Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Torture of Samuel Doe

with 66 comments

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Even by the standards of time and other atrocities committed during the Liberian Civil War, it was a gruesome incident. One of many US supported tyrants in Africa, Samuel Doe, who ruled Liberia from 1980 to 1990. Finally his regime was toppled by Charles Taylor (who proved to be worse than Doe). During the war, a rebel leader Prince Yormie Johnson split from Taylor’s NPFL and formed the INPFL; then he and his forces captured, tortured, and executed President Doe in Monrovia on September 9, 1990. Johnson was furious when he heard Doe was dead from bleeding profusely. He had previously ordered Doe be locked in a bathroom but Doe knocked himself out against the bathroom window causing a cerebral hemorrhage that finally killed him.

The gruesome incident was recorded by the INPFL on video tape. Journalists Stephen Smith of Liberation, Mark Huband and Patrick Robert of French photoagency Sygma (who took the above image of Liberian soldiers posing with the body of Doe)–who were present at the INPFL camp–were given the videotape. It was seen on news reports around the world and was a best selling film in West Africa. Now even two decades later, it is still doing the rounds in the markets of Monrovia; Johnson sipping a Budweiser as Doe’s ear is cut off became almost an image transplanted from a Shakespearean play or from mediaeval times.

Samuel Doe who staged a televised execution of the Tolbert government on a sunny beach became the first world leader to be tortured on camera before being executed and his body desecrated. It should have brought the nation full circle, but it did not. More violence under Taylor would kill more Liberians. It was a sad decline for Africa’s first republic.

See a short clip from the video here and Corbis archives have still shots courtesy of Robert.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 3, 2009 at 9:15 pm

66 Responses

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  1. People must learn from this about head of states/ presidential protection. To head of states/presidents, they must learn from the brutal death of Samuel Doe, it is slipery no matter how strong your military or government is, within 30 minutes the brutal death situation of former powerful president Samuel Doe may be yours. So treat all citizens equally while knowing that your day is coming soon. In order to have a soft exit.

    Peterson

    November 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm

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    • I believe our leaders can see what happened to doe, it is left to them, whatever they do must surly com back to them after-all, what goes around says a proverb, must surele come around

      Mayowa

      August 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

  2. c’est ça l’africe

    maleye niang

    February 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm

  3. For Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe the saying that “those who live by the sword die by the sword” holds true. He caused the most barbaric execution of his predecesor in 1980. A a decade later, he fell victim to the most vicious videotaped execution in living memory at the hands of, none other than the then notorious warmonger, Prince Johnson.

    Taam jor

    February 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

  4. Absolute power corrupts. Few, if any, leaders took power by force and gave it back without engagement of brute force. Doe, Sese Seko and Amin used force to ascend the throne and force was used to dethrone them.

    Taam Jor

    February 21, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    • what would you say about Prince Johnson himself? Is an exception of such brute force or dual of such force. His time is nearing.

      Urais Teh Pour

      January 9, 2011 at 3:18 am

  5. Goon

    Taam Jor

    February 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

  6. Did this guy leave his body to science research ? If so, put me down for a dick transplant !

    drew

    March 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    • ur sick

      ggh

      August 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm

      • the dick is almost as large as his middle finger

        merlin

        August 21, 2010 at 1:57 am

  7. […] The Torture of Samuel Doe […]

  8. I WONDER WHY PEOPLE JUST KILL EACH OTHER, I WONDER. WE MAKE GUNS, BOMBS, ALL MANNERS OF WEAPONS TO KILL EACH OTHER. THIS WORLD IS SO MUCH IRRATIONAL. IT IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND. GREED GREED GREED GREEEEEEEEED. THAT IS JUST IT. IT IS NOT ONLY IN AFRICA. IF U GO THRU SOME EXPRESIDENTS AND PRESENT PRESIDENTS PROFILE U WILL FEEL DISCOURAGE. EVEN THE SO CALLED UNITED STATE PRESIDENTS ARE DIRTY. THOUGH I LIKE THEM FOR ONE THING THEY WILL ALWAYS PROTECT THEIR COUNTRYMEN UNLIKE THE YEARS OF SLAVERY. TAKE A LOOK AT ZIMBABWE. WHY ARE PEOPLE NEVER TIRED OF POWER. I CALL HIM A TYPICAL RACIST IN AMOTHER COAT. GOD HELP US, ATIMES THESE INCIDENTS BRING DOUBT TO MY HEART AND MAKE ME BELIEVE THAT RELIGION IS REALLY THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE JUST LIKE A PHILOSOPHER DEFINED IT.

