Opposition Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius has been pondering if his colleague, Nimba County Senator and former rebel leader Prince Y. Johnson is being hunted by ghosts, while responding to the latter’s outburst against the campaign for the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia.
“But every time we attempt to discuss it, they say oh they’re targeting me. That ghosts hunting him or what?” Mr. Dillon asked during a live talk show on Truth FM in Paynesville Monday, 17 May 2021.
Dillon said his campaign for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia is not on the basis of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report as claimed by Senator Johnson, but he is concerned about the system and infrastructure being put into place to have the court established.
Mr. Dillon insisted Monday that “the mechanism toward developing and establishing a war crimes court must be discussed” here, while responding to recent outbursts by Senator Johnson, Liberia’s long time feared rebel leader who often gets furious at those seeking the establishment of the court.
During the show Dillon noted that his call is that all those – known or unknown – that were part of the civil conflict that brought Liberia to where it is today face the court.
Last week Mr. Dillon’s call for the need to establish a war and economic crimes court in Liberia during a Senate hearing seeking accountability from the Executive over the use of US$25m intended for coronavirus stimulus package here. His comment angered the Nimba County Senator Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson, has declared that he is not afraid of the establishment of a war crimes court here, but walked out of session last week in protest against Dillon’s campaign which he deemed was provocation.
Johnson said he is strongly opposed to bringing such a court on the basis of a fraudulent TRC report, but Dillon argued that he is not basing his campaign on TRC report.
“I want Senator Dillon and Mr. Mo Ali who spoke on Truth FM yesterday concerning this same thing, even to the extent of mentioning me … I want them to know that Senator Johnson is a revolutionary and not afraid of war crimes court,” Mr. Johnson said last week.
Johnson admitted that he fought, but he said if anyone has any charge against him, he should be sued before Liberia’s criminal courts ahead of the establishment of a war crimes court here. During Liberia’s civil conflict, Mr. Johnson headed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), a breakaway warring faction of imprisoned former President Charles Ghankay Taylor’s rebel force National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
Under Johnson’s watch, Liberia’s then sitting president Samuel Kanyon Doe was brutally killed, and on the overall the war also resulted to the deaths of over 250,000 victims, destroyed infrastructures worth millions of dollars and significantly broke down almost every system here. Since the war ended, there have been calls for the establishment of a war crimes court, though others, like Senator Johnson, are strongly against this for their own reasons.
Mr. Johnson, the former INPFL leader said if bringing a war crimes court to Liberia will be on the basis of the TRC report, then he will oppose to it. “Because the TRC is full of irregularities, fraud, that brought division among the ranks and files of the components of the TRC Commission,” Johnson claimed.
He argued that while the victims of war crimes deserve justice, the perpetrators also demand justice because accusations brought against the accused must be proven beyond all reasonable doubts.
He claimed that there was a division among the TRC commissioners based on several factors, saying one of those factors had the erstwhile TRC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Verdier flee for his life. According to Johnson, Verdier fled because of the alleged documentary exposure of secret deeds, explaining that a document which Cllr. Verdier had put aside was eventually leaked to lawmakers.
He said the leaked document had to with the outcome of a referendum conducted by the TRC in Liberia’s 15 counties and in the diaspora which allegedly showed that 85 percent of the Liberians said no to retributive justice while 15 percent Liberians said they wanted war crimes court. “That document which he put aside leaked to us when the commissioners [who] differed [with] him broke away from the main body,” Sen. Johnson alleged.
He named the breakaway TRC Commissioners as Cllr. Pearl Brown – Bull, the late Sheikh KafumbaKanneh, Rev. Dr. Jerry Coleman and Verdier’s Co – chair, saying they were against Cllr. Verdier, John Stelwart, and Massah Washington.
Johnson noted that when the TRC was commissioned, it was funded with taxpayers’ money and the international community contributed immensely to enable the entity to conduct a national and international referendum to all countries where Liberians reside to find out from them whether they wanted war crimes court or not.
He said the commissioners did not include the 103 lawmakers when they decided to do the referendum on grounds that many of the lawmakers took part in the war and so they were not needed. At the end of the TRC’s work, Johnson alleged that outcome of the referendum was absent from the commission’s voluminous report.
“The question is, where is the result of that referendum? It should be included in the voluminous report because that is the position of the Liberian people!” Johnson said.
He noted that the breakaway faction of the TRC commissioners wrote their dissent to the Liberian Legislature and attached the reports of the referendum allegedly showing that 85 percent of Liberians said no to retributive justice while 15 percent Liberians said they wanted war crimes court.
The Nimba lawmaker lamented that because Liberians spoke their minds and positions, Verdier allegedly removed the referendum’s result from the voluminous TRC report and kept it in a special cover.
He said before the division could come among the TRC commissioners, those who were opposed to Verdier’s decision allegedly extracted the report of the referendum and leaked it out. Johnson insisted that he is not afraid of the war crimes court, but noted that when it is being brought here on the basis of the TRC, then it has fraud.
In an attempt to justify his acts as a rebel leader, Johnson recalled that the government [of President Doe] had declared Nimba an enemy of the state and had deployed deadly weapons against the county. As such, Johnson said Nimbaians had to fight in self-defense. Now that the war is over, he suggested that Liberians should rebuild, reconcile and move forward with their lives.
He said if war crimes court should be brought here, the way to go about it “is not to tease one person,” adding that a communication could simply be brought forward for debate on the Senate floor by those seeking war crimes court for its passage into law.
“But you cannot be teasing me, provoking me, and you who [are] provoking me, you were with … [former President Charles Ghankay] Taylor in Gbarnga and Buchanan. And Senator … NyonbleeKarnga – Lawrence was with Cyril Allen, they all were there those days fighting with berretta,” he alleged.
Johnson recalled that when he entered the Senate chambers last week, he sat and listened to every speaker when the US$25m intended for coronavirus stimulus package was being discussed.
According to him, when Senator Dillon got up to speak, the Montserrado Senator called for establishment of a war crimes court while looking directly at him (Senator Johnson). Johnson sees this as a provocation.