MONROVIA – Nimba County District 9 Representative Larry Younquoi has expressed skepticism over his kinsman Senator Prince Y. Johnson professed withdrawal of political support from President George Manneh Weah and commitment made to ensure a victory for the opposition in the ensuing presidential and legislative elections in Liberia.
By Obediah Johnson
Lawmaker Younquoi is a National Executive Committee (NEC) member of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
Liberians are expected to go to the polls on October 10 this year, to elect their new leaders, according to a timetable released by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Senator Johnson was the head of the notorious rebel group, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), which ousted, humiliated, tortured and killed ex-Liberian President Samuel Kanyan Doe on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia on September 9, 1990. He is also the Founder and Political godfather of the opposition Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR). Presently, he is the Chairman of the National Governing Council of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR),
It can be recalled that sometimes ago, Senator Johnson announced that he will not support the second term bid of President George Manneh Weah, who he supported during the runoff of the 2017 elections, due to the manner and form in which he is running the country and ill-treating citizens of Nimba.
According to him, President Weah has allegedly failed to live up to the agreement he signed to support him during the 2017 elections. He also accused his once political bedmate and his government of planning to assassinate him.
President Weah denied the accusation and vowed not to live up to demands being made by Senator Johnson as a pawn to support his re-election.
Speaking in a telephone interview with FrontPage Africa recently, Representative Younquoi observed that Senator Johnson should not be trusted of supporting the opposition to unseat President Weah due to his failure to document his decision by mandating his party to engage into talks with other opposition political parties.
He added that though the MDR Governing Council Chairman may not request financial benefits for supporting the opposition, his pronouncement appears not to be realistic despite his antagonistic posture against the Liberian leader.
He said Senator Johnson’s declaration of withdrawing his support from President Weah can only be trusted when his party signed to a document to form a merger or endorse a candidate from the opposition prior to the elections.
Representative Younquoi pointed out that Senator Johnson cleverly influenced a change of his party’s leadership to afford a replica of pay-to-play.
He observed that no opposition politician would embrace an open show of support or meeting with Senator Johnson at this time as a result of a caveat from the US government warning individuals, businesses and institutions from during business with the former rebel leader.
He stated that a show of support of endorsement from Senator Johnson to any opposition politician can only be channeled through his party or its Political Leader Senator Jeremiah Koung.
“I am not sure when Senator Johnson is coming to the opposition he will ask for money in order to be considered or persuade the Nimba people to vote for the opposition. But he might say it covertly. It may be a latent discussion, but not the manifest discussion for fear; that’s why he transformed the leadership of his institution because; the Magnisky sanctions say nobody should do business with him. So, if he (Johnson) should meet across the table and talk with any political leader, that group is running a risk of being placed on sanctions.”
“I think Senator Johnson is still playing the bait of the ruling party. Until I see him officially joining the opposition documented, I will still believe that he is trying to put the opposition to bed and pull the rug under their feet one of these days when they will be unprepared to resist. I will not be convinced until I see his party officially joining the Unity Party, CPP or any other opposition political party with document.”
Representative Koung warned opposition politicians not to be carried away by the heated verbal exchanges or war of words between President Weah and Senator Johnson in recent times.
He said these exchanges may be a calculated political ploy being orchestrated by the governing party to put the opposition “to bed and pull off the rug.”
“October will be too late to study and so, we have to be cautions always. It’s a welcoming idea that the empire that been holding the population of Nimba unto themselves has broken down and the current Standard Bearer is trying to convince us that they are independent. But we have to be very skeptical and continue to caution our people that we should continue to do our work to make sure that this government is a one term government.”
He said Senator Johnson should concretize all of his opposition statements against President Weah to ensure that the opposition becomes victory in the elections.
Representative Younquoi indicated that any agreement reached between the MDR and any other party should be adhered to for the benefit of the nation and its citizens.
On pay to play
In December 2021, Senator Johnson was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department under the Global Magnisky Act for being involved into “pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.”
Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S.
Pay-for-play, sometimes pay-to-play or P2P, is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage in certain activities.
Additionally, the US government maintained that Senator Johnson receives an undeserved salary from the GOL as a salaried intelligence “source” though he does not provide any form of intelligence reporting to the government.
According to the Americans, Johnson is reportedly being paid in order to maintain domestic stability.
“As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia (GOL), the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants. The pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars. Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money,” the US government stated.
It added: “Johnson is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.”
Representative Younquoi observed that despite the U.S government sanctions against Senator Johnson, it remains difficult to prevent his kinsman and others from being paid to play in Liberia.
He recalled a statement made by President Weah alluding to offering huge sum of money to Senator Johnson to endorse him during the run-off with former Vice President Joseph Boakai in 2017.
He emphasized that there is a need that such an allegation be proven in a court.
“You can’t stop people from paying to play. The pay-to-play godfather that was booked by the US government has left the camp for which he was allegedly paid to pay for. He has presented himself as he was falsely accused and we are hoping that he will behave likewise.”
He said all corrupt processes leading to pay-to-play must be discouraged ahead of the elections.
Koung may be sanctioned
Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba County is the new Political Leader of the MDR.
Senator Johnson claimed that Senator Koung will contest for the presidency in the ensuing elections. However, executives of the MDR are split on this pronouncement.
But Representative Younqoi observed that Senator Koung stands the risk of being sanctioned by the US government if he allows himself to be influenced by Senator Johnson to request money from any opposition political party before luring the MDR’s support prior to the elections.
“The MDR is an incorporated institution in Liberia and so, interacting with it doesn’t mean you are interacting with Senator Johnson when he is no longer the Political Leader. That’s the serious thing to do; but whether behind the scene he will be using his privileges to ensure that something comes to them for their support, that will be another thing. But he will not be the one that will be paying-to-play but the new leader (Jeremiah Koung).”
“Senator Johnson has already been doing a lot of things and gone the extra mile to show that he vomited and he’s going back to lick it. But I want him to put himself on record. I want the MDR to affix signatures on a document with another institution and we will now know that there is no way to back off. But as it stands, the water is muddy. You can’t go into some form of agreement without any document.”
Nimba up for grab
With barely a few months to the elections, Representative Younquoi noted that Nimba should no longer be seen as a county belonging to an individual.
According to him, the county is up for grabs.
He said the popularity of Senator Johnson is diminishing and the only way he can resuscitate his lost image is “to join the majority.”
Representative Younquoi, however, vowed to remain vocal in sensitizing citizens of Nimba and Liberia at large against receiving cash or other materials to vote for candidates during the elections.
He expressed the hope that Senator Johnson will present himself differently or “somebody who is someone either than what he has been accused of.”