People's Redemption Council
The People's Redemption Council was a governmental body that ruled Liberia during the early 1980s. It was established after Samuel Doe's military coup, which took place on April 12, 1980. The Council, with Doe as its chairman, promised a complete overhaul of Liberia's society, economy, and political system and the replacement of the corruption of previous regimes with a newfound respect for the rights of the Liberian people. The PRC had 17 founding members and was later expanded to 28. The PRC functioned, at least at first, as the executive and legislative body in Doe's government. During Doe's time in power, the role of the PRC shrunk, ceding authority over law-making and governance to Doe in the midst of his promises of democracy. In 1984, the PRC was dissolved and replaced by the Interim National Assembly.
Inception and early years (1980 - early 1981)
On April 12, 1980, Samuel K. Doe led a group of 17 low-ranking soldiers in a coup d'etat that overthrew and killed then-president William Tolbert. Immediately afterwards, the group formed the PRC as the supreme legislative and executive power in the country, with Doe as its chairman. In the wake of their revolution, the PRC emphasized its goal of creating a new system of governance and societal organization rooted in support for the country's commoners. Liberia had long been ruled by a group of colonial elite known as the Americo-Liberians, and Doe, as a native Liberian, claimed to be seeking equality of rights and of status among all Liberians.
However, in its first fiscal year as governing body, the PRC increased military spending by 150%, leading to doubts about the PRC's commitment to a true transition towards democracy. In mid-1981, the PRC created the National Constitutional Commission, the Constitutional Advisory Assembly, and Special Elections Commission to, respectively, write a new constitution, revise the newly drafted constitution, and run democratic elections.
Soon after its founding, Doe and the PRC added several new members to its ranks, soldiers and civilians alike. Three of these additions had held posts in Tolbert's government. Strife between military and civilian members led to division between progressives and conservatives, especially along ethnic lines. In 1982, Doe and the military PRC members executed several civilian PRC members who opposed them, effectively ending the intra-council conflict, if not the general sense of discontentment at Doe's ethnic favoritism and overall style of rule.
Transition to a constitutional democracy
By December 1982, the NCC had completed its task of drafting a constitution. Despite disagreements between the PRC and the NCC concerning the most optimal timeline for a transition, the NCC's draft was ultimately submitted to the CAA for revision. After their revisions were completed in late 1983, a referendum took place on July 3, 1984, that ratified the constitution.
With the ratification of the new constitution, a new system of government came into place that including a president, vice president, and a legislature termed the Interim National Assembly (INA). The PRC was officially disbanded on July 22, 1984.
At its inception, the PRC consisted of 17 soldiers. In early days of the regime, the PRC brought on a handful of civilians and several high-ranking members of the previous regime, bringing the PRC's total membership to 28. With respect to socioeconomic status, poor colonists and native Liberians made up the majority of the PRC. Ethnically, the majority of PRC members were Krahn, like Doe, and a large number of members hailed from the same county as Doe.
List of members
Persons who were members of the PRC at some point include the following:
- Samuel Doe (Chairman)
- Gabriel Baccus Matthews (Minister of Foreign Affairs)
- H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. (Minister of Foreign Affairs)
- T. Ernest Eastman (Minister of Foreign Affairs)
- Perry G. Zulu (Minister of Finance)
- George Dunye (Minister of Finance)
- G. Alvin Jones (Minister of Finance)
- Chea Cheapoo (Minister of Justice)
- Isaac Nyeplo (Minister of Justice)
- Winston Tubman (Minister of Justice)
- Jenkins Scott (Minister of Justice)
- George S. Boley (Minister of State for Presidential Affairs) (Minister of Postal Affairs) (Minister of Education)
- Harry Nayou (Minister of State for Presidential Affairs)
- John Rancy (Minister of State for Presidential Affairs)
- Togba-Nah Tipoteh (Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs)
- S. Byron Tarr (Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs)
- Emmanuel Gardiner (Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs)
- Samuel B. Pearson (Minister of Defense)
- Albert Karpeh (Minister of Defense)
- Gray Allison (Minister of Defense) (Minister of Information)
- Emmanuel T. Twegby (Minister of Postal Affairs) (Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Transportation)
- Abdulai S. Vandi (Minister of Postal Affairs)
- Scott Toweh (Minister of Postal Affairs)
- Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Jr. (Minister of Education)
- Oscar Jaryee Quiah (Minister of Local Government)
- Edward Sackor (Minister of Local Government)
- Alfred Suah (Mininster of Agriculture)
- Alfred Fromoyan (Minister of Agriculture)
- Joseph N. Boakai (Minister of Agriculture)
- Gabriel J. Tucker (Minister of Public Works)
- R. Bokah (Minister of Public Works)
- Awin Brooks (Minister of Public Works)
- James Burphy (Minister of Public Works)
- Gabriel Nimely (Minister of Information)
- Peter Naigow (Minister of Information)
- Kate Bryant (Minister of Health and Social Welfare)
- Martha Belle (Minister of Health and Social Welfare)
- Fred J. Blay (Minister of Labor, Youth, and Sports) (Minister of Youth and Sports)
- David Dwanyen (Minister of Labor, Youth, and Sports)
- Joseph Douglas (Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Transportation)
- E. Sumo Jones (Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Transportation)
- Willie P. Nebo (Minister of Lands and Mines)
- Fodee Kromah (Minister of Lands and Mines)
- Luseni Dunzo (Minister of Action for Development and Progress)
- Alfred Kulah (Minister of Action for Development and Progress)
- Yudu Gray (Minister of Action for Development and Progress)
- Patrick Minikon (Minister of National Security)
Immediately after the coup that overthrew President Tolbert, the PRC prohibited organized opposition, eliminated the Liberian Congress, and suspended the Constitution, leaving the PRC as the sole executive and legislative body in the national government. At least at first, the members of the PRC held legitimate sway in the operations of their country.
However, even though the PRC originally acted as a law-making and executive entity in its own right, the power dynamic quickly changed. Doe quickly began to consolidate executive and legislative power, relegating the rest of the PRC to act as a cabinet rather than a committee with powers of its own. Doe preserved his power through clientelism involving the army and by threat/use of force towards his opposition, including and especially those within the PRC itself. As early as late 1981, it was clear that Doe had centralized enough power to act unilaterally with or without the consent of his fellow councilmen, who by then served more as advisers than as policy-makers.
De facto survival (1984-1989)
Immediately after the disbandment of the PRC, many of its members pursued positions of power under the new government. In the presidential election on October 15th, Doe won a hotly contested and deeply controversial victory, extending his rule for several more years. Many of the aforementioned members of the PRC became members of Doe's presidential cabinet. Until Charles Taylor led a coup that overthrew Doe, the PRC's central actors and style of governance largely continued to persist, if under a different set of institutions.
Doe's ethnic favoritism towards the Krahn people created distinct boundaries and significant status differences among ethic groups in Liberia. Krahn people found more representation in government and had more power than their counterparts, creating tenuous and often violent relationships with the Gio and Mano peoples. Despite the PRC's stated goal of distributing rights among all Liberians and alleviating the inequality between the Americo-Liberians and the natives, its actions contributed to a tribe-based set of divisions that continue to complicate Liberian politics and society.
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