A Plea to Liberia’s Partners: War Crimes Court a Must; Lock Up Prince Johnson, Throw Away the Key


SENATOR PRINCE Y. JOHNSON (NUDP, NIMBA) IS a very dangerous man. Of late, his divisive Country-Congau rhetoric and tribal politics is resurrecting old wounds of the numerous Liberians who died at his hands during the bloody civil war.

THE NIMBA COUNTY LAWMAKER, told the congregation at his Chapel of Faith Ministries Sunday that the planned June 7th protest by some Liberians could plummet into a full-scale war between the Congau and Natives if the planners go ahead with their planned protest. “We are watching and some of you here do not understand what is happening. You children of native descent. These group of Congo people who watch the former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf take responsibility of missing 30 million at NOCAL and did nothing but are now using you native children today to get in the streets.  If you think you are going to target me Senator Johnson, the people of Nimba county, the Kru people and Grebo people will come to our defense. There will deferent arm groups here and we will close the airport and nobody will leave. Senator Johnson told cheering worshippers.”

THE FORMER WARLORD IS NOT only a member of Liberia’s national legislature, he also happens to be the Third Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament who uses Sunday-morning pulpit to spit hate and fear amongst Liberians.

IN THE PAST, MR. JOHNSON has publicly frowned on indigenous Liberians and quick to remind Liberians of the great divide. “They (Congau) are always taking country boys to be vice presidents” (Re “Congau vs Country,” he once said.

SUCH UTTERANCES speak volume to Mr. Johnson’s lack of awareness about the implications such rhetoric has on the peace and stability of the sub-region.

THIS IS NO TIME to mince words and play diplomacy. The international community spent millions in Liberia to ensure that peace and stability return to Africa’s oldest republic and if Senator Johnson is not put in check, no one knows how much further he would be willing to go to put his rhetoric into action.

THIS IS WHY we applaud the Embassy of the United States in Monrovia for expressing concerns over recent comments made in various fora which could impede Liberia’s progress.

THE STATEMENT NOTES: “Those who promote through their words or deeds a Congo-Country divide do not have Liberia’s best interests or that of their constituents at heart, but rather appear motivated by personal ambitions or fears. It is unacceptable for Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Representative Yekeh Kolubah, “ex-generals” or other former actors in Liberia’s civil wars to incite unlawful acts through ill-considered rhetoric that could jeopardize Liberia’s hard-won peace and security. It is equally irresponsible for people within leadership positions in government or the ruling party to promote such division as Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon has done on social media. To take such a public stance and suggest it is a private opinion or a personal right reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of public service in a democracy. As Liberians look to National Unification Day next week, we encourage all Liberians to reflect on their role in constructively contributing to development and sustaining peace.”

WE APPLAUD PRESIDENT WEAH for taking the initial step in suspending Minister Fahngon but he must go a step further by enforcing a full dismissal and send a clear message to the world that his government does not tolerate divisive politics.

THE PRESIDENT in a statement Monday announcing Mr. Fahngon’s suspension, moments after the United States Embassy in Monrovia raised concerns about disturbing tribal tones of the government official, former warlord Prince Y. Johnson and Representative Yekeh Kolubah, said his government remains committed to a “one country, one people” policy with zero tolerance on divisive politicking or tribalism. “The Liberian Leader has sent out warning to government officials and all citizens to stop dividing Liberians along ethnic lines.”

MR. FAHNGON, in a stinging Facebook post last weekend, insinuated a counter protest against the much-anticipate June 7, Save the State rally.

THE SUSPENDED MINISTER WROTE: “Nov.12,1985 the patriotic forces. Dec.24,1989 National Patriotic Forces; June 15,1990, Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL); June 7, 2019 Council of Patriots…. I will exercise my constitutional right to freedom of association as provided for in article 78 …… I will march from the ATS (Antoinette Tubman Stadium) to the SKD (Samuel Kanyon Doe) Sports Complex on Saturday, June 8, 2019 alongside the assembly of country people (a c p) to show appreciation to president Weah for the great job done in a year and half.

WHILE MINISTER FAHNGON says the views expressed are his personal, and not the government’s, officials like him have often brought the government into public disrepute with outrageous comments on social media against perceived critics of the President.

A SIMILAR ACTION is necessary against Senator Johnson and we are urging ECOWAS to take the lead in removing the Senator from his position as the Third Deputy Speaker of its parliament.

HERE IS WHY, When the West African regional body put its stamp to the Treaty of Lagos in 1975, it did not contain components relating to the issues of peace, security, stability and governance. This was only incorporated to the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS in 1993 as one of the fundamental principles outlined in Article (4), particularly due to the regional instability in the ECOWAS region, prompting member States to adopt the Protocol on Non-Aggression in 1978.

THE PROTOCOL WAS enriched and in May 1981 and ECOWAS member-States signed the Protocol on Mutual Assistance Defense for mutual assistance in defense against any armed threat or aggression on a member State. The Defense Committee and Council as well as the Allied Armed Force of the Community were both created to serve the stated purpose. With growing tensions in the West African region, a coalition of Anglophone member States decided to establish a multilateral armed force in 1990 to maintain peace and security, known as the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group. The Monitoring Group intervened in, among others, Liberia in 1990, Sierra Leone in 1997 and in Guinea-Bissau in 1999. 

