April 6, 1996, The Day When Monrovia Went Amok

L/R: Charles Taylor (NPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah (ULIMO-K and Gen. Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO-J major players during the April 6, 1996 crisis

This day, April 6 1996, will forever be remembered in the history of Liberia. Liberians, especially those in Monrovia and its environs were awaked on that fateful day by the dreadful sound of automatic raffles; expulsions from tons of rocket propel grenades, and voices of militia groups, violently screaming at the top of their lungs.

Nobody saw it coming. As it was, residents were preparing for their normal routine. Kids were getting ready for school, market women who would normally go to beaches to buy fish to carry to the market had left their homes; commercial drivers and business owners had just gotten started with business activities. Suddenly, just around 8:00 am, hell broke loose.

Victim: The nightmare of April 6, 1996

The sound of dreadful guns began to echo through the skies. Silence swept across the streets for about 10 minutes. All movements were ceased.  Then again, the firing resumed- sporadic spill of bullets from every direction. The most sophisticated minds could not assimilate data been fed to their minds. As the case was, it was a battle for supremacy between two opposing forces.

Forces loyal to the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of detained Liberian leader, Charles Ghankay Taylor; and Roosevelt Johnson, were locked down a deadly gun battle.

The gun battle, much of which was carried out by armed adolescents, and homeless kids broke out April 6 when Taylor troops moved in to arrest rebel leader and one-time government minister Roosevelt Johnson — no relation to Prince Johnson — on charges of murder. The charges stemmed from the murder by rebels of 50 civilians at a refugee camp in January that year.

Perpetrators: These kids were used by warlords for their power greed

Fighting erupted between ethnic Krahn fighters loyal to Johnson and those loyal to Taylor and another faction leader, Alhaji Kromah, who was also on the council. Johnson and members of his breakaway faction of the United Liberation Movement holed up in barracks in downtown Monrovia. Taylor forces made unsuccessful attempts to capture the barracks.

Some West African peacekeepers, mostly Nigerians who are supposed to be trying to unite the various factions, joined in the extensive looting. Amid the chaos, the United States airlifted more than 2,000 people, including 400 Americans, to neighboring Sierra Leone.

The Monrovia barracks, the training ground for Doe’s former national army, the Armed Forces of Liberia, became the symbol of resistance for the Krahn tribe.

The fighting lasted for three months. Though brief in nature but the aftermath was colossal and farther threatened the country’s drive to lasting peace.

Today, April 6, 2017 marked it exactly 21years since this unbearable situation took place; it is this writer anticipation that Liberia will never again go through this nightmare.

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About Cholo Brooks 13493 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.