‘CAN’T SHAKE PYJ’S HANDS’
“I can’t say if I can shake Prince Johnson’s hand if I get to meet him now……..For Ellen, why not? I can shake her hands even though I heard that she sponsored the war against my father…… But I’m not carrying that burden along. After all, everyone else lost somebody in the war. So, what use is it, then?”
Celue Doe, daughter of slain President Samuel Kanyon Doe
Former Prez Doe’s Daughter ‘Holds No Grudge’ But No Handshake For Father’s Murderer
Nat Bayjay, email@example.com
Trenton, New Jersey, USA-
Greeted with the news that her father had been slain six months after she, her other siblings and mother had escaped Charles Taylor’s insurgency, Celue Doe’s childhood immediately took a tailspin. She still fears the pain even after two decades.
Now 28, the former president’s daughter told FrontPageAfrica that she holds no grudges against anybody for her father’s death; yet, she cannot afford a handshake with the man whose decision to kill former president Samuel Kanyon Doe left her and about 19 other siblings fatherless when she was just eight-years-old.
For the young lady who plans returning home next year for the first time since 1990, she is not sure of the mood if she encounters the once-feared rebel leader: “I can’t say if I can shake Prince Johnson’s hand if I get to meet him now”.
Johnson, now Senior Senator of Nimba County and presidential hopeful for this year’s election, captured and killed Doe in the latter part of 1990 as one of the continent’s deadliest wars raged against the country’s first native president whose 1980 coupe ended over 130 years of Americo-Liberians’ reign.
Johnson to ‘Tango’
Most agonizing in the eyes of those who watched the capture, torture and subsequent killing of the country’s 21st president was the spectacle display Johnson exhibited as he sipped what appeared to be a Budweiser drink while chopping off Doe’s ear. The videotaped scene was seen on news reports around the world and remains available for viewing as Johnson calls ‘Tango’-meant for the US Ambassador at the time.
Celue still holds fresh memory for a war that was to continue for almost 13 years later even following her father’s death, though Doe had been killed less than a year of the revolution initiated by now detained Taylor.
Since that fateful September 9, 1990 in which Johnson’s breakaway Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) had ceased Doe in a fierce Freeport battle before taking him to their Caldwell base for his final demise, several reconciliatory meetings had been held between Johnson’s Nimba group and Doe’s Grand Gedeh group.
Celue who had escaped to the United Kingdom along with nine other siblings and her mother, Nancy Doe said she can manage a handshake with current president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf despite the President’s admittance of sponsorship to the rebellion that killed and ended her father’s decade-long reign.
Sirleaf presented her version of her part in the anti-Doe reign war during her appearance before the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as providing just “US$10,000 for humanitarian” purposes only.
Would shake Ellen’s hands
Though the justification had since been doubted by many on grounds that she desperately needed to get to the presidency and that her contributed amount was unstated, Celue prefers her to the former warlord: “For Ellen, why not? I can shake her hands even though I heard that she sponsored the war against my father.”
However, Celue who has since spent her entire life in exile for the past 21 years is not prepared to carry those burdens along with her. Not wanting to hold anyone responsible for her father’s death, she told FPA: “But I’m not carrying that burden along. After all, everyone else lost somebody in the war. So, what use is it, then?”
Twenty-one years later, Celue says she still sheds tears for her late father.
Told In A Heavy Way
Says Celue: “I got told in heavy way. I was already eight years old by September, 1990. I loved TV and would stay up late watching it….we had this body guard [who accompanied them] who just woke me up and it was like, ‘Your father’s dead!’ I mean it’s like, ‘Your pa died! Imagine telling an eight-year old child like that. I gradually made my way up to my mother’s bedroom and my mom was like crying.’
Going down memory lane, she recalled the last time she heard from the father who was by then engulfed by rebels: “The last time I heard my father’s voice was like almost a month after we left and received a call from him. It was like a happy day for us all. My mom and my dad would speak in Krahn but I don’t understand Krahn but I could imagine him promising her that things could be better.
She assumed that there are at least 20 of them left behind by the former President but only half of that number enjoyed Doe’s Executive Mansion’s immunities as first-children residing there at the time. She revealed that all 10 of them made the escape route to the UK, with the youngest being as young as less than a year-old and the oldest at the time being 15 years old.
The Last Time
It took another six months following the escape to safety of Celue and her siblings before Doe was killed.