    GBENGA

    August 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    • Doe was a blood hungry person. How he died is excetly how he killed and how he came in to power. However, no human must potray himself ‘god’ who corrects the past injustices or wrongs of other humans, what they did to him was very stupid!!!

      MTHOKO SA

      March 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

  9. ACTUALLY SAMUEL K.DOE WAS A LEADER DESTINED BY GOD BUT DUE TO HIS EDUCATION STANDARD AND RULES OF LAW CAUSE HIS DEATH.DUE TO HIS LOVE FOR POWER AND TRIBE MAN BROUGHT THE WAR IN LIBERIA AND THE WAY IN WHICH HE TREATED THE FORMER MINISTERS OF THE GOVERNMENT HE OVER TURNED,PUBLIC EXICUTION OF GOVERMENT OFFICIALS BY FIRING SQUAT.HE WAS THE FIRST NATIVE LEADER IN THE WORLD AND AFRICA THAT KILL ALL THE FORMER MINISTERS PUBLICLY.THE RULES GOES AN EYE FOR AN EYE TOOTH FOR TOOTH.

    the king of truth

    September 7, 2010 at 4:54 am

  10. ACTUALLY IT WAS NOT NORMAL TO TREAT A COUNTRY PRESIDENT IN SUCH MANNER,BUT AS PRINCE JOHNSON SAID THE GUNS THAT GIVE FREEDOM SHOULD NOT RULE. BUT LIBERIAN ARE STILL MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE.EVEN ELLEN JOHNSON UNDER ANY CONDITION SHOULD HAVE NOT BEEN PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA BECAUSE ALL OF THEM CONTRIBUTED TO THE KILLING AND WAR IN LIBERIA.PRINCE JOHNSON UNDER ANY CONDITION SHOULD HAVE NOT WORK OR TAKE PART IN ANY GOVERNMENTAL POSITION IN THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT FOR ANY REASON.PRINCE JOHNSON IS A KILLER.HE KILL LOT OF LIBERIAN CIVILIAN AND LET ELLEN JOHNSON HAVE IT IN MIND THAT PRINCE JOHNSON WILL ONE DAY TRY TO GET HER TOO,MILITARY MAN IS ALWAYS A MILITARY MAN N A KILLER IS ALWAYS A KILLER.ALL OF US SAW WHAT DOE DID AND THE SAME CAME BACK TO HIM AND HIS COUNTRY MAN.CLEARLY SHOWING THAT AS A PRESIDENT YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TREAT YOUR PEOPLE RIGHT BECAUSE WITHOUT THE CIVILIAN YOU ARE NOTHING.DOE AND HIS MAN WHEN TO CHURCHES AND UN COMPOUND TO KILL CIVILIAN BUT THE WORLD SAW WHAT HE TURNED UP TO, DEAD AND NICKY WITH NO MORE POWER,WHERE ARE ALL HIS TRIBE MAN NOW? SO MISS ELLEN JOHNSON S.PLEASE USED THE COUNTRY FUNDS FOR THE COUNTRY SO THE CITIZEN CAN’T MOVED ON YOU,YOU HAVE BEEN GREED FOR POWER LONG SINCE SAMUEL DOE TIME NOW YOU GOT IT,SO PLEASE DO MRS.RIGHT.SINCE YOUR RULE YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING LIKE DEVELOPMENT,COUNTRIES ARE GIVING MILLIONS N COMPANY ARE COMING IN DONT BRING BACK WAR ON OUR NATIVE PEOPLE

    MR.RIGHT

    September 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    • Eye for an Eye, The so-called senior senator for Nimba county Prince Johnson should be President for what he did? If so he will be caught up in his own mess, as it is said an Eye for an Eye.

      Wilkfred D. Williams

      December 23, 2010 at 6:11 am

    • IF LIBERIANS ARE GRATEFUL PEOPLE, THEN THEY SHOULD KNOW BY NOW WHAT IS A GOOD LEADER OR A GOOD GOVERNMENT FROM THE BAD ONES. SAMUEL K DOE’S TEN YEAR REGIME CHANGED LIBERIA FOR THE BETTER COMPARED TO ALL LEADERS WHO RULE LIBERIA IN THE 133 YEARS THAT ENDED IN 1980. IN FACT, THERE HASN’T BEEN ANY BETTER LEADER IN LIBERIA AFTER THE DEATH OF DOE. WE ALL KNOW THAT OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS AMONG THE MOST CORRUPT IN WEST AFRICA OR PERHAPS IN THE WHOLE WORLD. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO SEE RECURRING CARNAGE OF WAR IN LIBERIA IN THE FEATURE SIMPLY BECAUSE WE REWARD EVIL WITH GOOD, INSTEAD OF REPRIMANDING KILLERS LIKE PRINCE JOHNSON AND MANY OTHERS, WE WENT AHEAD AND REWARD THEM WITH GOVERNMENT POWER. WE ARE ALLOWING THE OFFENDER TO PLAY JUDGE AND JURY. I REMEMBER THE STATEMENT OF MADAM JOHNSON-SIRLEAF WHEN SHE SAID “LEVEL IT WE WILL REBUILD IT”. I WAS SICK TO MY GUTS WHEN SHE OFFER SUCH A POOR EXCUSE OF HER INVOLVEMENT IN SUCH A BARBARIC WAR. UNLESS JUSTICE TAKES IT COURSE, IT WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT TO BE SURE OF LASTING PEACE IN LIBERIA EVEN THOUGH THE GUNS AND BOMBS MAY BE SILENCED FOR NOW.

      SAM

      August 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

  11. it’s a pity

    Yo

    September 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  12. Disgrace to our native land. native liberians must stop killing each other nd hold together.

    Sero

    September 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    • GO BACK TO UR LAND.

      big dck sam

      March 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm

  13. This is a disgrace to humanity. When I observe how the snakes, lizards, crocs, etc suffers when they eat their foods, then I smile for being a human being – how lucky I am. People fail to understand that god can create you into any other animal. please let always remember that we are lucky to be human beings and not snakes or other helpless and defenseless animals.

    alaska

    September 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  14. It is to bad that the guy who took over after Samuel Doe was a even bigger P.O.S then him.

    It is good that things have been improving in Libera now.

    Wade

    September 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm

  15. I wish Idi Amin, Mobutu, Sani Abacha and others who trailed the path of Samuel Doe were treated the same way. This is the only justifiable means to pay back corrupt and tyranical regimes of dear Africa.
    It is high time USA was told frankly of her ‘dark’ supports she rendered many dictatorial regimes the world over, especially in Africa and duely awarded her punishments as she now does to regimes she considers out of track.
    I hope you know the man in the picture is never me.But i have presidential aspirations 2012 in Ghana.

    Silas Doe

    October 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

    • Silas, on which party’s ticket did u run for presidency

      Dexter

      August 7, 2013 at 11:27 pm

  16. Strange how it’s never world leaders of the western world who end up meeting such grizzly ends, who are the perpetrators of far more crimes against humanity, considering they fund these puppet warlords in the first place. Then when they get tired of them, just replace them for another, worse one. As long as the conflict keeps going, they can keep lining their pockets, from the interest from the bank loans for the arms they sell them. Getting richer and richer so they’ll never be touched. They’re in the business of killing after all, and business is good.

