Liberia: A Response to Representative George Boley and Senator Prince Johnson’s Threats
My first reaction to the news that Grand Gedeh County Representative George Boley had recently appeared on the Ashford Garley Show and made threatening remarks against me and charged me as one of those who do not want to see peace in Liberia, was to just let it go.
By John H.T. Stewart, former Commissioner Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC).
After all, this was not the first time that Representative Boley had castigated my character and issued veiled threats against me.
And I strongly believe he has acted and is acting on a rage of hate and vengeance for my role in standing with the Advocartes for Human Rights, formerly, The Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights in exposing Boley’s lies and attesting to his leadership of a rebel group that left very bloody footprints in Bong, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, River Cess, River Gee, Grand Kru and Maryland Counties
However, Representative George Boley’s recent utterances against me has propelled me to break my silence and bring these developments to public attention and let the world know what is happening.
For his part, Senator Reverend Prince Johnson has also castigated and issued threats against me from his pulpit on several occasions, to all of which, I have paid no mind, at least until now.
As public demands for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court continue to mount, so have the threats from these individuals.
While it is by no means surprising that such threats would be made, one cannot lose sight of the fact that both individuals have loyalists prepared to carry out their commands. As such, they have to be considered and treated seriously.
This is how my story begins with both individuals starting with Prince Johnson:
My Story with Prince Johnson
Following the formation of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) in Banjul, the Gambia and its temporary relocation to Freetown, Sierra Leone, I signed up as a volunteer to undertake a risky assignment to return to war torn Monrovia to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment of the situation in Monrovia.
I had previously served as vice chairman of the Gbarnga Red Cross Chapter and deputy leader of the Liberia National Red Cross team of first responders deployed in Nimba County in March 1990, Gbarnga and then later in Monrovia from April to June 1990.
Following the armed attack on displaced people of Nimba origin right at the UN Compound on Tubman Boulevard, on June 6, 1990, I made the decision to go to Sierra Leone having been prevailed upon by my family to leave for fear of losing me at the hands of armed men.
It was in Freetown that I responded to a call for volunteers to return to war torn Monrovia to undertake what was then considered a dangerous mission.
Prior to leaving Freetown, I along with James Fromayan and another friend ran across a former UL schoolmate, Peter Pshorr(now deceased). He had been working in Cape Mount and had come to Freetown to source food and medical supplies.
When we acquainted him with our plans to return to Monrovia, he expressed shock and disbelief. And he posed the question, “do you guys know Prince Johnson has been crazy before”? We answered no. Then he recounted the story that both he and Prince Johnson had lived in the same house located behind the Monrovia City Hall and both were classmates at the WVS Tubman High School.
While in their senior year, according to Pshorr, Prince Johnson became mentally ill and had to be taken to Nimba for traditional treatment. Our friend tried his level best to convince us to change our minds but our minds were already made up.
In my case, anxiety about my family who I left behind, especially my wife who was then in an advanced state of pregnancy with our last child Gboko was the driving force pushing me to volunteer for the mission.
Volunteering along with me also but with different remits were, Messers Nathaniel O. Beh, James M Fromayan, Tiawan S. Gongloe and Dr. Levi Zangai who served as head of the assessment team. Both Fromayan and Gongloe were recent arrivals from the US.
We would set sail from Freetown to Monrovia aboard the NNS Ambe, a Nigerian military vessel, on September 23, 1990. But meanwhile, preparations for the mission continued at pace.
Also planning and yearning for a return to Monrovia was the exiled staff of the Hotel Africa, amongst them Sam Delati who was then briming with excitement, perhaps overjoyed at prospects of return to his beloved Monrovia.
We arrived in Monrovia and docked at the Freeport at about 5:00PM on September 24, 1990. Standing at quayside awaiting our disembarkation were two individuals Charles Bright and Jonathan Mason, dressed in khaki uniforms sporting side arms, pistols, if you like. They had been appointed by self-styled Field Marshall Prince Johnson as liaisons and were there to meet and escort us to Prince Johnson wartime headquarters, at the Taylor Major Compound in Caldwell.
Monrovia back then had a very bleak and somber look. Smoke from smoldering fires could be seen slowly rising from different sections of the city. We were later informed that the smoke came from smoldering fires lit by the remnants of Doe forces after his capture at the Freeport by Prince Johnson, in a rather crazed attempt to burn down the city. And their slogan was “No Doe, No Monrovia”.
And the city appeared like it had a death spell hovering right above it. The stench of corpses, some fresh, some partly decayed littering the streets was powerful. It was nauseating and in some parts of the city, dogs fights over dead bodies were commonplace and a common sight. Garbage, especially sugarcane waste(bagasse)mounds of it was just about everywhere on the streets of Bushrod Island.
Following our arrival at the Freeport of Monrovia , we boarded an ECOMOG vehicle for the drive to the Hotel Africa where we would spent the first night. Hotel Africa at the time was a virtual displaced camp with people from virtually all walks of life gathered there for a singular purpose-safety.
But right at the last checkpoint on the side road leading to Hotel Africa, we received grim news at that ECOMOG checkpoint that placed an instant damper on all the excitement that had built up in anticipation of the planned return to Monrovia.
The news was shocking beyond belief! Michael Doe, chief of security at Hotel Africa had been shot and killed by self-styled Field Marshall Prince Johnson on the 5th floor of the Hotel Africa ballroom and his body dumped over the balcony.
The mission was nearly aborted by this development owing to the effect and psychological impact on everyone else of Michael Doe’s death at the hands of Prince Johnson, the man with whom we were supposed to meet and interact following our arrival in Monrovia.
But the news hit Sam Delati like a fireball. He refused to disembark and insisted that he be returned to the ECOMOG vessel. The news also enraged Captain Mike Akhigbe, commander of the Nigerian Naval ship, NNS Ambe who had, since the deployment of ECOMOG, formed a personal relationship with Michael Doe. But more was to come.
The next morning, we were driven to the Prince Johnson Caldwell base to meet the self-styled Field Marshall. We were accompanied by the ECOMOG Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Cyril Iweze and Gambian Colonel Modu Gaye and Captain Jobe also of the Gambia n contingent, not forgetting our INPFL minders, Charles Bright, Jonathan Mason and Sam Moses Tucker.