“The last time I saw my father was back in March of 1990. The war was getting very heated at the moment and the First Lady [at the time], my mom Nancy Doe, my brothers and sisters and I and my other siblings who were already attending boarding schools in London were gathered together to leave. And the last time I saw my father was on the fourth floor [of the Executive Mansion] and had the opportunity to hug each other. And that was the last time”, she explained.
But Celue, in her recollection, knew that their departure from their father was not one of those usual vacations: “I was very aware as a child….. I had some sense of awareness of what was going on was. I was thinking like why isn’t he coming. I wondered if I was ever going to see him again. It felt psychic.”
While not blaming her late father for whatever decision he made that led to his torture and death, Celue however thinks that Doe’s refusal to escape the last-minute battle in the midst of an opportunity to survive makes him a hero.
Though that decision left her-and her numerous siblings fatherless, she praises him for the decision that turned the table on him that led to Johnson’s capture and subsequent killing of the former president: “Absolutely. He had an opportunity…. And as I grew up, I think about the character of a man who could make that kind of decision [to stay despite the raging war against him]. That I can’t still understand. He had said, ‘How can I leave my people?’ He was not going to do that. He couldn’t have abandoned his people, the people who elected him.”
The SKD Foundation
A great admiration for her late father was the fact that he still chose to return to school despite being a president at the time. Now serving as the communication director and spokesperson for the newly established foundation named after the late president, Celue’s belief that her late father was one who believed in education led to her and some of her siblings forming the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Foundation
Launched on a day that the former president was to turn 60 about two weeks ago, the SKD Foundation, according to her is founded to enrich the lives and welfare of individuals, families and communities in Liberia and worldwide as led by his children’s “beliefs in love, peace, justice, equality, unity and empowerment.”
“As children of the Late President of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. Samuel Kanyon Doe, we are proud to announce the creation of The Samuel Kanyon Doe Foundation! Through his loving memory and legacy, we his children developed this foundation. Our father was a great visionary who achieved so much in his short life”, reads a mission statement of the Foundation expected to get in full swing shortly.”
Celue says the foundation is long overdue. “This is something we want to see for ourselves, to do our part for Liberia’s development.”
The late president’s daughter reveals that the initial stages of the foundation will see her and some of her brothers and sisters personally funding it out of “our own pockets for now”.
No Room For Error
“He was so busy as a president but he would come to check on us during our study class. He would like, ‘Have you done your homework?’ He would always urge us to be like Roland [one of her brothers] who was so smart”, she said, adding that there was no room for error in Doe’s Executive Mansion educational policy for his kids.
Failed ’85 Coup Memory
Though just three at the time when Commanding General Thomas Quinwonkpa launched his unsuccessful military overthrow against Doe, Celue’s memory still has sketches of that day that almost went fateful for the Doe family.
Says Celue: “We the children were sleeping on the 8th Floor [of the Mansion] when bullets began to hit the window. Our maid called Ma Muna who used to look after us gathered every one of us and put us under the bed”, recalled Celue, continuing, “We didn’t get the usual breakfast that morning and other routines”.
But one thing that shocked little Celue at the time was how could her father’s ‘best friend’ wish him dead: “And when the people told us that it was Uncle Quinwonkpa that overthrew our pa, I was like, ‘But ain’t da his friend?’”
Her entire family was fortunate however in a few hours’ time after Doe made a comeback, the aftermath which proved deadly for the General and both his supporters and perceived ones.
‘No Fortune’ for Doe Clan
Despite reports that the former President died as one of Africa’s richest presidents, Celue denied that she and her siblings ever had any fortune left with them or ever secured in any bank for them by their late father: “Fortune? I’ll look straight in your face and say no. I wish it was true”, she said laughingly.
The former president’s first period of military reign and later its civilian-converted reign were initially characterized with massive supports from some friendly governments and multinational groupings. Total grants to Liberia under Doe a year later were increased from US $13.8 million in 1980 to $51,5 million. In September 1982 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved grants to Liberia totalled $88 million while a two-week official visit to the USA during to President Ronald Reagan in August 1982 yielded both financial aid of over US$20 million and military assistance among others. But later, the table turned against Doe as other donors and some governments expressed reservations against misuse of the funds being provided at the time. For instance, in June 1985 the IMF ruled that Liberia was no longer eligible for IMF credits because of its failure to pay on time arrears of some $52.4 million.
With no treasure from their late father, a bulk of the late president’s children seem to be doing well if clues from Celue are something to go by.