    Sundal

    October 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm

  17. He had a very small penis but it was placed in a bench vice which caused the flattened appearance.

    Toto

    November 11, 2010 at 6:46 am

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    If it’s not just all bots here, let me know. I’m looking to network
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    Peace

    Phillygse

    December 14, 2010 at 7:27 am

  19. It was a comical finish.That is about the best way doe should end up. It is not so with all black leaders…Thank God we have Nelson Mandela.He is also a black leader.
    Because of that single man South Africa is so Blessed

    bayustics

    December 27, 2010 at 6:18 am

  20. I do not care. I will rule to the end. No body will move me from this position. Any attempt to move I will massacas just as Taylor did. I wiil “level Liberia, and rebuild it, just what I said on BBC during the war in Liberia. I Hvae earned enough money, this is while I have made South Africa and Equatorial Guinea to be my second home. My palaces are ready for me, not will I biuld in this underdeveloped country like Liberia. Country dogs! will continue to be rule by congo people (Americo-Liberia (ELLEN Johnson Sirleaf).

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    January 9, 2011 at 3:33 am

    • follow the link “murder of emmett till” u will imagine that we are better in africa

      benny

      April 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

  21. I can assure you that many African leaders will not and will never learn from the bad experience of some bad African leaders in the past,especially Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory coast.This sit tight syndrome of African leaders should be dealt with,they will always want to die in power.Let me also express my disappointment about the comment of current Liberian President Helen Johnson Sirleaf on this site,her bragging was disappointing that nobody can remove her from power,has she forgotten that there is the most high looking at what is happening.If nobody can remove her then God can remkove her.

    Adeniran Adegboyega

    January 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

  22. […] seen having his ears sliced off (Reservoir Dogs style) before being executed by drunken rebels in a videotape that still sells briskly on the black market in Africa (very […]

  23. […] seen having his ears sliced off (Reservoir Dogs style) before being executed by drunken rebels in asnuff film that still sells briskly on the black market in Africa (very […]

  24. Got the shirt, stripes and memories. After Rhodesia, Angola, SW, Mocambique, Zambia, SA, Sierra Leone and some others; I can with some degree of honesy, exoerience and humility state that I truly believe that whilst colonialism was fundamentaly wrong; it on average was no better nor no worse than any alternative. Our home is for neither the weak nor faint of heart. Juliet Kilo Oscar out.

    Historic Git

    February 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  25. I was of the opinion that his dick was larger, given the fact that he was so brutal. Idi Amin’s was longer than that of a horse.

    June N. Becker

    February 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm

  26. IT’S A DISGRACE TO A COUNTRY. IT ;S NOT SKD U GUYS R DISGRACING BUT THE NATION LIBERIA.

    SENY

    February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am

    • i will get the addresses of all the african presidents and send this picture to them because they are all the same

      tinife richard tindula

      February 19, 2011 at 7:48 am

    • why did my comment removed is it not good for the presidents to have a look at this ? at least something that awaits some of them . the evil men of our time

      tinife

      February 19, 2011 at 8:03 am

    • Yes guy it clearly shows and confirm what zion thinks of africa.

      benny

      April 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

  27. They could at least cover his dick.

    June N. Becker

    February 21, 2011 at 5:13 am

  28. This is a lesson for all those who would rule by the barrel of a gun, especially these African savages.

    Toby mcCalister

    February 21, 2011 at 5:15 am

  29. After seeing this image, this is a very sad day for me, nobody should be treated this way, it does not say good for any black African, if this is supposed to be a revenge for what this man did during his time as president, his torturing has certainly pulled the whole nation and continent down, and puts anyone who looks at this image in fear, this image is what I will always remenber of him, not what he did.

    ken

    March 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  30. ken you do not samuel doe , is he not the same person who publicly assassinated the ministers of the government he overthrew ? oh come-on , he deserved more than that

    tinife

    March 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm

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    air compressorhs

    March 8, 2011 at 6:05 am

  32. it was wrong for the soldiers to do such a thing. seems he was circumcised , two wrongs have never made anything right, i pity people from west africa,

    mokandu

    March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    • I Pity US OR U.S. WE GOT ALL THEY COUSIN HERE AND THEY FREE.

      big dck sam

      March 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      • it is shame to be liberian,uneducated people that are also african,you done pay evil for evil fools

        patterson wsharpe

        March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  33. Considering his criminal behavior, he got off easy.

