What began as a teaser on Tuesday, exploded into a serious argument, prompting the Senate to abruptly call off its session, as tension mounted between Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Senator Sando Johnson, no relations, over the establishment of a war crimes and economic crimes court here.
It all began when Sen. Johnson of Bomi County repeatedly insisted on the establishment of a war crimes court here to prosecute war criminals. There was no such discussion on the floor of the Senate on such a topic, but his apparent intention was to get at Sen. Prince Johnson of Nimba, a former warlord.
The Bomi Senator who is a closed ally of jailed ex-president Taylor was lamenting that those who committed war crimes here are freed and are passing around while their friends, including former President Taylor, are behind bars for the same crimes that they should all be punished for.
Funny enough, each time Sen. Sando Johnson wanted to express his support for the war crimes court, he would move in the direction of Sen. Johnson of Nimba apparently to claim his attention.
Without necessarily mentioning Sen. Prince Johnson’s name, Sen. Sando Johnson would speak out loudly that War Crimes Court would come here so that war criminals can be held to account for their actions too.
“Today Mr. Taylor is in jail. He was charged and sent to jail to serve his term and if we believe that justice was not meant for one person, all those who were involved in commiting crimes in our country must face the same thing as Taylor is facing,” Sen. Sando Johnson laments.
The Bomi County Senator may have succeeded in getting under the sleeves of Sen. Prince Johnson, as the latter angrily reminded Sando Johnson how former President Taylor allegedly operated the Central Bank of Liberia from Taylor’s house during his regime, a statement he made apparently to infer that Taylor was also guilty for economic crimes as well.
Sen. Johnson’s response to the operation of the CBL at the home of jailed ex-president Taylor was also in response to Sando Johnson’s concern that nobody has been accused for being responsible for Liberia’s alleged missing 16 billion local currency, while public officials are building fabulous homes here amidst reports of the missing money.
The Bomi County Senator believes that there will be speculations that it is the people’s money that is being used by these officials even if they were using their own money.
“These officials who are building those fabulous homes should have waited; they said 15 billion lost and 25 million missing and they are building all these homes. We will always respect our leaders but things are wrong, we will say it,” he continues. “Let us all put away partisanship and the friendship, tribal connection and stand firm for the Liberian people,” Sen. Sando Johnson told his colleagues in the Senate.
But Prince Johnson who could no longer stand his rants insisted that Sando Johnson shouldn’t be talking about the $15 billion because during former President Taylor’s regime, the Central Bank was in President Taylor’s house.
Prince Johnson reminded Sando Johnson further that during the Taylor regime, there was no accountability and the former president used the people’s money at his will.
“When Taylor was president, was the Central Bank in his house or where”? Prince Johnson queried. But Sando Johnson made a return in the debate, this time accusing Sen. Prince Johnson of allegedly looting a whole bank and failing to account for the money.
This is another allegation that has been levelled against Prince Johnson that when he captured Monrovia in the early 90s he looted the CBL.
“What did you do with the money you looted from the bank? This man looted a whole bank. What did you do with [it]? What did you do with the people money you carried to the INPFL base when you looted the people money,” Sando Johnson queried Prince Johnson.
Sen. Prince Johnson led a breakaway faction of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which he named the Independent National Patriotic Front Liberia (INPFL) in the 90s when Liberia bled in a brutal decade – long civil conflict.
Under Prince Johnson’s watch, sitting Liberian President Samuel Kanyon Doe was gruesomely tortured before being killed by rebel fighters during the civil war.The estimates are that over 250,000 people were killed during the civil war, millions others displaced and properties worth millions of dollars destroyed.
Some ex-fighters here have said they want to account for their actions, including Joshua Milton Blahyi known by his rebel name General Butt Naked, but Sen. Prince Johnson is vehemently opposed to anything that has to do with the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.
Prince Johnson’s support to President George Manneh Weah’s 2017 president bid may be working out for him today in terms of ignoring the War Crimes Court because the regime itself does not support calls to establish the court.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley