Gershoni’s volume is an exceptional piece of scholarship which provides rigorous analysis of an African autocratic regime. This impressive scholarship on Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, bequeaths important insights into antecedents of civil conflicts and the broader political economy of development.
The book serves as a biography of Samuel Kanyon Doe, as it chronicles the autocrat’s rise to presidential power and his abuses of such power, including his persecution of political opponents; the killing of an army general in the aftermath of a failed counter-coup; and fraudulent elections and media censorship. Gershoni brilliantly unpacks how political maleficence, ineptitude, and economic mismanagement converged and provide a fertile ground for civil unrest and anarchy in Liberia.
Gershoni takes the reader through relatively uncharted archival excursions in an attempt to juxtapose historical events with contemporary socio-economic and political developments in Liberia. He interrogates salient missteps in Liberia’s developmental processes and interweaves them into larger global geopolitical processes. The volume captures key junctures in Liberia’s political trajectory. — Danielle Taana Smith, Renée Crown University and Syracuse University
This book by Yekutiel Gershoni is a most welcome contribution to the study of military regimes and their impact on states and societies not only in Liberia and Africa. It is based on thorough and meticulous research using a variety of sources, both written and oral. Transcending theories, he tells a story of evil, greedy humans and their devastating impact on their society. While presenting the story even-handedly, his moral judgment is clear. Gershoni, who had to cope with severe physical handicaps throughout his academic life, passed before he could see the fruit of his endeavor come to light. This book is a testimony to his intellectual achievements and to the invincibility of the human spirit.— Mordechai Tamarkin, Tel Aviv University
A fascinating and detailed account of Samuel Doe’s skillful, but often brutal, five-year transition from coup leader to Liberia’s president after a rigged election. Yekutiel Gershoni weaves a comprehensive, well-documented account drawing from published contemporary accounts as well as interviews and correspondence with key participants. He includes a compelling account of the maneuverings and dynamics between Doe and the National Constitution Commission. Gershoni dispels the frequent portrayal of Doe as an unsophisticated, uneducated soldier, showing him as a complicated, talented, but fatally flawed coup leader, who used his intelligence, cunning, and political skill while willing to lie, manipulate, betray his allies and friends, and use violence in order to consolidate and grow his power. Doe’s lust for power, overweening ambitions, and failure to grasp that he was often a pawn for international powers manipulating him for advantage in Cold War and Middle Eastern politics ultimately led to his violent downfall.— Verlon Stone, Head, Indiana University Liberian Collections (Retired)