    Matt

    March 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

  34. I wish to extend my thanks and appreciations to all of you whose contributed comments concerning the dead body of the late president doe but atleast despite of all his wickeness as most of you mentioned,doe was a good leader who care for his country and atleast his 9yrs leadership HAS brought some changes in our lives which other lovely liberian will never forget.but now it has been 21yrs since his departure from the presidency so can anyone tell me how far our nation and its people have gone? doe was a wicke man,a dictator and brutal leader we ever had in our country history but how far are we now? where are thus whose promised to build liberia like UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? what’s happen to roads,schools,hospitals,economic,prostitutions,crimes and many other things? can we still blame samuel k.doe? can anyone out there answer my stupid questions pls ??????

    Goddy s.waylee

    March 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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  36. […] we Africans just barbaric? 4. In light of the aforementioned, will Gbagbo share a similar fate to Samuel Doe? 5. Gbagbo aside, who will try Alassane Ouattara for the war crimes and crimes against humanity he […]

  37. you liberians are to be clever now. it’s very bizarre to hear from people thinking themselves educated such idioties “like eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. time is for reconciliation but not for hatred. too much innocents have lost their life in this insensed war.It’s true that violence is a continuous cycle,but when the strong man of the time decides to revenge of violence he was victim. it stops when there is someone strong and clement. clemency lacked in Doe when he seized the power, then in Johnson when he captured him.
    to my afro-american brothers please we are all africans and nothing will change it. let’s try unity with our other liberian brothers instead of labelling them savages and uneducated. we should have in mind that there is no place for us in the US. africa is our land, let’s cherish it and make it thrive.

    to my natives brothers also please let’s accept congos as liberians.

    benny

    April 21, 2011 at 11:35 am

  38. […] next head of state, easing Spain to a democratic transition. But the death of Samuel Doe, who was tortured before braining himself (with the torture videotaped, distributed and sold on the streets of Monrovia), in a rapidly […]

  39. Urgly man, urgly heart and urgly dick. you had to die by the sword cuz it was what u lived by.

    Moses Sanyonne

    August 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

  40. This is very bad for Leaders of the world. Such a torture is not the best.

    Kamitaya

    September 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  41. it is time 4 africa 2wakeup bicos if u investigate d misery behind d africa problem u will know dat u.s.a is d master planner

    nurudeen

    September 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm

  42. dis shuld serve as example for our nigerian leaders

    chris obasi

    November 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

  43. […] The Torture of Samuel Doe […]

  44. This is really sad that this man should come to this end. But he had it coming as he murdered the first leaders mercilessly and televised it! God don’t like ugly so his punishment and his shame was much worse! He was betrayed by his masters (we all know who) for someone had to let pee (I refuse to call this butcher a prince)Johnson know where and when Doe was arriving. He should be in jail for what he did staging this slaughter on camera for the world to see. It wasn’t his idea though. It was the ‘other’ persons’ idea as a warning to other African leaders what they would do to them! Well I say, you can do nothing for my God is my Protector and he will deliver you before me at my feet! So have no fear African bruthas’ and be not corrupted by outside forces to lay hands on your brothers; not even pee Johnson! Should we lay hands on anyone let it be those who interfere in our sovereign affairs from far away!

    Tha Leader

    May 23, 2012 at 5:44 am

  45. The bastard Doe led himself to his death… With only a block in his control, he was advised by the Americans to leave – they even had a helicopter ready for him. Then when the ECOMOG head arrived in Liberia, unfortunately, he could only land in the rebel held space just outside Monrovia…
    What was he trying to prove by attempting to go and see him in rebel held territory! Stupid people like him needed to die this painful death. What a big swine!!!!

    Tray

    July 31, 2013 at 8:57 am

  46. Eventhough, the President may have done the worst things to some people of Liberia, but does he deserve to be publicly disgraced like this? Even if Prince Y. Johnson who claim to be the so-call “hero” was to take power the worst will happen in Liberia as compare to SKD. This is truly disgrace to humanity. Every human is wicked by nature, especially when in “POWER”.

    Bobby

    January 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm


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