We each had different briefs and my assigned task, given my recent experience, was to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment of the situation in Monrovia.
Its population by then had dwindled from about 250,000 people to less than 80, 000 with most of them on Bushrod Island and in Mamba Point, starving and virtually surviving on scraps.
Our first test of nerves would come a few days after our arrival.
At the base we were met by the mercurial INPFL leader who accorded us a very warm welcome. Some of us he knew by name and he would not hesitate to refer to us as people who stood against the excesses of the late President Doe.
Surrounding the Field Marshall was a posse of armed bodyguards, all females, who followed him just about everywhere on Bushrod Island and in the Mamba Point area. He also had hostages, intellectuals and civil servants who had been rounded up and taken to his base amongst them, the late Williard Russell, David. K. Vinton, Nathaniel Patray, the late Colonel Arthur Bedell etc. who by compulsion were clad in all khaki to distinguish them from the rest of the civilians held on his base.
I recall it was there I met veteran Liberian journalist Jesse Karnley who narrated his story how he was almost killed. Both he and Eric Scott were captured around the Spriggs Payne airport. by Guinean ECOMOG troops.
But what carried them there if one may ask. Charles Taylor had claimed that he was in complete control of Monrovia and had even captured and killed Prince Johnson.
Jesse Karnley and Eric Scott, both being journalists were dispatched along with a team of foreign journalists to verify Taylor’s accounts.
At his Caldwell base, self-styled Field Marshall Prince Johnson desperate to prove to the outside world that he was alive ordered his men to call journalists to tell his story to the world. But he was informed that the Journalist had already been tie-bayed and sent to the banks of the St. Paul River for execution.
By the time Prince Johnson’s men arrived on the scene, Eric Scott had already been shot and his body dumped into the river. Miraculously, Jesse Karnley was spared and he was brought before Prince Johnson where he told the world that Prince Johnson was in fact alive and well.
Rebel leader and self-styled Field Marshall Prince Johnson also had a group of young Lebanese fighters under his command. One of them would later be linked to the assassination of AFL Captain Larry Milton by grenade explosion at a drinking spot on Carey Street. They were all fully dressed in military fatigues and often carried sticks of dynamite tied in bunches.
Later, when we finally informed Prince Johnson him that we would also be meeting the AFL at their BTC barracks, he began expressing unease at our suggestion, charging that the AFL had been planning to ambush him in central Monrovia.
He lashed out at the ECOMOG High Command who he accused of protecting a notorious character and death squad commander identified as Nyonblu Tailey. We were to later meet this character when we visited the Executive Mansion accompanied by Major-General Joshua Dogonyaro himself.
But we had been forewarned by the ECOMOG Chief of Staff, General Iweze to transact business with Prince Johnson before midday because after midday, he was a useless drunk with a killing rage. It was in such fit of drunkenness that he shot and killed Edwin Vaye, an engineer and prominent son of Nimba, and before that Michael Doe, according to accounts we received.
Early one morning, Mesers Charles Bright, Sam Moses Tucker and Jonathan Mason came over to the Hotel Africa to inquire from us about the “missing whereabouts of Ms. Annie Broderick.
According to information given to us by staff of the Hotel, immediately following the execution of Michael Doe, who had been placed in charge of Hotel operations by its president, Gus Kouwenhaven, self-styled Field Marshall Prince Johnson abducted Ms. Annie Broderick also at the time an employee(personnel manager) of the hotel and took her to his base and named her President of the Hotel Africa Corporation.
At the time, the self-styled Field Marshall, had scores of female hostages at his base according to accounts provided us, some by victims themselves.
Our arrival in war torn Monrovia as members of an advanced team from the IGNU and the very warm reception accorded us by ECOMOG apparently may have sounded alarm bells to Field Marshall Prince Johnson.
Openly he pretended to welcome and assure us of his protection whatever that meant while secretly he plotted our elimination. But by divine providence, the late Williard G. Russell at the time a glorified hostage at his base let us in on Prince Johnson’s plan.
He had overheard him making loose but drunken comments about how he planned to eliminate those sent by the Interim government to spy on him.
And the spies he had reference to included our initial team and late arrivals Tom Kamara and Dusty Wolokolie. On Dusty’s insistence we confronted Field Marshall Prince Johnson on what we had heard but without disclosing the source.
His response was a vehement denial and almost apologetic having been caught off guard. “Dusty you know how we all suffered under Doe so I can’t do things like that” was his contrite reply.
The area under the control of “Field Marshall” Prince Johnson was relatively small-Bushrod Island, Caldwell and Mamba Point. And, the Field Marshall, as if it were a ritual paid daily morning and sometime evening visits to the Hotel.
And anytime, he visited, all guests would be ordered to come out or else to be harangued by the Field Marshall, always at the time accompanied by a bevy of female bodyguards.
On the morning of one of such ritual visits, he lashed out at Ms. Annie Broderick seated in the front row of the hall alongside Dr. Levi Zangai.
“What you scared for?” he blurted out, “Only criminal can be afraid of Police”, he said as he continued his tirade unleashing invectives and thinly veiled threats against the young woman.
Attempting to clear his side in the killing of Michael Doe, Prince Johnson stated that he had received information that Michael Doe had been communicating with NPFL rebels who were stationed a few hundred yards away in Brewerville and who could attack him at any moment.
But the actual truth was, according to hotel workers, Prince Johnson had been pressurizing Michael Doe without success to turnover to him a huge amount of money allegedly left in the care and custody of Michael Doe.
Such funds according to them were intended to pay hotel staff arrears and provide for the upkeep of staff then displaced at the hotel until things had returned to normal.
But the apparent refusal of Michael Doe to comply with his (Prince Johnson’s) wishes led to his death and that of the chief accountant on the 5th floor of the hotel’s ballroom on that fateful morning of September 23, 1990.
“Michael, stand up let me kill you” he barked out to Michael Doe, according to eyewitness accounts. Michael rose to his feet, looked Prince Johnson directly in the eye and then bowed his head as if in prayer and supplication to God.
Split seconds later he fired a single bullet hitting Michael in the head and killing him instantly right in the full presence of hotel staff and others. Next in line for execution was Carter Miller the chief accountant who was also shot in the head.
