Liberia: President William R. Tolbert, Others Remembered on April 12

Former President William Richard Tolbert. 

.... As Families Call on Gov’t for a decent, befitting burial

It has been 42 years since the 1980 military coup, and children of the officials of the True Whig Party-led government who were killed following the coup, said they remain hopeful that the Government of Liberia would give the late President William R. Tolbert and others a decent and befitting burial one day. 

The spokesman of the families of the victims of the 1980 military coup, Dr. Richard V. Tolbert, the son of the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Frank Tolbert, termed the area on which the remains of the victims of the military coup were buried as a disgrace to a whole nation. 

Dr. Tolbert spoke at an interview with newsmen shortly after laying wreaths on the Memorial Triangle mass grave located at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street in Monrovia.

He added that these statesmen should be remembered because they laid their lives and sacrificed their blood for this country. 

According to Dr. Tolbert, about 26 persons who were killed as a result of the April 12, 1980 military bloody coup were buried in the mass grave. 

“We come here every year to at least pay our respects to our fallen President William R. Tolbert, former Chairman of the Organization of African Unity and President of the 30 million-strong World Baptist Alliance and other statesmen who lost their lives during the military coup,” he said. “Some of those who were killed, buried in the mass grave, are General Charles Railey, Commander of the Executive Mansion Guard;  an officer of the Special Security Service, Gabriel Moore; and Lieutenant Railroad Vesehley, of the Armed Forces of Liberia and Momoh Tolbert, the son of the late President who ran towards him as he was shot.”

Also speaking, the daughter of General Charles Railey, the Commander of the Executive Guard Battalion, Precious Railey Dennis, narrated how her father was killed. 

According to her, the family had returned to the Executive Mansion from a program organized by the Providence Baptist Church and observed that the entire gate was without any security personnel.

“During the early hours of April 12, 1980, we were awakened by heavy sounds of gunfire and so, my mother crept on her knees and woke me up.

“When we got up, our daddy, General Railey, was already up being escorted by some of the soldiers who were believed to be working with him.” 

Mrs. Dennis, then only 14 years old, explained that General Railey was killed by the soldiers, when he was shot four times just before their bare eyes behind the Executive Mansion. 

On April 12, 1980, 17 noncommissioned soldiers under the banner of the People’s Redemption Council, announced on the state radio that the True Whig Party (TWP) government had been overthrown, declared dusk-to-dawn curfew and ordered boundaries by air, land and sea closed.

Few days later, a military tribunal set by the PRC found some of the officials of the TWP government guilty of corruption, nepotism and abuse of public office and executed 13 of them. 

Those executed were Frank E. Tolbert, brother of President Tolbert and President pro tempore of the Senate; Richard A. Henries, Speaker of the House of Representatives; E. Reginald Townsend, National Chairman of the True Whig Party; P. Clarence Parker II, Chairman of the National Investment Council and Treasurer of the True Whig Party; James A. A. PierreChief Justice of the Supreme Court; Joseph J. Chesson Sr., Minister of Justice; Cecil DennisMinister of Foreign Affairs; Cyril Bright, former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs and John W. Sherman — Assistant Minister of Commerce and Trade.

The rest are James T. Phillips, former Minister of Finance, former Minister of Agriculture; David Franklin Neal, former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs; Charles T. O. King — Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Frank J. Stewart Sr., Director of the Budget. 

Others who accompanied Dr. Richard Tolbert to the memorial triangle were Stephen Tolbert and the son of AB Tolbert.