Thus when Doe finally overthrew the Americo-Liberian oligarchy in 1980, native Liberians had hoped it was the time to redress the ills of 133 years of Americo-Liberian misrule.
Doe, a semi-illiterate who himself was a fruit of the Americo-Liberian neglect of the natives, actually did well initially according to some Liberian historians. Doe initially surrounded himself with the cream of the Liberian political elite. Togba-Nah Tipoteh was his planning minister. Amos Sawyer, the current Interim President of Liberia, was his special visor. Boima Fahnbulleh was his educational minister. Gabriel Baccus Matthews was his foreign minister. George Boley was his presidential affairs minister. And Charles Taylor himself was Doe's director general of the state-owned General Services Agency.
Because of Taylor's contribution to the consolidation of Doe's government in the early days, Doe gave him the rank of major, a 25 member bodyguard and a place in the cabinet even though he was not a minister.
But this broad, tolerant government lasted for only a while. Doe suddenly changed his tack and began promoting his small Krahn tribe to the disgust of the other tribes in the country. This, I was told, was largely due to bad advice from certain influential Krahn elites.
Suddenly the Krahn's became the privileged people who lived dangerously above the law and when Doe started persecuting the other tribes using his Krahn soldiers, his tribe, naturally, became a people living on borrowed time.
Taylor said that by 1983 when Doe's government began to rot from the head, he, General Quiwonkpa, Mohammed Wimpey and others planned a coup to oust him. News leaked out. Wimpey and others were arrested. Taylor and Quiwonkpa escaped and Doe, fearful of what the Taylor/Quiwonkpa duo could do to his government from abroad, framed Taylor, accusing him of embezzling $900,000 which led to his arrest in the US on extradition charges. He spent 18 months in prison before escaping to Ghana.
Thus, thoroughly bitter about the way Doe's government had treated them for nearly ten years, the people of Liberia, at least the two million or so who live in Greater Liberia, saw in Charles Taylor, who himself is half Americo-Liberian and half native, a saviour who had come to liberate them from Doe's tyranny.
This is why, contrary to earlier press reports, there was such massive support for Taylor during the war and why Doe's soldiers were easily routed.
Today the scars of the war are all too visible to ignore. But compared to other war-destroyed African countries, especially Somalia, Liberia came out of the war looking quite good.
Much of the infrastructure is still intact, perhaps because there wasn't much in Liberia to destroy anyway. Even the capital Monrovia, despite the exaggerated press reports of destruction in the city, does not look too bad. There are still bullet marks on a number of houses in the northern suburb of Paynesville and the charred remains of a few houses could still be seen in other suburbs. But much of the city is intact, though water and electricity are scarce.
The real miracle of Liberia is that after the war there has been no famine and outbreaks of disease in the country as in Somalia or Mozambique. The people are well fed, strong and beautiful as if there has been no war - and there are people who have work for two years or more in Taylor's area without pay."
Pause there. Is that true, working without pay?