Their lifeless bodies dripping with blood were thrown over the 5th floor balcony followed with shouts by his men ..”How the C.O look?” “Alright” came the instant reply.
A former Ms. Liberia beauty queen, Ms. Annie Broderick, then serving as director of personnel according to staffer accounts was physically present when Field Marshall Prince Johnson shot and killed Michael Doe and the chief accountant and must have been shaken, like every other hotel staff.
And so, when the Field Marshall opened up that day issuing thinly veiled threats at her she apparently got the message, “flee, die or spend the rest of the time on his Caldwell base as a hostage and potential sexual slave a fate shared by other female abductees.
One evening, following that incident, we had received word that an ECOMOG vessel with food supplies for the mission had docked at the Freeport. Dr. Levi Zangai, upon confirmation of the information, asked for volunteers to go to the port to offload our supplies.
Almost immediately Human Rights lawyer and advocate Tiawan Gongloe, James Fromayan and I volunteered to make the trip to the Freeport that night.
Earlier, during the day, we had received reports that Ms. Annie Broderick had been spotted in a minibus by INPFL fighters at a jointly manned checkpoint with ECOMOG troops. The minibus had been assigned to our team by the Field Marshall
The fighters had suspected that she was making a break for it and immediately passed on the information to the Field Marshall who according to reports at the time became very incensed with our team.
By then we had received feedback about the angry disposition of the Field Marshall. In those days anyone courting or arousing the anger of the Field Marshall was sure to pay with his life.
When the realization hit Dr. Zangai, he panicked and suggested that rather than return to Hotel Africa that night, we should board the ECOMOG vessel and return to Freetown.
The truth was which we found out later, Ms. Broderick had discussed her plight with Dr. Zangai who willingly agreed to assist her get to the Freeport of Monrovia to board an ECOMOG vessel. But he had kept us in the dark.
But I insisted to Dr. Zangai that I had nothing to do with Ms. Broderick’s disappearance and made it clear that I was not going to abandon the mission so I was returning to Hotel Africa come what may.
James Fromayan supported my position and after haggling over the matter for a few minutes we, Zangai included, made the decision to return to face Field Marshall Prince Johnson’s wrath.
We returned from the Freeport at almost 10:00pm that evening. Nothing it seemed was unusual or out of place. The downstairs lobby of the hotel was as usual crowded with people, all displaced, with some jostling for a pride of place at the bar.
A few minutes later after taking a shower, I retired and went to sleep. Early the next morning at about 6:30am, Messers Charles Bright, Sam Moses Tucker and Jonathan Mason came by the hotel to inquire of us about the whereabouts of Ms. Annie Broderick.
Failing to elicit answers from us, they informed us shortly afterwards that Field Marshall Prince Johnson had demanded our presence at his base to provide explanations on the whereabouts of Ms. Annie Broderick.
That evening, our entire team led by Dr. Zangai proceeded to Caldwell to meet the Field Marshall. Accompanying us were the ECOMOG Chief of Staff Nigerian General Cyprian Iweze and Gambian Contingent Commander, Lt. Colonel Modu Gaye.
Upon arrival at his Taylor Major Compound base, we were ushered into a large room where a group of his men gathered ostensibly to witness proceedings. The Field Marshall began by throwing a question to Dr. Zangai.
“Dr. Zangai where is my president?” “I have no idea Field Marshall”, Zangai blurted in response. Then the same question was thrown to Tiawan Gongloe to which a similar response came forth.
That answer must have angered him He then ordered the arrest and detention of Clr. Tiawan Gongloe on false accusations that he was complicit in the escape of his hostage Ms. Annie Broderick from Hotel Africa.
His last words as Tiawan were being escorted out of the room by armed men, “they killing Nimba man and Nimba man there”.
From his rants, it became clear to me that the escape of his prized hostage was what irked him most perhaps never believing that she could have mustered the courage to successfully escape his clutches, unlike many others who were being on held his base against their will.
But, thanks to the courage and persistence of General Iweze. He insisted that he would be detained along with Tiawan Gongloe .
But the Field Marshall realizing the dangerous implications of detaining a Nigerian General backed by thousands of well-armed troops on the ground, walked back on his plan. He would not detain the General neither would he allow Tiawan to suffer any harm.
But General Iweze insisted that Tiawan be released from detention before we could proceed with any further talks. And the Field Marshall was forced to comply.
There were many more encounters with Field Marshall Prince Johnson one of which included his forcing us at gun point to return to the Ducor Hotel while gun battles were raging in the streets of Monrovia between his INPFL and the AFL.
Right there in Vai Town before our very eyes, he executed a young man who had been accused of looting.
This was on December 3, 1990, two days after he had launched an unprovoked attack on the AFL despite the existence of a ceasefire and the armed presence of ECOMOG.
Days prior to the December 1, 1990 launch of the INPFL attack against the AFL in Monrovia, Field Marshall Prince Johnson had been complaining to us about what he claimed were plans by the AFL to attack him.
In truth as we discovered, the Field Marshall was incensed by the fact that we had included the BTC barracks and all its occupants, soldiers and civilians alike in the planned relief food distribution scheme, although the food was yet to arrive.
As a matter of fact, I led the humanitarian needs assessment exercise at the BTC. I was virtually overcome by the sight of starving women and children especially who in my mind, were in desperate need of food and medical assistance.
Most of those I encountered had on what was called at the time, “Charles Taylor boots”. This was an expression used to describe swollen feet conditions from the ankle down that gave the appearance of brown boots worn by Charles Taylor’s fighters. And it was the result of extreme malnutrition called Kwashiorkor.
For his part, the Field Marshall, as events would turn out was determined to launch a last all-out assault on the BTC barracks with the intent to overrun it and seize the Executive Mansion and perhaps install himself as President.
And he did launch and personally led the attack on December 1, 1990. He led two columns of men standing at the controls of a US Army tactical jeep mounted with a 50-caliber machine gun, while driving at measured pace across the Johnson Street Bridge.
From the 4th floor of the Ducor Hotel we watched intently but with shock and horror that Field Marshall Prince Johnson had made good his word to attack the AFL.
This was at a time when ECOMOG, under the command of the late Major-General Joshua Dogonyaro was deployed in Monrovia offering protection to then already seated Sawyer led IGNU as well as the residents of Monrovia save Caldwell.
