Samuel Kanyon Doe had been Chairman of the People's Redemption Council from 12 April 1980 (when he took power from William Tolbert by Military Coup) until 25 July 1984, when he declared himself president (as leader of the National Democratic Party of Liberia, NDLP). A Cold War ally of the US, Doe protected American investments and halted the spread of Soviet influence in the region.
Doe held a (widely believed fraudulent) election in October 1985 to reinforce his hold on the country, winning with 51% of the vote. But Doe was already facing criticism, both nationally and internationally, of his increasingly brutal regime, the government was considered generally corrupt, and Doe favored his own ethnic group, the Krahn. Rebellion against Doe's rule broke out in 1989, starting in eastern Liberia. By July 1990 the rebel forces had reached the capital, Monrovia, and on 9 September Doe was captured by Prince1 Johnson. Whilst in Johnson's custody, Doe was mutilated (his ears were sliced off) and beaten to death by Johnson's cohorts. The event was recorded on video and played worldwide.
1 Prince is a common Liberian first name and not, in this case, a title.