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Doe Sworn in as Liberia’s President

January 6, 1986

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ Samuel K. Doe, who has ruled Liberia since a coup in 1980, was sworn in as president Monday. He won the office in a disputed election that was followed by a bloody attempt to overthrow him.

One of Doe’s first acts as president was to release 18 people arrested after the November uprising in this West African nation founded by freed American slaves in 1847. Doe said they were turned loose because investigations had cleared them of involvement in the unsuccessful coup.

Doe, 35, appealed for reconciliation in his inaugural address and expressed hope for continued friendship with the United States.

He was an army sergeant in 1980 when he and other non-commissioned officers ousted the elected government, killing President William R. Tolbert and 13 top officials. He now is a major general.

Until the coup by Doe and other indigenous tribesmen, the country had been governed by descendants of the freed slaves.

The United States pressed him to return democratic rule in Africa’s first republic or lose annual financial aid of about $90 million.

″We have endeavored to foster friendship (with the United States) based on our historical ties, mutual cooperation and the social and cultural interaction among the people of our respective countries,″ Doe said in his inaugural address.

He criticized the U.S. Congress, which threatened to withhold economic aid if Liberia did not move toward democracy, and said members of Congress had been unduly influenced by Liberian dissidents.

″I pledge that the new republic will emphasize reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation as its major objectives,″ he said.

Doe spoke after he and Vice President Harry F. Moniba, a former ambassador to Britain, were sworn in for six-year terms.

He is Liberia’s 20th president. He held the title head of state in the regime of the National Redemption Council formed after the 1980 coup.

The Oct. 15 election was conducted under rules drawn up by a commission Doe appointed. Two opposition parties were denied accreditation, but three were permitted to run against his National Democratic Party.

Doe won 50.9 percent of the presidential vote, according to the commission’s figures. His party won 21 of the 26 Senate seats and 51 of the 64 in the House of Representatives.

Opposition parties claimed the vote-counting was rigged and threatened not to take their seats in Congress.

Thomas Quiwonkpa, a fugitive former army general, led the coup attempt Nov. 12. There was fighting around Doe’s official residence and at other points in Monrovia, the capital, before Doe’s troops subdued the rebels and Quiwonkpa was killed.

Doe charged several opposition figures with abetting the uprising. Some opposition leaders still are in prison, charged with treason or under investigation for complicity.

Among those freed Monday were four officials of the Liberia Action Party: vice chairman Harry Greaves, treasurer David Farhat, secretary-general Byron Tarr and campaign manager Peter Johnson.

Others released included Peter Bonner Jallah, treasurer of the Unity Party; Momolu Sirleaf, publisher of the independent newspaper Footprints, and Isaac Bantu, a local correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corp.

Doe also freed James Sirleaf, son of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a senator-elect from the Liberia Action Party, who remains in detention along with the leader of the party, Jackson F. Doe. The Does are not related.

Freed slaves began settling here in 1822, and Liberia became an independent republic 25 years later. It has maintained close ties with the United States, and its currency is the U.S. dollar.

The Reagan administration said in December that it saw hope for democratic change in Liberia despite the attempted coup and doubts about the election’s legitimacy. William C. Harrop, the State Department’s inspector-general, attended the inauguration.

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