A few days prior to the December 1 attack, we encountered the Field Marshall in Vai Town a few yards away from both bridges. He was surrounded by camouflage-clad men sporting an assortment of weaponry including Ak-47s, General Purpose Machine Guns, commonly called “GMG” at the time and sticks of dynamite.
Included in his outfit at Vai Town were several Lebanese fighters, armed to the teeth with fully loaded Ak-47s with three magazines each. And they were the ones carrying the sticks of dynamite which the Field Commander Prince Johnson was threatening to use to blow up the Johnson Street Bridge.
We disembarked from our vehicle and went to meet him. We pleaded with him for several minutes trying to coax him out of his daring plan. All of a sudden he shouted out to his men, No Retreat”, “No Surrender” came the instant response. “No more war, let us go home”.
Feeling a sense of relief that we had somehow succeeded in persuading him to call off his action, we drove on to Hotel Africa where were being accommodated. But the following day, the Field Marshall was back. By then street battles between the AFL and the INPFL were raging.
Three days later on December 3, 1990 with street battles between the INPFL and Prince AFL still raging, IGNU President Sawyer requested the intervention of ECOMOG to bring the situation under control and restore calm to Monrovia.
During the late afternoon of December 3, 1990, the late Thomas Kamara, Dusty Wolokolie, James Fromayan and I boarded a vehicle to return to Hotel Africa. From the Ducor we inched our way slowly down the hill taking especially care to avoid stray bullets.
Then we made a right turn to Nelson Street and then a left on Carey Street, a right on Roberts Street and another right on Benson Street towards the Masonic Temple which was the most dangerous run and down on to UN Drive before making the last dangerous run- a cross over the Vai Town Bridge.
For two(2) days, December 1-2, 1990, we had successfully used this route to get out of the battle zone in Central Monrovia. But on December 3, we were not so lucky. Tom Kamara had arrived from Freetown a day earlier and had brought with him some palm oil, then a rarity in Monrovia and our intense desire to return to Hotel Africa to have some doused whatever fears we had of making the run.
What we were not aware of at the time was the fact that ECOMOG Field Commander Major-General Joshua Dogonyaro had begun the crackdown on hostile forces in a bid to restore calm to the city.
By the time we made it across the Vai Town Bridge we once again encountered Field Marshall Prince Johnson, ranting and raving, mad like hell. He shouted at us and demanded we disembark to listen to what he had to say.
And he spilled over into a torrent of rage heaping invectives at Sawyer accusing him of not responding to a letter he claimed to have written complaining about plans being hatched by the AFL to attack him.
In his rants he also accused Dr. Sawyer, head of the Interim government of adopting the AFL as the national army.
Truth be told, I had seen a copy of the letter as well as Sawyer’s response on the desk of his secretary, at the time Mrs. Victoria Bedell Forh. And I told the Field Marshall that a response had been sent to him although he claimed not to have received it.
Later it was confirmed that Field Marshall Prince Johnson was not telling the truth as he did receive the communication.
But at the time, he insisted that we return under the hail of gunfire to retrieve a copy of Sawyer’s response to his letter. He further demanded that we dismount our vehicle and ride in a vehicle driven by one of his commandos, former ELWA Radio newscaster, Madison Meahyen.
Madison, clad in green fatigues was armed with a US Army Colt 45 pistol and was accompanied by a bodyguard dressed in camouflage uniform and armed with an Ak-47 rifle. The Field Marshall instructed that Dusty Wolokolie, Tom Kamara and I ride along with Madison back to the Ducor while James Fromayan was to remain with him as a hostage until our return.
By then scores of onlookers had gathered making it easy for James Fromayan to later melt into the crowd and disappear as we drove off heading for the Ducor.
We drove across the Vai Town Bridge but were stopped at a check point mounted right at the foot of the bridge. In response to demands from the soldiers to identify ourselves, we displayed our IGNU ID cards.
Before we were cleared to leave, ECOMOG troops ordered Madison’s bodyguard to disembark which he did. He was stripped of his weapon and detained. Madison’s Colt 45 pistol was also taken away from him but he was permitted to drive us away.
By then the exchange of fire in central Monrovia had become heavy making it impossible to continue to the Ducor. Accordingly, we decided to take a break beneath the Ducor Hill right around where C.F Wilhelm Jantzen furniture store was located.
The heavy exchange of fire had brought traffic movement from Vai Town to Central Monrovia to a halt and vice versa. Later, as traffic began to move, we decided to go back quite unsure of how the Field Marshall would react.
What we had not realized was that the ECOMOG crackdown had already been set into motion from its base with an armored column accompanied by troops inching its way slowly to town.
But apparently, Field Marshall Prince Johnson had gotten wind of ECOMOG’s advancing armored column. He beat a hasty retreat from the Vai Town Bridge with his men through Logan Town back to his base.
ECOMOG forces at the time were apparently not aware of the existence of an alternate route through Logan Town to Caldwell.
According to reports the force stationed at the Caldwell junction had expected to intercept the Field Marshall but little did they realize that they had been outwitted by his movement through Logan Town.
And so, by the time the advancing column reached Vai Town, the Field Marshall had by then disappeared. As if to restrict movement of vehicles, ECOMOG troops shot out the tires of every vehicle parked along the roadside including the vehicle we had been driving before being intercepted by the Field Marshall at the bridge.
It was during that brief period of respite following the Field Marshall’s retreat from the bridge that vehicular movement resumed howbeit only for a very brief period. It was then we saw a chance to get back across the bridge and head to Hotel Africa.
As we drove towards the bridge in the Waterside area, we noticed some ECOMOG troops hailing us to a stop which we did. A soldier stepped up looked into the vehicle and after observing our displayed IGNU ID cards, he waved us on.
But before the vehicle could reach the bridge, which was just about 15 yards away, another group of soldiers began hailing us to a stop. Madison Meahyen however paid them no mind and continued slowly towards the bridge
All the while gunfire continued to echo around the city particularly in the Waterside area. In vain I tried to urge Madison to stop telling him that the soldiers were ordering us to halt but he ignored my alarm calls and kept advancing.
