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GeneralLiberia news

We wanted election, not coup

--Gongloe rejects progressives' role in coup

By Lincoln G. Peters 

Presidential hopeful Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe says it’s heartbreaking for people to blame the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) for Liberia’s dark days, arguing that they wanted elections, and not a coup.

Appearing on local broadcaster OK FM Tuesday, 18 April 2023, the renowned Liberian human rights lawyer gave his reflection on the 1980 coupe that killed then-president William R. Tolbert.

He said the progressives were very angry and disappointed when they heard the news that there was a coup and that Tolbert was killed and his government was overthrown.

“But for people to blame the progressive and MOJA members for the country’s dark days and even accuse us of the overthrow of the government is very heartbreaking because we wanted [the] election to unseat the government, not through military means,” Cllr. Gongloe said.

According to him, at no time in history did MOJA and the PAL ever support or mastermind the overthrow of the Tolbert government.

Cllr. Gongloe explained that President Tolbert told the country and the True Whig Party that elections would have been held in 1983. 

Besides, Cllr. Gongloe said President Tolbert had promised that he was not running for office. Gongloe argued that if the elections were held in 1983 as promised, either the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews or Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh would have emerged as the President of Liberia because they were extremely popular then.

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He said the coup d’etat took place in 1980 and President Tolbert was killed while they were preparing for the 1983 elections.

Gongloe suggested that the 1980 Coup d’etat damaged the chances of Matthews and Tipoteh becoming President of Liberia.

” There were two progressive movements. We have MOJA and PAL. I was not part of the coup d’etat, but I still think that the coup d’etat was a rescue mission,” said Gongloe. 

“I may be wrong but I think so. PAL, led by Baccus Matthew had a midnight march at the Executive Mansion and some people were arrested and jailed,” Cllr. Gongloe recalled. 

“MOJAL came up with a statement and told them that they were wrong. They were in jail on April 11, the night the coup d’etat took place. Also, MOJA was … on their installation program,” Cllr. Gongloe disclosed.

According to him, they got angry because they “wanted an election to unseat the government.” 

He said he could have worked in the government, but he was not satisfied. “We wanted to defeat the True Whig Party at the pool,” he noted. 

Gongloe claimed that the True Whig Party knew that it would not have won the election because the progressive started defeating them on the campus of the University of Liberia and they wanted to take it to the national scene.

He disagrees with people who blame the progressive movement for Liberia’s backwardness. Gongloe insisted that Liberians are aware that the progressives advocated and gave their lives for the peace, democracy, and multi-party system they are enjoying today.

He said the problem with Liberia is that the major change agents have been unfortunate to be elected to power.

“Actually, freedom is not free. During that time, we advocated for social justice, economic empowerment, multi-party democratic system, freedom of expression, and security, among others,” said Cllr. Gongloe. 

“If today, people see us as responsible for Liberia’s backwardness, there is nothing wrong about that because even in the Bible the children said that to Moses,” Cllr. Gongloe noted.

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