“Prosecute both Warlords and War Sponsors”

“Prosecute both Warlords and War Sponsors”: Senator Prince Johnson demands

 Dweh Wilson writes

After the publication of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s communication to the National Legislature requesting the full implementation of recommendations in the final report of the disbanded Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), former warlord and Nimba County Senator, Prince Y. Johnson,  has welcome the idea of establishing a war crimes court to investigate and prosecute, where necessary, those responsible for the egregious crimes committed during the civil war in Liberia, but suggests that said prosecution ‘it must be inclusive’.

It can be recalled that president Sirleaf, on 15 September 2015, wrote the National Legislature through House Speaker Alex Tyler, requesting the establishment of a ‘special tribunal’ that would prosecute Liberia’s war criminals. In her communication, President Sirleaf gave the Legislature the green light to enact law on the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. This means, if the Legislature proceeds, Madam Sirleaf would not hesitate to sign off on such law.

The President has also encouraged the law makers to seek possible judicial review of the 2011 Supreme Court’s ruling which affected the (TRC) recommendations that barred several individuals, including her, from holding public offices for a period of 30 years due to their alleged respective roles in financing and planning the war. She further suggested in her 2015 report that the National Legislature should collaborate with the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) to pursue these processes at the Supreme Court.

President Sirleaf urged Speaker Alex Tyler of the House of Representative to make public her latest progress report on the TRC Recommendations. She recalled her earlier stance that ‘the establishment of an extraordinary criminal court requires joint effort of the Executive and the National Legislature, which has the constitutional mandate to establishing courts as such’.

However, some analysts view President Sirleaf’s recent report as ‘a hypocrisy’. According to them, the President has had ‘an unending quest for political power; hence she violated her 2005 campaign promise of seeking only one presidential term’. They wonder “why didn’t she respect TRC recommendation twelve that forbids her from holding public office”? Others contend that President Sirleaf should have called for the establishment of the court during her first term of office’? It can be recalled that President Sirleaf used the Supreme Court to trash the TRC recommendations that barred her from public office. However, ‘that she is now recommending the establishment of a war crimes court, it is about time that she resign the Presidency to demonstrate her full commitment to the process’, laments a one critical legislator who supports a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

Reacting to President Sirleaf’s latest call for the establishment of a war crimes court for alleged war criminals in Liberia, former INPFL leader, now Senator of Nimba County, Prince Y. Johnson, says he ‘has no problem with the setting up of a crimes court, but it must include those who also financed, planned and abetted the war’. Some political pundits see this demand as an apparent reference to President Sirleaf herself who admitted during TRC hearing that ‘she helped to finance the war, but withdrew her support when warlords misguided the execution of the war’.  The biggest question still remains that has there been any civilized way of fighting civil wars?

Senator Johnson claims that he ‘fought as a freedom fighter to free his people from the brutal rule of the late President Samuel K. Doe’. As such, if anyone wishes to hold him accountable, then ‘all those who participated in the war must be brought to justice’. He admits that he did not have the money to buy the weapons and hire fighters to execute the brutal civil war. Senator Johnson has a valid point here, because had there not being planners and funders of the war, there would not have been the means to train, arm and support the ruthless rebels and child soldiers who were drugged to kill and destroy the social-political and economic fabrics of Liberia. The International Community must therefore ensure that both the planners and executors of the bloody civil war, which killed over a quarter million persons, are brought to justice.

In a related manner, Senator Johnson told his church members during what his supporters term as ‘a social gospel preaching’ that he “will embrace the formation of the court, but demands that the likes of Dr. Amos Sawyer, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,   Dr. H. Boimah Fahnbulleh, Mr. Harry Greaves, and others, who planned and provided funding for the military removal of the late President Doe must be included in the prosecution process”. He says he “foresees danger returning to Liberia if such individuals who aided and abetted the war are not inclusive in the prosecution processes”.

Dr. Sawyer, for his part, has rejected claims that he sponsored the Liberian Civil War. The former Interim President of Liberia claims that he advised his compatriots ‘not to engage late President Doe militarily, but rather through a strong political front that could make him resign’. Whether or not Sawyer’s claim are valid, his support for resignation points to some level of guilt because there was neither a need to launch a war nor push for resignation in 1989 when the country’s Presidential and general elections were slated for 1991.

Similar to President Sirleaf, the founding Treasurer of the Association of Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), Harry Greaves, claims that ‘he had disengaged from Taylor during the early stages of the civil conflict, although he signed communications in April 1990 to solicit funds to overthrow President Samuel Doe’s government through an armed struggle. Mr. Greaves’ claims, just like those of President Sirleaf, beg many questions because whether or not one’s previous support to the civil war was aborted, the deleterious impact of the war requires all those who funded it to answer to the Liberian people through a free, fair and transparent judicial process.

In a communication dated 9 April 1990, and addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Simpson, Mr. Greaves, who headed the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) during the first term of the Ellen-led administration and has since been accused massive corruption, said “As you have probably heard, Liberia is in the midst of a war, a war of liberation spearheaded by our compatriots, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), against the barbarous and tyrannical regime of Master Sargent Samuel Doe, self-proclaimed President of Liberia”.

Greaves boasted of NPFL’s achievements against president Doe’s army, saying “as I write you, the NPFL has captured and is holding a large portion of land stretching from the Ivorian border down as far as Bong County. A few weeks later, they overran a military barracks at Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County that was being used to train new recruits for Doe’s army”.

As a result of such communications, some Liberians in the US have formally complained to the US State Department, the Office of the Global Criminal Justice, et al. demanding that the ACDL and all its leaders and members must also account for the killing of thousands of people in Liberia. In a communication dated 11 October 2014, whose copy is in possession of this paper, the diaspora Liberians further ‘complained about the unlawful and illegal acts of the ACDL members in the execution of the civil war mainly led by Mr. Charles Taylor’. These demands bear some fundamental truths and must not be overlooked by national and international partners because those who aided and abetted the Liberian Civil War have today become the exploiters of state resources at the detriment of the impoverished poor who are still languishing in extreme poverty.

Some political analysts believed that the killing of more than 250,000 Liberians and aliens coupled with the destruction of millions of dollars’ worth of properties as well as the total destruction of the Liberian state is disappointing and unpardonable. As such, they assert that ‘the ACDL purposely violated the public laws of the United States of America by not disclosing its main motives: to collect money in the United States under the guise of a non for profit organization, in order to pursue a violent change of government and commit genocide in Liberia’.

The concerned diaspora Liberians have already filed a law suit against ACDL Executives, including President Sirleaf, at the same court that indicted former NPFL Defense Spokesman, Tom Woewiyu, in June 2014. What remains unknown is the full determination of the suffering masses in Liberia to stand up for the prosecution of those who bear the greatest responsibilities of the civil war, and are largely responsible for the misery and suffering of the majority poor in Liberia.

As this paper further investigates, examines and surveys to what extent the people of Liberia would support the prosecution of warlords turned politicians, and the sponsors of the Liberian civil war, it holds the view that impunity must stop, and that those who funded, abetted and executed the war (sponsors and warlords alike) must be prosecuted. The major challenge is whether those warlords turned legislators will have the guts to enact laws leading to the establishment of a court to prosecute them. Details of our investigation continue…



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *