MONROVIA – Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson has clarified his recent statement regarding election rigging allegations, emphasizing that it does not advocate for armed rebellion.
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
Senator Johnson, a former warlord and a staunch ally of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the opposition Unity Party, caused a stir when he warned last week that any attempt to manipulate the upcoming elections would trigger the exercise of “people’s power,” likening it to the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring consisted of a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that occurred across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s, starting in Tunisia as a response to corruption and economic stagnation.
“Before the October elections, Liberians are coming out under the banner ‘Don’t Try It’ – any attempt, the people’s power would be exercised like the Arab Spring. You’ll shoot your gun; you’ll kill us or you’ll die. No more fear, Liberians don’t have fear anymore,” Sen. Johnson had stated.
His statement was swiftly condemned by the Joint Security, who stressed that Liberia is a nation governed by law. ECOWAS also voiced concerns through its Representative to Liberia.
However, speaking to the Voice of America, Senator Johnson clarified that he was not alluding to an armed rebellion but rather the exercise of people’s power. He said: “I said that any attempt to rig the elections, it will meet resistance by the people of Liberia. The constitution of the republic of Liberia, Article One says, all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are instituted by their authority for their benefits and their happiness. If their benefits are in limbo and their future is doomed, and the government becomes oppressive and dictatorial, and the people cannot benefit, massive corruption, extra judicial killings, importation of drugs and using Liberia as a drug trafficking state, the people have the right when you rig the election to go after you. The people’s power can be used. I did not talk about guns. I never talk about war.”
Liberia’s upcoming elections mark the fourth consecutive general elections since the country’s brutal civil war. These elections are significant as they will be the first post-war polls entirely managed and safeguarded by the National Elections Commission and Liberian security, without support from UN Peacekeeping troops, which ended their mission in Liberia in 2018.
Similar to the past three elections, observers and pundits are predicting that the presidential elections will be a two-horse race between the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), now the ruling party, and the Unity Party (UP), which has spent the last six years in opposition.
Senator Johnson accused the CDC of violating the Farmington Declaration and claimed that his statement was a warning aimed at the CDC, which he alleged has vowed to secure victory in the presidential election at any cost, including rigging it.
“They have always said, and it’s an open secret in Liberia. The CDCians have said the UP (Unity Party) spent 12 years in government, they did nothing for the country. They have only spent six years and they have done so much. And so, whether the UP wins or not, they will take it by force. They are planning to rig. So, I don’t know how they will do it. [Whether] they are using their influence and cash violence on the Election Commission. I don’t know but they have openly said they will rig.”
Senator Johnson has been a prominent figure in past Liberian elections, leveraging his support in vote-rich Nimba County, the country’s second most populous county. In 2017, his support for then-Senator George Weah played a significant role in Weah’s resounding victory over Vice President Boakai.
However, Senator Johnson’s political alignment shifted to Boakai, and his political party’s chairman, Jeremiah Koung, is now Boakai’s running mate. Johnson claimed that this change has not been well-received by the ruling CDC.
“They thought they would use cash violence to get me, but that did not happen. I am with the Rescue Team. With former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and my own Junior Senator from Nimba County, Jeremiah Koung. So, they are frustrated and I am not a violent person,” he said.
As the elections draw nearer, supporters of the former ruling party have hinted at the possibility of election rigging by the government while simultaneously threatening unconventional reactions if such allegations prove true.
In a video obtained by FPA, former VP Boakai addressing one of his campaign rallies, warned that it would be “the end of Liberia” if the ruling CDC rigged the October 10 elections.
In the video, Ambassador Boakai stated, “That’s why you have to protect it [the votes]. If they think they’ll steal this election, we will not allow it because if you do it, that is the end of this country.”
Meanwhile, President Weah has referred to these statements from figures in the opposition Unity Party Alliance as “reckless rhetoric” and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to free, fair, transparent, and inclusive elections.
“Do not be swayed by reckless rhetoric. On October 10, you will wake up, go to the polls, and cast your votes for your chosen candidates,” President Weah emphasized. “We have faith in democratic processes, and we are dedicated to upholding them. The will of the people is our ultimate goal.”