The minute the front tires of our vehicle hit the bridge edge; we were intercepted by a hail of gun fire coming from very close range. Bullets began hitting the vehicle and before we could realize it, Tom Kamara yelled out…. “Oh”. In the next split second, another bullet hit Madison in the hand almost tearing off his left thumb.
It was then he put the car in reverse. It veered off and crashed into a burnt-out vehicle. I immediately scrambled out and hit the pavement as bullets continued to hiss through the air around us.
Seconds later Dusty scrambled out but was in a state of apparent shock. I kept calling out to him to hit the pavement, but he stood there looking very dumbfounded. Miraculously neither of us had been hit.
I crawled back to the vehicle and managed to pull Tom Kamara out of the vehicle while crying out loudly in desperation… “cease fire, cease fire but the firing continued for few more minutes before we began hearing shouts of “cease fire” from ECOMOG troops.
When the firing finally ceased, I lifted Tom, who was by then bleeding heavily, into my arms and took him to an ECOMOG vehicle parked on the sidewalk before a store. I attempted to board the vehicle but was prevented from doing so by ECOMOG troops. Madison was also taken aboard the same vehicle.
That was the last we would see or hear of Tom for the next 5 days. Later we learned that the vehicle which was conveying them to the ECOMOG base was ambushed by INPFL fighters around the LPRC area in Gardnerville.
Fortunately, the INPFL attackers were driven off after a 20-minute gun battle and Tom was taken to the ECOMOG hospital at the base.
What we did not realize at the time that the ECOMOG makeshift field hospital was loaded with wounded soldiers from the fighting with the INPFL and Tom being a civilian, was paid little attention.
When we finally managed to locate him, we took him to the Kassas Clinic, (now the Med Link Clinic) on Randall Street. The health situation in Monrovia at the time was desperate and there was an acute shortage of critical drugs including antibiotics and Tom’s right leg had by then become dangerously infected.
Upon examination, Dr. Kassas quietly informed us that he would have to do an operation and insert a metal plate in his leg and that he would never regain normal use of his leg.
The surgery was successfully completed but the wound to the leg had not healed. He would require further surgery later in Europe where he would spend some time convalescing.
Time and space do not allow the inclusion of a lot more of such encounters with then Field Marshall and rebel leader, now Senator and Reverend Prince Johnson.
One of such encounters which I can never forget was how one night in early November as we prepared to leave his base for Hotel Africa, he (Field Marshall Prince Johnson) insisted that we accompanied him on a night patrol intended to keep the city safe for the arrival of the Interim Government.
I recall that while driving through Logan Town, he spotted a vehicle parked outside a fenced building, which he recognized as one of his looted vehicles.
He stopped, disembarked and walked into the fenced compound owned by Mr. Emmett Gooding. Immediately after he spotted two of his fighters, he advanced towards them in a very angry mood. He kicked and slapped one of the fighters and then drew his silver pistol.
Instinctively I reacted by placing myself between Prince Johnson and the fighter, pleading with him not to harm the young man. ” Prince you cannot do this”, I said hysterically. Slowly he lowered his arm and placed his pistol back into its holster.
The yard grew quiet like you could hear a pin drop. Everybody in the compound including my niece the late Orinda Gooding, held their breaths, I was later told for, they were certain that Prince Johnson would have shot both of us dead.
It was the first time according to them that Prince Johnson had drawn his pistol without shooting his unlucky victim. But in the next instant after Prince Johnson let go his grip, the young man bolted away and virtually somersaulted over the fence and was gone.
That incident occurred in early November 1990 and it took place one night right in the fenced compound of Mr. Emmett Gooding, a prominent resident of Logan Town. His late brother Ralph Gooding was the husband of my late sister, Yvonne Stewart Gooding.
But at the time I did not realize it was the home of Mr. Emmett Gooding whose wife, Teta Lawrence Gooding had been my schoolmate at the University of Liberia during the 1970s. I had also not realized or recognized the presence of my niece in the compound that night. It was indeed a night to remember.
I can however safely declare that Prince Johnson knows me personally and he knows that I know much about his wartime activities aside from what is documented in the TRC Report as eyewitness accounts.
His threats against me and my family are not and should not be considered idle threats particularly in view of the groundswell of expressed public support for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
My Story with George Boley:
For days on end during the months of September and October 1994, the attention of the nation was drawn continuously to media reports, especially BBC reports about the fall of Charles Taylor’s Gbarnga stronghold to opposing rebel forces.
Then rebel leader, Charles Taylor was attending a peace conference in Accra, Ghana. For weeks, the nation was held in suspense not knowing what was actually obtaining in Gbarnga amid media reports of intense fighting, indiscriminate killings, looting and arson.
The Alhaji Kromah led-ULIMO-K rebel faction was claiming Gbarnga as its prize after its forces attacked the town on September 9, 1994 and put NPFL fighters to flight. And ULIMO K rebel leader Alhaji Kromah had proudly declared that Gbarnga was now his coveted prize.
Also claiming Gbarnga as a prize was the George Boley led rebel Liberia Peace Council (LPC) faction after its forces attacked and overran ULIMO positions which caused ULIMO-K fighters to retreat north of Gbarnga to the town of Palala.
At the time the Francois Massaquoi led Lofa Defense Force rebel faction(LDF) as well as the LPC were making a case for inclusion in the peace negotiations claiming that they were holding territories just as ULIMO-K, ULIMO J and the NPFL.
At the time only warring factions, who controlled territories were involved in peace talks and negotiations.
When news broke of the fall of Gbarnga in early September 1994, I was at the time serving as founding Associate Editor of the New Democrat Weekly, then the nation’s largest selling newspaper.
Sometime in mid-September 1994, a couple, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh walked into our Center Street offices seeking to speak with the Editor-in-Chief, Tom Kamara. They were ushered into his office, and I followed.
And the purpose of that meeting they explained, was to invite the New Democrat to Gbarnga to verify reports of the fall of Gbarnga as well as to verify accounts that LPC was in control of Gbarnga.
The couple’s visit came in the wake of previous initial failed attempts we made to contact ULIMO-K rebel leader Alhaji Kromah to grant us access to Gbarnga to report on developments there.
However, Kromah instead granted access to the Inquirer’s reporter, Sidiki Trawally and that is how the Inquirer broke the story.