WHATEVER AFFECTS one West African nation affects the rest and any sign of instability signals a bad omen for the rest of the countries in the sub-region.

IT IS NO SECRET what prompted the coup of 1980 in Liberia and the civil war which followed on the eve of Christmas in 1989.

WHEN ONE SEGMENT of society feels left out of the equation, it spells trouble. The experience of Liberia under both Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor is evident of why repeated statements and divisive utterances of Senator Johnson should never be taken lightly by any of Liberia’s stakeholders.

THE LIST OF LIBERIANS who died at the ex-warlord’s hands are endless – and particularly painful for those they left behind.

TECUMSEY ROBERTS, of Johnson’s victims was the most famous. His brother, Sandy Roberts, now 58, wept recently as he recalled to FrontPageAfrica the night his older brother died. “I was frightened on that day when Johnson was waving his silver pistol in the air and ordering my brother to get into the vehicle. My brother almost wet his pants out of fear,” recalls Roberts. “TR told me he had to go along to get some food for the family and it would have been deadly to refuse Prince Johnson’s invitation. But I could see fear in my brother’s face when he left. After two hours of waiting for my brother, I overheard some rebels saying they had just killed a Liberian musician named Tecumseh Roberts. I could not believe my ears because I could not understand why Prince Johnson would peacefully invite TR to his base and murdered him horribly?”.

MR. MAX DENNIS, son of the late Mrs. Angeline Watta Allison, wife of former Defense Minister Gray D. Allison, recently expressed a desire to see justice take its course is leaving everything to God. “We as family all have the same feeling to see justice taking its course, but in respect to myself. I will say let God do his will and take care of everything,” Mr. Dennis lamented.

LIKE TECUMSEY, Max Allison is living the pain of his dead mother who died at Johnson’s hands.

WHAT JOHNSON DID to the late Mrs. Allison was captured and evidenced by a video footage from Liberia’s brutal civil war depicting the interrogation and torture of Mrs. Allision, the wife of late Defense Minister Gray Dio Allison, is making the rounds on the social media circuits and serving a chilling reminder of some of the many atrocities committed by Prince Y. Johnson, the former head of the erstwhile Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia(INPFL).

MAX ALLISON RECALLS: “Mr. Johnson sentenced my mother to death, and her execution was carried out by a female soldier, upon the order from Prince Johnson. It was said that she killed my mother and threw her body into the St. Paul River. The tragedy is that, after she was shot and killed, her body was thrown into the St. Paul River, where, immediately, it was wedged between some rocks. A few witnesses, saddened by the spectacle, used a few long sticks to push her body out into the main flow of the River, while others lamented the scene by saying, ’Ma Watta, never mind, ya!’”  

OTHERS LIKE MICHAEL DOE, ROBERT TOE AND Augustus Barchue, the aid worker who as murdered in cold blood by Johnson during the civil war are among a long list of victims whose deaths have gone unpunished while Mr. Johnson continue to make one reckless statement after the other to the detriment of the peace and stability Liberia currently enjoys.

JOHNSON ACKNOWLEDGD during his appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in August 2008 that Roberts was executed by Samuel Varnii, the deputy leader of the defunct INPFL. Mr. Johnson said Varnii shot Roberts (now deceased) in his (Johnson) presence because, according to him, he was involved in homosexuality. 

THE FORMER WARLORD also previously acknowledged a role in the death of Larry Borteh, formerly of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), Doe’s Youth and Sports Minister Fred Blay, and AFL officer Roosevelt Savice, who were executed for allegedly conniving with beleaguered President Doe.

THE TRC WAS agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003. 

TO DATE, SEVERAL prominent figures who participated in the civil war are facing justice outside Liberia including former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, currently serving prison time in the United Kingdom, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyou, Defense Minister of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, Martina Johnson, a key figure from Operation Octopus, Alieu Kosiah, a former top Liberian rebel commander suspected of war crimes arrested in Switzerland in early 2015, Mohammed Jabateh aka Jungle Jabbah among others.

IT IS UNFAIR to former President Taylor and those currently facing justice to endure punishment while Mr. Johnson, who was one of the ruthless killers of the civil war continue to make insensitive comments and demean the memory of those who fell prey to his war-time wrath.

THIS IS WHY we hope that in addition to ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and Great Britain must all intervene and force the leadership of President George Manneh Weah to turn over Mr. Johnson to an international court, far away from the peace and stability Liberians now enjoy, to answer for his crimes against humanity and the atrocities committed during the civil war.

ADDITINALLY, we also applaud Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe (Ind, Bomi, District No. 1) who said Monday: “The President has acted decisively by suspending Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon. The Senate should do likewise to Nimba County Prince Y. Johnson. Our country is too small to be divided.”

WE IMPLORE Senate Pro Temp Albert Chie to resuscitate whatever sanity he has left in the upper house of the national legislature and take Senator Johnson to task. It’s called leadership, something that has been clearly lacking in both the lower and upper house of the national legislature.

LIBERIA CANNOT afford to turn the clock on an ugly chapter that brought immense suffering and pains to so many. Prince Johnson must realize that the war ended years ago and the fear he once instilled in Liberians is long gone. But his negative rhetoric being spilled from his pulpit has no place in today’s Liberia. If he has fallen prey to some form of amnesia, those who rallied to Liberia’s aid when we were at our lowest, must help remind him by arresting him, locking him up and throwing away the keys to his captivity.