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Fact-checking Senator Brown’s claim that no President has moved into Liberia’s Executive Mansion since the killing of President William R. Tolbert

Liberia’s executive mansion under renovation since 2006 4 mins read

Claim: Senator J. Gblehbo Brown says no President has moved into Liberia’s executive mansion since the killing of President William R. Tolbert

Samuel K Doe lived and worked from the mansion until he was killed while Ellen Johnson Sirleaf worked from the executive mansion until it was gutted by fire on July 26, 2006. Charles Taylor also spent some time in the mansion.

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J. Gblehbo Brown who represents Maryland County in the Liberian Senate on Thursday, June 10, 2021, said at a peacebuilding and reconciliation event that since President William R Tolbert was murdered in the executive mansion, no other president has been able to move into the mansion. 

Senator Brown chairs the Liberian Senate’s Committee on Internal Affairs, Reconciliation, and Governance.

He was invited to speak on behalf of the senate at the launch of a report which borders on national reconciliation, peacebuilding, and social cohesion, an effort led by the Civil Society National Reconciliation Working Group.

The report, launched under the theme “Rethinking Reconciliation and Social Cohesion in Liberia”, is seeking efforts that can lead to an overall process of post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD). 

“It appears that Liberians do not know what to do with this TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Report) report,” he said. “To have genuine conciliation and sustained peace, we must establish the root cause of the wars.”

“Liberians have been divided from the foundation of the nation…Tolbert was killed in his bed in that executive mansion and since then, no other president has been able to move into that mansion,” Senator Brown said.

Verification 

The executive mansion of Liberia is the official residence and workplace of Liberia’s Presidents. Dedicated on January 3, 1964, during the presidency of William VS Tubman, it is situated across the street from the Capitol Building in central Monrovia. 

On April 12, 1980, a non-commissioned officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia and members of his Krahn ethnic group, attacked the executive mansion in a bloody coup d’é tat and murdered President Tolbert in his bedroom which was located on the eighth floor of the mansion’s residential complex. Thirteen of Tolbert’s cabinet ministers were also killed in the aftermath of the coup.

Presidents Who Have Lived in The Mansion

From April 12, 1980, the day Master Sergeant Samuel K Doe launched his coup d’etat, he occupied the executive mansion until he was murdered by Prince Johnson’s rebel forces at the Freeport of Monrovia on September 9, 1990, Monrovia. 

In this Facebook live interview with journalist Clarence Jackson of Okay FM Liberia, Mrs. Nancy Doe, the wife of Samuel K Doe indicated the family had lived in the mansion.

All our time in the executive mansion, we never anticipated that this would happen,” she said.

In this documentary by the BBC Sound, titled the “Death of Samuel Doe”, former BBC correspondent Elizabeth Blunt narrated how Doe had left the executive mansion for the Freeport of Monrovia for a meeting with an ECOMOG commander when Prince Johnson’s forces arrived. 

From April 12, 1980 when Doe overthrew Tolbert and was elected president in October 1985, he resided in the executive mansion. This can further be confirmed by a New York Times July 7, 1990 publication where the US-based newspaper reported that he had told American diplomats that he would resign, but so far he had shown no sign of leaving. 

After the Samuel K Doe regime ended in 1990, Charles Taylor became the second elected President of Liberia after Toblert and he was inaugurated in office on August 2, 1997. Taylor worked from the executive mansion even though he was not resident there. 

Charles Taylor held official duties in the executive mansion ranging from hosting foreign guests and other state functions, even though he was resident at two houses in Congo Town.

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BBC journalist Robin White meets Charles Taylor at the Executive Mansion

BBC reporter Bobin White is quoted in this article as saying:

“I first met Taylor face-to-face in the Executive Mansion in Monrovia in 2000.”

The paper is quoted as saying “throughout the day, the 40-year-old President remained barricaded inside the executive mansion. Armored vehicles and soldiers were stationed on the palace lawn.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia in October 2005, the third democratically elected president after Tolbert who also moved into the executive mansion 

From January 2006 to July 26, 2006, former President Sirleaf did all official business in the executive mansion until a portion of the mansion on the fourth floor was destroyed by fire during the 159th-anniversary celebration of the adoption of the Liberian Declaration of Independence. President Sirleaf was at the time feting foreign guests and dignitaries in the gardens of the Executive Mansion. 

The renovation process is still ongoing.

It is fair to state that President Goerge Weah is the only elected president who has not been able to work from the executive mansion.

Conclusion

From the analysis and investigations relating to the claim made by Maryland J. Gblehbo Brown, it is clear that the claim is false. Even though Presidents Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not reside in the executive mansion, the conclusion that no President has moved into the mansion since the murder of President William R. Tolbert is false.

The researcher produced this fact-check per Dubawa’s 2021 Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Fellowship in partnership with the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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