Lest We Forget: Assassinations of African leaders (that were caught on film)
PLEASE BEWARE: The videos embedded or linked on this post are disturbing.
Murder of Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s 3rd President
As Egypt’s President, Mohammed Anwar el Sadat was the most protected man in the country. He was covered by at least four layers of security at any function, including a unit tasked with seizing ammunition from the military during parade. But an unlucky string of events led to his vulnerability and assassination on 6thOctober 1981. Three years before, Sadat had signed the Camp David Accords that brought an end to his country’s war with Israel. In doing so, he had enraged his neighbours, who promptly threw Egypt out of the Arab League. He also made many domestic enemies, and his crackdowns on Islamist groups did not make matters any better.
In February of 1981, the Egyptian government learnt of a Fatwa that had been issued by a cleric. The fatwa authorised the Islamic Jihad to assassinate Sadat. His death would be followed by a government coup. In the months between February and September, the government cracked down on the jihad. The crackdown got all the main players except a small jihad cell that was right under its nose, in its military. On 6th October 1981, Sadat attended the eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. It was a show of might for the Egyptian military and they brought their best toys for the country to see. As military planes flew overhead, the army trucks passed in front of the presidential bias. The noise from the jets distracted most people from the fleet of trucks.
At one point, one of the trucks stopped and an officer jumped out. The officer, Lieutenat Khalid Islambouli, ran towards the dias, followed by his accomplices. As bad luck would have it, the officers who should have ensured the soldiers had no live bullets were on pilgrimage in Mecca.
Sadat, mistakenly thinking it was part of the show, stood up to receive what he thought was a salute. By doing so, he exposed himself even further. Islambouli threw three hand grenades at Sadat and started shooting as he shouted ‘Death to Pharaoh!’ The other assasins provided cover fire for Islambouli, whose work was to kill Sadat.
By the time they ran out of ammunition one minute later, they had fatally wounded Sadat and 11 other people, including the then Cuban ambassador to Egypt. Attempts to shield Sadat by throwing chairs on him had been a second too late. In the gunfight, one assassin had been shot dead and the others were injured. They had had no escape plan as the assassination was meant to be an act of jihad. One of the top Egyptian politicians who were wounded that day was Vice President Hosni Mubarak, who became president shortly after. Another, then Foreign Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali, later became the Secretary General of the United Nations.
The Execution of the Tolbert Cabinet
10 years before Samuel Doe whose assassination we covered last week met his fate, he had presided over the public execution of members of the Cabinet he had overthrown. He overthrew William Tolbert to become Liberia’s first native president. Tolbert himself was shot while he slept either in bed or in his office. Most members of his cabinet were arrested and tried for different crimes. There are videos of the trial. At one point, the judge tells the defendants to ‘Keep it short.’ He then found them guilty and recommended their execution. The gruesome execution was televised.
The ministers were marched through the streets as citizens lined up to jeer them. They were then taken to the public beach where they were ordered to stand next to the installed posts and remove their shirts. The men are tied upright to the posts. Soldiers then line up to form a firing squad. After the first barrage of gunfire, only one man, Cecil Dennis, still stands. The others are dead, with their bodies slumping on the posts. Two soldiers shoot Dennis with an Uzi and a pistol. The firing squad continues firing, shooting the ministers at least 60 more times.
Strangely, Doe called for Cecil Dennis to be brought to the Executive Mansion a few days after he had had him killed. It is possible that Doe had never bothered to look at the list or the recommendation. One anecdote has it that the court recommended the execution of 3 men but Doe, either distracted or otherwise, ordered that they all be killed. In fact, the execution was delayed because there were not enough poles installed on the beach that day. Four men sat in the bus while the first nine were being killed.
One of the people who survived the purge was none other but Ellen Sirleaf, the current President of Liberia. She was Tolbert’s Minister of Finance; she believes she survived because her mother had once given Doe and his men water to drink