MONROVIA – President Joseph Boakai appears poised to address a pressing issue head-on, seemingly disregarding the implications for one of his key political allies, Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson. President Boakai has committed to formulating plans for the creation of a war and economic crimes court, signaling a determination to address important matters of justice and accountability.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The call for the establishment of war and economic crimes court has been lingering the corridors of the Executive Mansion and the National Legislature, almost unattended to and Sen. Johnson who is well documented for several executions, massacres, rapes, and other heinous crimes during the civil war, has often enjoyed some sort of protection from previous regimes – the Sirleaf and Weah regimes.
Like him or not, Senator Johnson is a powerful political figure in Liberian politics. Hailing from the indigenous vote-rich Nimba County, Sen. Johnson was instrumental in aiding Madam Sirleaf’s victory in 2005 and 2011. His support to George Weah landed him the presidency over Joseph Boakai in 2017 and his support for Boakai landed Boakai the Presidency in the November run-off election last year.
The War Crimes Court Fright
In May, 2021, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon and Sen. Johnson were on opposing political sides as Sen. Johnson was still a supporter of President Weah at the time and they never got along.
Sen. Dillon was then an ardent proponent of war and economic crimes court in the Liberian Senate. During one of the Thursday sessions, the two senators engaged in a heated argument after Senator Dillon stressed the need for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court during discussions surrounding the mismanagement of stimulus package funds during the outbreak of the COVID-19.
In his argument, Dillion said the War and Economic Crimes Court would be the only remedy to put in measures for people who manage public funds. “If we sincerely want to bring to check public officials who mismanage public funds we need to establish a war and economic crimes court,” Sen. Dillion said.
Dillion’s recommendation caused Senator Johnson to stage a walkout from session. He termed Dillion’s suggestions as “an attack on his character.”
“Every time Sen. Dillion sees me is when he talks about war crimes court,” Sen. Johnson said.
“What happened during the civil war was a revenge for our people who were killed in Nimba. Nimba county was declared enemy of the state; what did you expect us to do?”
Sen. Johnson said he would disrupt session if any of his colleague talked about the establishment of a war and economic crimes court.
“If you want bring war crimes court, bring your damn war crimes court. They always think war crimes court is about Prince Johnson. There are legal processes to bring a war and economic crimes court,” he said. I am a preacher, the Bible says Jesus turned tables outside down and I will turn Dillon’s tables outside down the day he mentions about war crimes court.”
PYJ’s Litany of Kills
Sen. Johnson, a former commanding general of the Independent Patriotic Front of Liberia, (INPFL) a breakaway of Charles Taylor’s NPFL, remains to be known as a fierce killer during the war. He now professes to be a preacher and runs his own church.
Sen. Johnson is widely believed to have slain former President Samuel K. Doe. He sat drinking Budweiser beer as his assistant slashed tortured and slashed off the President’s ear.
The list of those Sen. Johnson killed during the war is endless and they include some very good and talented people: Fred Blay, former minister of Labor in Samuel Doe’s government, Larry Borteh, a former member of the People’s Redemption Council, Michael Doe, a former employee of Hotel Africa, who, according to eyewitnesses, was thrown from a high upper floor to the ground at the hotel.
Eric Scott, a former Liberian Diplomat at the Liberian embassy in Washington and husband of Mrs. Debbie Scott, the proprietor of the School of Prime System (SPS), Tilma Momolue Gardiner, former Senior Security officer for President William V.S. Tubman and Acting Director of Police during the Administration of William Tolbert.
The list of Mr. Johnson’s victims also includes musical icons, Tecumseh Roberts, Gedeh Rooster and Robert Toe.
Boakai’s Push for War Crimes
In his inaugural message, President Boakai was emphatic on the need to hold people accountable for war and economic crimes.
“Corruption is a menace and a drawback,” President Boakai declared, his voice resonating through the audience. “Commitment to the application of the rule of law, therefore, will be essential in the fight against corruption, as halting the tide of public corruption is an important part of our development agenda for the transformation of our country.”
The crowd listened intently as President Boakai continued, “We must, accordingly, reset the fight against corruption and impunity to demonstrate firmness and resolve.” His words held a promise, a commitment to break free from the shackles of a past marred by corruption and injustice.
But it wasn’t just about the present; it was about addressing the wounds left by the scars of war. “An estimated quarter of a million of our people perished in the war. We cannot forever remain unmoved by this searing national tragedy without closure,” the president stated, acknowledging the painful chapter in Liberia’s history.
To bring about this closure and ensure accountability, President Boakai announced a bold initiative. “We have decided to set up an office to explore the feasibility for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) to provide an opportunity for those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity to account for their actions in court.”
He continued: “We shall seek advice and assistance from the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General to ensure that the court, if found feasible, will be in compliance with the highest standards of similar courts everywhere.”
The president emphasized the need for impartiality and transparency in this pursuit of justice. “The Legislature will have its say appropriately in this matter in order to avoid any appearance of vendetta or witch-hunt.”
The announcement of the exploration for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) had sent shockwaves to Sen. Prince Johnson.
Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to FrontPageAfrica late Monday night that the former warlord had become increasingly restless since the president’s declaration.
The news of President Boakai’s intention to delve into the feasibility of a war crimes court had caught the former warlord off guard, a man who had wielded power with impunity under the protection of the last two Presidents.