Thus, when this couple, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh walked in offering to grant us access through their lines to report on happenings in Gbarnga, we jumped at the opportunity and agreed to send a reporter.
But we found ourselves faced with a dilemma-and that was no reporter appeared willing to take the risk of traveling through rebel lines to get to Gbarnga with all the associated dangers.
Being unable to identify a reporter willing to undertake the assignment, I volunteered to take the assignment. Little did I realize at the time the enormity and gravity of the assignment I had volunteered to undertake.
Had I realized at the time, that our earnest desire to go all out to accurately informed would place my life at such grave risk and danger and would have had the ultimate effect of granting legitimacy to a rebel group with a bloody signature, I doubt, on reflection, that I would have undertaken that assignment.
But to make a long story short, I accepted the assignment and proceeded to meet with an official of the LPC to arrange my travel.
The official, LPC Secretary-General Weade Kobbah Wureh escorted me to the Thinkers Village home of the late Thomas Woewiyu who was not at home at the time.
Thomas Woewiyu, a former Defense Minister in the NPFL, along with others including Laveli Supuwood and Samuel Dokie, had broken ranks with Taylor and formed a faction styled- NPFL-CRC which had entered into a coalition with the LPC.
There at Woewiyu’s home a pickup truck driven by a young man who identified himself as “Major Trouble from Brigade” was loaded down with arms and ammunition including Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).
There I was provided an escort by the same LPC official (Weade Kobbah Wureh now Weade Kobbah Wureh, Boley) current wife of George Boley who with him had previously visited our offices.
But before taking off, she shouted out a battle cry to the escort. “More Yoyo”, “More Blessing” came the instant reply and then she followed with “More Blessing” and came the instant reply, “More Yo Yo”. Prince would later confess to me that YoYo meant confusion and “Mo blessing” meant the rewards of unrestricted looting.
The escort, armed with an RPG identified himself as Prince, his last name I cannot recall now but, he told me he hailed from Zorzor District in Lofa.
But he preferred to be called by his nom de guerre, “Prince Yudugbay Johnson”, the LPC’s version of Prince Johnson. My escort, Prince and two others were later publicly executed in Buchanan on Boley’s orders for “looting”. The incident was carried in local newspapers.
What an irony and travesty of justice it was. Here was the LPC leader a chief beneficiary of the widespread looting carried out by his men, accusing others of looting. They were hurriedly tried by a kangaroo court set up by Boley at Flour Mill, Buchanan, and put to death by firing squad.
From Thinkers Village we drove to the LPC Buchanan, Flour Mill to meet LPC Field Commander, General Ruth Milton aka General Arteelah. She was a heavy-set individual, and she looked the no nonsense type.
I learned that she had been one of the first females to be enlisted into the AFL after President Tolbert assumed office following the death of President Tubman in 1971
There at the LPC Flour Mill Buchanan headquarters she delivered a final charge to Major Trouble and “Yudugbay” to escort me safely into Gbarnga. We then began a harrowing all day journey on a route littered with landmines.
Our first stop outside Buchanan was at Big Joe Town, where ECOMOG’S last checkpoint stood, Major Trouble disembarked from the vehicle and proceeded by foot examining every inch of the road ahead up to a church building standing on the left side of the road, about 50 yards away.
“Look at that church”, Major Trouble declared.” During the Peace talks, that is where NPFL General KuKu Dennis used to park his vehicle and then walk to the ECOMOG check point.
After the fall of Buchanan Charles Taylor had planted anti-tank mines along the stretch of road to prevent any potential advance by ECOMOG. But Major Trouble had spotted three (3) landmines at different points along the road. Heavy rains had partially exposed them.
And over each of the mines, he placed a broken metal bucket turned upside down in order to alert other users of the road to their presence. Next he searched out the ruts, track marks of vehicle tires on the road to ensure the absence of mines.
After the exercise we resumed our journey. At Buchanan, we had picked up additional fighters to accompany us to Gbarnga. As we proceeded the fighters riding the back of the pickup truck opened up with random bursts of automatic rifle fire aimed at nothing but the bushes.
My heart it seemed, skipped a beat with each burst of gun fire. Here I was in the company of complete strangers, armed to the teeth not knowing how the journey would end.
Eventually, we made it safely to Sammy Kollie Ta, just a stone’s throw from Gbarnga, by nightfall.
However, a return vehicle to Buchanan, which we encountered along the road filled with looted goods and some wounded LPC fighters ran over a landmine that exploded leaving a single survivor out of ten individuals aboard that vehicle.
We slowed to a halt as the vehicle , a pick-up truck, approached. There was a wounded fighter in a wheel barrrow being pushed by five other fighters. In vain they pleaded with the Buchanan bound vehicle to take them aboard. Not succeeding they turned to us asking for help to take them to Buchanan.
But the driver, Major Trouble stoutly refused insisting that he was carrying supplies for men at the front and could not therefore abandon his mission to return to Buchanan. And we continued our journey to Sammy Kollie Ta a village just outside Gbarnga.
After spending nearly three weeks, I was able to obtain a firsthand account of how life was behind LPC rebel lines. It was there in Sammy Kollie Ta, I encountered hundreds of displaced people without shelter nor food to eat.
They had to resort to scavenging, harvesting abandoned rice fields and seeking shelter in whatever available abandoned structures there were. Moreover, they lived in constant fear of summary execution for whatever contrived reason.
It was from them that I learned that the LPC favorite method of killing was what they called “design”, meaning that a victim would be chopped into pieces and the remains strewn along the roadside. Even some fighters themselves boasted of such wicked exploits.
This was intended to induce fear and force people to flee. Their abandoned villages would then be plundered and stripped of every valuable item. The fighters called the booty from this kind of pervasive looting as “risk taker”.
Finally, I returned to Monrovia and wrote a story, “Gbarnga Burns” that made front page headlines.
Not long after then, a peace conference dubbed Abuja I, held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in 1995 was convened with all the warring parties present. I covered that conference in Abuja as a journalist working from our room at Nicon Noga Hilton hotel together with other journalists including Sando Moore, Ben Asante, Lindsay Barrett and BBC reporter Sola Odunfa.
It was at that meeting that legitimacy was conferred on the LPC granting it representation on the Transitional Council and firmly establishing its leader, George Boley as warring faction head.
