Liberia: PYJ Justifies His Pay for Play Moves with the Govt.; Says He had to Pay Debt Incurred During the Election


MONROVIA – Senator Prince Y. Johnson of vote-rich Nimba County says he sees nothing wrong with entering into an agreement with a winnable presidential candidate in exchange for money and employment of his partisans and kinsmen to ‘lucrative’ government positions.

Senator Johnson, a former warlord and political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) was sanctioned by the United States Department of Treasury for being “complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaging 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.”

By Gerald C. Koinyeneh

The Treasury Department said, as a Senator, Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.

“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 the 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 Department said in the statement.

However, in an interview with James Butty on the Voice of America, Senator Johnson said politics is an interest – and as such, he entered into agreements with political parties to address the financial problems his party faces after a presidential election.  

“Politics is an interest. There was a negotiation. If I support you what do I get in return? It is not a crime if people whom you supported helped you,” he said.

According to him, the election law of Liberia compelled every political party to establish headquarters in all of the 15 counties of Liberia. To set up headquarters and procure logistics for campaign activities requires a huge sum of money. Owing to this, political parties incurred huge debt. To pay back the money borrowed, his party signed agreements with a viable party to take in the runoff, he explained.

The MDR’s political leader spoke after his party severed its ties with the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of President George Weah.

During the presidential run-off election in 2017, Senator Johnson, who contested as a presidential candidate pledged his support to Weah; a move observers believe was pivotal in ensuring Weah’s resounding victory.

But in a statement issued in Monrovia recently, the party announced that the political marriage between the CDC and the people of Nimba has come to an end due to President Weah’s failure to appoint sons and daughters from the county to top positions in government.

During the interview with Butty, Senator Johnson repeated his party’s statement; saying that President Weah and his party have failed to live by the agreement.

“In that communication the President and I signed, we are to get four ministers, four managing directors, three assistant ministers, and three ambassadors. But right now, what we have is one minister post and that is post and Telecommunications that doesn’t have enough budget so the minister cannot employ. It has the least budget,” he said.

“We supported CDC and certain positions were allotted to the MDR and Nimba County, but the hierarchy of the CDC has not met with the hierarchy of the MDR since 2017. All communications have not been possible. The President has given some but those positions are not the ones where you can employ people who suffered,” he added.

He criticized the president for leaving his kinsmen out of government and occupying key positions with people from the southeast.

“All the other ministries and other agencies have people from the southern region including the Supreme Court bench.”