on, and pains searing through his head as blood oozed out of where his ears had once been, Samuel Doe could only bend his head in anguish.

He did not want his captors to see his eyes, though he felt humiliated, and he could only bend his head to avoid the shame. It became apparent to him that his captors could not let him live, and so as one by one, they poured questions at him, wanting to know what had happened to the country’s money and then the economy, he could only hung his head, and insist that he wanted to talk but he needed to be released.

He said, “I am in a lot of pain.”

They ignored him.

The man, who had taunted him since he was brought at the INPFL Caldwell Base, said, “Where are you keeping the Liberian people’s money?” He ignored him, and hung his head. He knew barely a miracle could anyone rescue him.

But, who would rescue him? He remembered the massacre that had happened when the Field Marshal (Prince Johnson) and his forces had forcibly entered the Freeport of Monrovia, and had, without warning, launched violent attacks on his unarmed men.

Given the chance he could take his captors on. But when the Field Marshal and his soldiers invaded the Freeport of Monrovia, and when he found out he was without his weapon, and none of his men had any weapon, he realized that he had fallen into a trap of no return.

But then they were supposed to be peacekeepers from other West African nations, and in fact he had come to meet with Gen. Arnold Quanoo, but where was he when he needed him most? Truth be told, the field commander and his forces that could help him had all bolted, due to the intensity of the Field
Marshal’s fire-power.

Doe regained the sense of reality when someone from behind him grabbed his head and pulled it backward exposing his swollen face.

“Doe talk,” a voice instructed him.

He said, “I want to talk but release my hands because I am in a lot of pain.”

“I can release your elbow,” the soldier said, “but not your hands.” He knew he still held some power over them, despite the truth that he had been captured, when he had no chance to challenge them, on one to one. He saw the unfair advantage that his captors had over him.

Samuel Doe sat there, not believing what was happening to him. The pain on his face reminded him of the physical assault he had received from his captors. They wanted him dead, but why was death coming so late? Dying as a soldier was part of his duty. He had heard many soldiers said one bullet one
man, and hence in all probability he was not afraid of death. As the war raged and many called for his resignation, he had declared to fight till the last soldier was dead.

John Yormie said, “You said Nimba County would be wiped out from the face of Liberia…”

Doe, like he was in a court of law, defended himself.

“No, I never said that.”

He knew they would not believe him, and it was less of his concern now. He lowered his head and gazed shockingly at his legs, as his captors had tied them together, after several shots hammered them. He felt no power in them and he believed even if he survived the ordeal; he would have less use for them.

As he waited, his mind went to the tragic scene that led to his capture. How could he allow anyone, much less one of the leaders who had planned to murder him, come over and engage him into any discussion, as he did with Prince Johnson? Why at all did he believe him? It was a question that though at such a late hour, tortured him.

Until his capture he had manipulated his enemies and the cat and mouse game had frustrated them so much that he was convinced to insist whatever happened, and particularly to his capture, was influenced by the hand of God.

He said, “What’s happened was ordained by God.” He could not make any sense of his eventual capture and now he was being tortured, he could only wait in vain.

Behind him, a young soldier held a blood-soaked knife that they had used to forcibly slice his two ears off. Then he felt water being poured on him, and someone saying, “I’m doing you a lot of good, Doe.” He did not provide any answer, and hung his head, waiting for the end.

Though he needed medical attention, it was evidently clear he would not have any.

Looking at Prince Yormie, among his captors, he told him hopelessly, “I’m in a lot of pain,” with eyes as wide and dried as ever. Though he was in pain, Doe did not want them to think that they had broken him; he knew a soldier was born to defend and even if it need be, sacrifice his life. He was also aware
that a soldier was to fight gallantly, but what had happened was far from the marks of a true soldier. When Prince Johnson and his forces stormed the Freeport of Monrovia, none of his soldiers had a weapon. And for starters, Johnson had visited him at the Barclay Training Center some days earlier, and had indicated his willingness to join his forces so that they could fight their common enemy.

It was clear to him the real motive of General Johnson’s brave visit to him at the Executive Mansion. For before Johnson ordered the small rebel soldier to cut off his ears, he said, “Doe I fooled you.” It was a mark of deceit, for a soldier, he knew was the one who would stand up to his true calling. He wanted to fight and engage his opponents, one by one. He remembered when he told Johnson about the lack of sincerity among Liberians.

“Prince,” he had said during the visit, “you must be sincere with me.” Remembering his admonition to the man who turned out to be the cause of his current humiliation was too much to bear.

Someone, whether he was a journalist or not, Doe could not determine, sitting across from him told him, “Say I Samuel Kanyon Doe,” the vanquished president repeated after him, for it was clear that the end had come.

In the end he said, “I said my government has been overthrown by Field Marshal Prince Johnson, and it is time we rebuild our country.” Despite the physical demolition as well as human destruction, Samuel Doe felt the need to re-echo the urgency to rebuild the country that was weeping to be saved.

Again, he felt cold water pouring over him, and the pain increased.

He shook his head to the right and then to the left, to ease the pain that was building in there. His puffed up face, as a result of the physical assault he had received from his captors, stunned him and rendered him speechless.

Doe then remembered the dawn of April 14, 1980, many years ago, when he made his first announcement that the soldiers had struck, and the True Whig Party was no more. He could still hear in his mind’s eye, the dancing and rejoicing by majority of the people.

He was not too sure, but he could hear on the national radio, ELBC, the shrill voice of the singer:

“Who born soldier ooo mama?”

“Who born soldier ooo papa?”

“Country woman na born soldier…”

“From 1847 to 1980…”

Yes, those were the days he was hailed as the redeemer of the people. Now all had changed, and he could recount events up to that time. With Liberia in tatters and thousands having lost their lives, Doe saw his end as the culmination of what fate had kept for Liberia in general, and for him in particular. In fact he had warned Liberians that a trap that was set in town was not for rats alone, but they did not heed his advice. He had also warned them that when two elephants fight, the grass would suffer, and they also did not heed his advice. He wanted to scream and ask: Are there no wise men in Liberia? And so in the end he felt that Liberia’s suffering was its own. He wanted Liberia to be rebuilt, which as he looked at his current situation, did not think too much about.

Doe knew the war was lost, and he also knew it would need the committed effort and sacrifice to get the country back to its feet. In his heart, he begged the old man above to restore Liberia to sanity, after he was gone. He would be gone by then, which was not too much of a problem for him. But all things considered he knew he would be remembered, for all he did and did not do. Due to the soldiers’ failure to redeem Liberia, he told Liberians in his heart to forgive him. He wanted to rebuild Liberia and not to destroy it.

He could not bother himself with what others might think about him. He wanted to hold his young children, and tell them how much he loved them, but knew it was rather too late.

In his situation he needed medical assistance, but as the young rebel soldiers, disorganized and shouting at each other, with no apparent leadership structure, moved back and forth it was clear that he was finished. And with those considered leaders determination to humiliate him, asking childish questions, he knew only death would release him from his suffering. He would die, and go, and rest for eternity, which would also be at the whim of his captors. That’s how the man died.


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