The Transitional Council was made up of proxies representing the various factions. Representing the NPFL was rebel General Isaac Musah (deceased) while ULIMO-K was represented by Dexter Taryor (deceased) and the LPC/NPFL CRC was represented by LPC Secretary-General, Weade Kobbah Wureh (Present wife of George Boley).
Quite clearly, the LPC’s drive to establish itself as a warring faction with a seat at the table of peace negotiations had been accomplished.
Both of its top executives, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh had ascended to the high office of Vice Heads of State respectively at different intervals.
Their path to high offices in the land was however smeared with blood and paved with heaps of corpses of innocents whose lives were cut short by the mass and indiscriminate killings committed by fighters of the Boley led Liberia Peace Council (LPC).
The experiences of many of those who witnessed the killing of relatives and friends or suffered egregious human rights abuse at the hands of the LPC are well documented in the TRC Final Report.
More to that eyewitness accounts of the massacres and looting spree carried out by the LPC are also documented in the TRC Report. One of such massacres took place in Bloh Town situated on the road leading to Cestos City.
There TRC Commissioners were led to a site in a rubber bush where they oberved a large number of human remains scattered about in the rubber bush opposite the town. Survivors and eyewitness accounts say about 400 persons were killed by LPC fighters using machetes, axes and wooden clubs.
Additionally, logging equipment including front-end loaders, trailers, power saws , tons of rubber looted from the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) in Grand Bassa and the Sinoe Rubber Company plantation as well as timber etc. were looted and sold into the Ivory Coast and beyond according to accounts provided by former LPC fighters.
Additionally, former LPC fighters and informed sources from Ghana have revealed that about twenty-two (22) looted vehicles were allegedly taken across the Ivorian border and into Ghana where they some were sold to different buyers.
Some of the vehicles including a bus, were converted into public transportation. This suggested that Mr. Boley was actively engaged in transportation business in Ghana while back home in Liberia, his LPC rebel group looted, pillaged the Country and murdered people indiscriminately.
One of the buyers of the looted vehicles was a young Ghanaian male who purchased a state-owned bullet proof black Mercedes-Benz.
According to investigative sources and former LPC fighters, it was the same vehicle used as official vehicle by President Samuel Doe during the last days of his Presidency.
But as things turned out, according to credible sources including former LPC fighters, the young Ghanaian had paid only US$10,000 out of the asking price of US$30,000 and had reneged on further payment. The black Mercedes Benz was allegedly worth around $92,000.00
According to former LPC fighters (names withheld), local Ghanaian drivers who were running the other vehicles as taxis, absconded with the vehicles and to date have not been found.
One such compelling story is about the bus that was used as public transportation which was also alleged to have been looted from Liberia by George Boley’s LPC fighters on his behalf.
Sources alleged that the driver for the bus also absconded with the bus but was later found and taken to court by an official of the Boley led LPC identified as Weade Kobbah Wureh, now Mrs. Boley.
But in an unusual twist, the Ghanaian bus driver told the judge that he was being coerced to pay for a stolen vehicle by rebels from Liberia who had looted state property, and that the bus was one of the looted vehicles.
Further according to sources, the Judge, upon listening to the bus driver’s testimony, became incensed and railed at the complainants for looting their country and shamelessly pursuing payment for an illegally acquired vehicle.
According to sources, the Judge threw out the case telling the LPC official and her supporters to go back to Liberia and fix their Country they helped destroyed.
But more to that informed sources, including former LPC fighters, have disclosed that Boley allegedly purchased two compounds. One is located in Community 9, Tema and the other in Community 10 Tema, Ghana, where he frequented during the Taylor regime.
Sources further alleged they jointly operated a business firm (South Eastern Trade Links) in Ghana through which funds realized from the illegal sale of looted tropical timber rubber and other valuables were channeled.
Boley, according to US media reports, had also bought properties all in cash in the US including a mansion allegedly valued at about US$1m situated on a 10-acre spread in the city of Clarkson, upstate New York after his stint as Vice Head of State in the Transitional government.
Credible sources say, after the fall of Buchanan, Greenville, and Harper to the LPC, thousands of logs stockpiled (valued several million dollars) at those ports were illegally shipped to Vincennes, a shipping port on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Former Chairman of the National Investment Commission(NIC) Trohoe Kpargahai and former Liberian Ambassador to France Aaron George were, according to sources serving as middlemen arranging the illegal sales of stolen timber from Liberia.
Timbers were sold to French buyers who reports say had an insatiable appetite for tropical timber and were prepared to go any lengths to acquire same.
Quite clearly, Dr. George Saigbe Boley is and has been a beneficiary of the country’s civil conflict. And he has benefitted, acquired wealth from the wanton plunder and illegal sale of private and state resources.
Today, George Boley, a recruiter of child soldiers and former leader of the notorious LPC warring faction whose bloody footprints still litter the landscapes of Bong, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Grand Kru, River Gee and Maryland Counties, sits in the Liberian Parliament while his former LPC Secretary-General, now his wife, Weade Kobbah Boley is a Vice President at the University of Liberia.
Neither of them has been held to account for their roles and participation in the civil war as leaders of one of the most brutal and notorious warring factions. And he Boley, has been unrepentant as ever.
He recently told a fellow parliamentarian in a high-handed and shameless manner that had he not done the things he did, many people including his colleague would not be here today.
In other words had his foot soldiers like Generals Noreiga and Satan not terrorized the peoples of Sinoe, Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, Maryland and River Gee Counties with random indiscriminate killings , and the massive looting of private and public property, Representative Dixon Seeboe would not be where he is today.
During parliamentary discussions recently, Representative Dixon Seeboe had openly accused George Boley of killing his relatives during the civil war.
For my part, Boley has on several previous occasions accused me, John H.T. Stewart as one of those individuals opposed to peace in Liberia because of the TRC report which documented the atrocities committed by fighters under his command.
Recently on the Ashford Garley show, he again repeated the same accusations. Journalist Ashford Garley did not and has not so far provided me the opportunity to react to Boley’s threatening utterances against me and possibly that of my family and close associates.
Thanks, however, to social media, I am availed of the opportunity to respond to threatening comments by George Boley. I must admit that I am not surprised by his utterances.
