Liberia: Sanctioned PYJ Still Calling The Shots; Reportedly Coercing Pres. Weah to Make a Number of Appointments in Govt.


MONROVIA – Senator Prince Y. Johnson, sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department, is still using his influence as the ‘godfather’ of the vote-rich Nimba county as leverage to impose on President George Weah appointments into government as he desires, FrontPageAfrica has gathered.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that the Nimba County Senator has been behind a number of bad appointments and recommendations for key jobs in the Weah-led government.

This is reportedly raising concerns within leadership’s inner circle as the former warlord-turned Senator is said to be using vote-rich Nimba’s influence on 2023 elections in a bid to force allies into government despite being nailed on US Treasury Department’s Sanctions List.

Senator Johnson recently wrote President Weah to appoint Mr. Zotawin Titus, Commissioner at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) as the Chairperson of the LTA as part of the accommodation for Nimba County in the 2023 elections.

If this decision is yielded to, it will see Madam Edwina Zackpah, one of the few females holding a top post in the Weah-led government, being ousted as Acting chairperson of the LTA.

His request, however, has put President Weah in a fix as he is weighing between the Acting Chairperson and Senator Johnson’s request which is being rejected by many of his advisors.

FrontPageAfrica also gathered that Senator Johnson through his influence continues to ensure that Nimbaians remain in key government positions. Mr. Charles Gono, for instance, has been Deputy Commissioner for Technical Service (Division of Safety and Vessel Registration) since 2009 when Maritime was still a Bureau before being turned into an Authority. He has served more than two tenures as Deputy, yet, through the influence of Sen. Johnson, President Weah continues to maintain Mr. Gono at the Maritime Authority.

Sources close to President Weah also informed FrontPageAfrica that Mr. Sam Doe whose nomination as Deputy Managing Director for Operations at the National Port Authority has brought some embarrassment to the government due to his alleged criminal records in the United States was a recommendation by Sen. Johnson.

Senator Johnson, according to sources, along with the Nimba County caucus have been imposing names on ArcelorMittal for employment – often threatening the steel that their failure to employ his lieutenants would be detrimental to their smooth operations in the county.

Feeling Entitled

Nimba County, according to the 2008 National Housing and Population Census, had a population of about 462,026. From the National Elections Commission (NEC) 2017 statistics, Nimba had a voting population of 279,601, of this number, 200,791 votes were cast in the county. 

Despite the presence of 20 Presidential candidates in that 2017 presidential race, the Unity Party was led by Vice President Joseph Boakai and Senator Weah, who headed the CDC, were inarguably the heavyweights in that election, but still Senator Johnson was overwhelmingly voted for by kinsmen and women in Nimba. 

He attained 107,430 votes of the 200,791 votes that were cast. That constituted 53.5% of the overall votes in the county. The margin between Senator Johnson and Vice President Boakai, who came out second in Nimba was a 67,466 difference. VP Boakai obtained 39,964 votes. 

Senator Johnson’s support to Pres. Weah in the second round of the election saw Pres. Weah attain an overwhelming victory in the election.

Senator Johnson is on record for expressing his regrets for rallying the vote-rich Nimba in support of President Weah. However, pundits say this has been his strategy to get the President in line with his demands.

It can be recalled that in August 2020, while expressing his regrets, Sen. Johnson walked out of the Senate’s confirmation proceedings for a new Superintendent of Nimba County. President George Weah had appointed Mr. Nelson N. Korquoi to replace outgoing Dorr Cooper. Cooper is said to be a supporter of Sen. Johnson.  

“I don’t want confusion; you all know the level of work I did in Nimba to get President Weah elected. In 2005 and 2011, the people of Nimba didn’t vote for CDC. In 2017, everything almost went to the other candidate; my support for the CDC brought the victory,” Sen. Johnson said.

Sanctioned for Corruption

In December 2021, Sen. Johnson was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for corruption under the Global Magnitsky Act, which 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.

Johnson was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces at the Freeport of Monrovia in 1990. Johnson sipped beer as he watched his men torture and mutilate Doe who begged in vain for mercy in a widely circulated video.

Now a trusted political ally of President George Weah, Johnson is accused in a U.S. embassy statement of large-scale corruption.

“As a senator, Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment,” a statement issued by the U.S. embassy said. “As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants.”

The scheme involves millions of dollars, according to the embassy statement.

Johnson also receives an undeserved salary from the Liberian government as a salaried intelligence source yet he does not provide any form of intelligence reporting, alleged the U.S. statement. He is being paid in order to maintain domestic stability, according to the statement.

“Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money,” it said.