Tolbert family calls for decent burial
Family of slain President Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr, who was assassinated 42 years in a bloody military coup on April 12, 1980 and children of officials of the former True Whig Party-led government have reiterated call here for the late President and others to receive a befitting burial.
The late President Tolbert, then sitting chair of the erstwhile Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) now the African Union (A.U.) was assassinated inside the Executive Mansion early April 12, 1980 by 17 enlisted officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia commanded by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe. Weeks later, 13 officials of the Tolbert regime were charged for rampant corruption, tried in a military tribunal and executed by firing squad at the Barclay Training Center, the main military barracks in Monrovia.
The spokesperson for the former president’s family and victims of the 1980 military coup, Dr. Richard Tolbert, and the son of former Senate President Pro-Tempore Frank Tolbert, termed the mass grave in which their late parents were buried as a disgrace to the entire nation.
Speaking to reporters shortly after laying wreaths on the Memorial Triangle mass grave at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street in Monrovia on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, Dr. Tolbert emphasized that these statesmen should be remembered because they laid down their lives and sacrificed their blood in order to avoid chaos in Liberia,
He recalled that about 26 persons, including Ex-President Tolbert, who were killed as a result of the April 12, 1980, military bloody coup, were interred in the mass grave.
“We come here every year to at least pay our respect to our fallen President William R Tolbert, former Chairman of the Organization of African Unity and President of the 30 million World Baptist Alliance and others statesmen, who lost their lives during the military coup,” he recalled.
“Some of those who were killed and 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.”
A daughter of the late General Charles Railey, who was 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 in Monrovia, and observed that the entire gate at the Mansion 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 14 years, explained that General Railey was killed by the soldiers when he was shot four times right before their eyes behind the Executive Mansion.
On April 12, 1980, 17 noncommissioned soldiers under the banner of the People’s Redemption Council, announced on state radio that the TWP-led government had been overthrown, declared dusk to dawn curfew and ordered boundaries by air, land and sea closed.
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, and E. Reginald Townsend, National Chairman of the True Whig Party.
Others were P. Clarence Parker, II, Chairman of the National Investment Council and Treasurer of the True Whig Party; James A. A. Pierre, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Joseph J. Chesson, Sr., Minister of Justice; Cecil Dennis, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Cyril Bright, former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, and John W. Sherman, Assistant Minister of Commerce and Trade, respectively.
The rest were 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. Tolbert to the memorial triangle were Stephen Tolbert and the son of AB Tolbert. Editing by Jonathan Browne