Those threatening utterances are induced and driven by fear. It is the fear of eventually being dragged to Court to face criminal charges for war and economic crimes.
It is also the fear of facing similar prospects to that of his counterpart, Charles Taylor currently serving a 50-year sentence in a British jail.
But Representative George Boley is not alone in this regard. His legislative colleague Senator Prince Johnson also harbors such fears and I dare say they are deeply engrained fears.
On several occasions during his church service, Prince Johnson has launched vitriolic attacks and made threatening statements against my person.
And his reason just like George Boley’s is because I served on the TRC that indicted him and recommended his prosecution for crimes against humanity.
I have often brushed off Senator Prince Johnson’s as insane comments from a mentally challenged person; however, I am not unmindful of his killer instincts neither am I unmindful of George Boley’s vindictive and evil character.
Remember his (Boley’s) late brother-in-law, Charles Gbenyon who was killed at the Executive Mansion in the wake of the November 12, 1985, abortive invasion and how he did not lift a finger, according to family sources to help save his brother -in-law from execution?
Journalist Charles Gbenyon, according to eyewitness accounts was beheaded by soldiers at the Mansion.
Also, remember George Boley dressed in military fatigues flaunting an M-16 automatic rifle and virtually gloating over the lifeless body of failed coup leader, General Thomas Quiwonkpa?
Remember also, reports of George Boley leading soldiers to the Bentol home of assassinated Liberian President, William R. Tolbert on the day following the coup according to family members?
Regarding that incident, Mr. George Boley was also accused by a Co-Member of the PRC, Captain Kalongo Luo, who testified before the TRC in the US and attested to Boley’s looting of the President’s home and taking away his safe and other valuables.
When Boley appeared before the TRC, he denied being part of any waring group and insisted that the LPC group which he led was simply an advocacy group.
But when I posed the question to him in which capacity did he sign the Abuja I Accords since it was only warring factions who were signatories to the Peace Agreement he fumbled for an answer.
That question apparently infuriated him. And George Boley, lying through his teeth, responded emphatically declaring that, I John H. T Stewart led the LPC attack on Gbarnga on September 14, 1994. His lies that I led the attack on Gbarnga, made news headlines the very next day.
But I say all this with no malice towards him(George Boley) nor any of his kith and kin some of whom I know very well. However, for me this is a life and death matter over which such sentiments of amity do not hold sway.
I take the threats of Parliamentarians George Boley and Prince Johnson seriously and I am now informing the world that owing to their threats against me, I am placing my life and safety in their hands.
I cannot and can never underestimate their capacity to actualize their vile threats neither can I dismiss their intent to bring harm to my person, family, friends and or associates.
However, let me inform all and sundry that I am not afraid of evil men and women.
God being my helper, I have, over 45 years in the struggle for rights and justice survived and overcome many trials and tribulations including imprisonment, torture and economic marginalization
Even if they succeed in killing me, they cannot kill the desire of the Liberian people for freedom justice and accountability.
George Boley, and Prince Johnson including their allies and friends may be rich and powerful, but their wealth stems from the spillage of innocent blood and their respective paths to power are smeared with innocent blood and littered with heaps of corpses.
Compare the attitudes of these rich and powerful men, George Boley and Prince Johnson to that of Joshua Milton Blahyi other wise known as Buck Naked. “Buck Naked” has since continued to display a spirit of humility.
Aside from acknowledging his role in the civil war and admitting to killing innocent people, he has welcomed the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
He has shunned politics and has also expressed remorse for his actions but at the same time called for prosecution of warlords including himself to serve as deterrent to future would be and wannabe warlords.
Warlords Prince Johnson and George Boley on the other hand are boasting of their wicked wartime exploits and shamelessly parading themselves as heroes. They have and continue to rubbish the TRC Report.
Their stance is quite unlike that of the once feared “Buck Naked” whose display of humility starkly contrasts that of the haughtiness of warlords George Boley and Prince Johnson, who have now become rich and powerful men occupying high political offices.
But to such rich and powerful men (Prince Johnson and George Boley) comes a warning from The Book of James Chapter 5 verses 1-3 in the Holy Bible.
“Go now ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and shall eat your flesh as it were fire”.
Slowly but surely, the Biblical prophecy is being revealed. These former warlords and their minions should know that Justice, no matter how long delayed, is sure to come. A reminder of this can also be found in the Holy Bible Chapter 3 Verse 25 of the Book of Colossians.
And it reads: “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Yesterday may have been killing time but, now it is time for accountability. There is a time and season to everything says the Bible.
Right now, both men must be very troubled indeed. Senator, Reverend Prince Johnson is clinging on to what he says is an Act of Legislature passed on August 8, 2003, granting general amnesty to all who participated in the civil war from 1989 to 2003.
But notably, it was during that period, with rebel armies banging at the gates of Monrovia, laying siege to the city. By then the entire government had broken down with government offices including the courts all folded up.
This so-called Act of Legislature was simply a last-minute move by Charles Taylor to absolve himself and thus grant him immunity from prosecution for crimes committed against the Liberian people. In any case, no Act of the Legislature can ever absolve anyone of criminal liability for the commission of war and other egregious crimes.
To my mind, it is desperation that is driving Senator Reverend Prince Johnson to seek reliance on an August 8, 2003, Act of Legislature that was never printed into handbills to give it legal effect.
It was simply because government offices had by then ceased to function owing to the onslaught on Monrovia by rebel forces. But as song writer Jimmy Cliff says, “A drowning man would clutch even at a straw”
In conclusion, let me express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the people of Liberia for being unwavering in their desire for sustainable peace and unrelenting in their quest for justice.
Let me further express the hope that in all this talk about a war and economic crimes court, proper recognition and timely consideration will be given to victims in terms of having them repaired as a first step towards the eventual restoration and repair of broken relations and trust amongst local communities throughout the length and breadth of Liberia.
The Reverend Senator Prince Johnson and his legislative counterpart Dr. George Boley ought to be reminded that the clock is ticking, slowly advancing towards that great day of reckoning when they will find themselves facing JUSTICE as indicted war and economic criminals.
To my mind, both individuals ought to be sitting in jail where they rightly belong. Now it is just a matter of time!