5. Samuel Doe (29 years old), Liberia
Sergeant Samuel Doe became Liberia’s head of state in April 1980, after he led a violent coup that killed President William R. Tolbert Jr. and ousted his government from power. Doe proceeded to disband the Constitution and headed the country’s military junta for the next five years.
In 1985, Doe contested and won a presidential election, thus becoming the 21st president of Liberia. Doe adopted a capitalist ideology, which won him the support of the U.S. government and equally opened up the country to massive foreign investment from Canada, China, and Europe.
By the late 1980s, however, Doe had fallen out of favor with Washington, causing the U.S. government to cut off its supply of critical foreign aid that compounded an already growing public resentment in Liberia about Doe’s government.
Doe was eventually overthrown in 1990, when rebel troops entered from the neighboring Ivory Coast, took control of the capital, captured, and then executed Doe.