GANTA, Nimba County – If Nimba’s most well-known son, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, is to be believed, that is one county that will not back the rising call for a conflict crimes courtroom.
Report by Alaskai Moore Johnson, New Narratives Fellow
“My people believe I am a hero while others think I am a devil,” stated Johnson just lately of his help in Nimba. “When they were being killed, I stood for them.” Johnson tops the Fact and Reconciliation Fee Report’s “Most Notorious Perpetrators list” and is extensively expected to be the primary individual to face a struggle crimes courtroom for his position in Charles Taylor’s Nationwide Patriotic Entrance of Liberia and later, as the top of his breakaway the Unbiased National Patriotic Entrance of Liberia.
“Go grab Prince Johnson, you won’t be able to even come close,” Johnson informed his Monrovia congregation just lately. “You won’t even catch me because the resistance you will receive from young guys will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable.” Johnson has vowed to mobilize young men from Nimba to take up arms and be a part of him in the forests to withstand the courtroom.
However on a current visit to the county, FrontPageAfrica discovered Johnson’s confidence to be at odds with opinion on the ground.
“Senator Johnson can’t depend on me,” stated ex-Basic James O. Kabia. Kabia joined Charles Taylor’s NPFL at a very young age. He rose via the ranks to common. Now 40 with greying whiskers and 4 youngsters, he is learning for a Masters degree in Anti-Corruption Studies and runs a small family enterprise. He values the peace of the final 15 years.
“Let me tell you something, Senator Johnson is not even brave to start a single barrel war again… The war is over! We disarmed! We will not allow anyone to use an inch of Nimba County for war again.”
Kabia is one among many outstanding Nimba sons, who’ve brazenly joined the call for the establishing of the courtroom. He fought in most elements of Liberia, including Monrovia and Lofa County, until he and different ex-combatants have been disarmed by the United Nations peacekeepers in late 2003. Kabia claims to know all of Nimba County’s 720 towns, 11 administrative districts, 9 electoral districts, six cities and six statutory districts. He warned younger Nimbaians to not be misled.
“Anyone, who will try anything to disrupt the peace, me, working with the government of Liberia and the international community, will move on that person and arrest him.”
Hassan Bility, a outstanding advocate of a warfare crimes courtroom and one other son of Nimba, stated it was laughable to assume that Johnson or any warlord had entry to a stash of hidden weapons. “Let me tell you, any weapons that have been stored in the ground for 25 years are no longer operable,” he informed a current Okay FM radio panel. Bility believes Johnson doesn’t have the help in Nimba that he claims.
Kabia and Bility have been joined by Nimbaians Spencer Glay and A. Zawolo Gorgboyee, in calling for a conflict crimes courtroom. Glay and Gorgboyee are two civil society activists based mostly in Nimba’s business metropolis of Ganta.
“Nimba wants a war crimes court for Liberia. Today we need it. We want it now!” stated Glay.
Out of loyalty to county and kinsman, all three men stated they supported Johnson in his three elections to symbolize Nimba in the Liberian Senate but when it came to the struggle crimes courtroom, they felt compelled to separate from him.
“The issue of war crimes court is not about an individual. It is about people who perpetrated war crimes during our civil crisis,” Gorgboyee stated. “Justice must prevail. Without justice, someone too will bring war because he or she might go with impunity.”
For Glay, a courtroom is important for future peace. “People committed crimes during the civil war and those people should be made to account for their actions so that
it can serve as deterrent.”
All three males concede they have confronted threats for their position on the courtroom.
“People around here are taking it very personal,” stated Gorgboyee. He blamed Johnson for inciting the threats. “Imagine, he is telling his supporters that when the war crimes court comes, he and his men will rise up against it with single barrel.”
While there isn’t a formal movement in help of a courtroom in Nimba, the three stated their particular person efforts are yielding some fruit. They claimed Nimbaians are opening up to the truth that the courtroom is just not about a specific individual or about stopping improvement or about arresting everyone who held a gun in the course of the 15-years of civil struggle.
Also becoming a member of the group is Larry Younquoi, a Nimba lawmaker who represents District eight within the Legislature. He spoke lately of Senator Johnson’s “diminishing influence” within the county and stated due to this, Johnson has resorted to threatening supporters of the courtroom.
“Prince Johnson should stop fooling himself,” Younquoi advised the FrontPageAfrica. Based on him, it was “blasphemy” on the part of Johnson to carry himself as the “godfather or savior” of the county.
Rep. Younquoi was frank about the place he needs Johnson to spend his last days. “I think the best place he belongs is where Charles Taylor is. He should go to jail.”
One other lawmaker from Nimba, Rep. Samuel Kogar, was more cautious however did question Johnson’s actions. “Why is the Senator running all around the place and crying? Maybe he has smelled the rat,” stated Kogar.
Kogar further stated that given Liberia’s status as a signatory to international conventions that decision for post-war justice, it should abide by that obligation. “If the court would have issues with Senator Johnson, he should be willing to appear and face it and stop making noise all around the place,” Kogar stated.
However not all of Nimba’s leaders are lining up towards Johnson. Thomas Grupee, Nimba’s other senator, stated he would help all the TRC’s suggestions being carried out including the one which barred individuals similar to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from workplace.
“But if there is a political witch hunt to say that one person out of the 250 should be subjected to a war crimes court, leaving out all others, then of course we will speak out.”
Grupee inspired Nimbaians to remain united and forge forward in creating their county.
It was not straightforward to seek out robust supporters of Johnson amongst Nimba’s management. Front Web page reached out to Nimba County Superintendent Dorr Cooper but he stated he wasn’t prepared to speak on it.
Senator Johnson, now in his late 50s, father of 12 youngsters, is a son of a bush hunter in Nimba County. He first resorted to arms as a member of the failed 1985 Basic Thomas Quiwonkpa invasion, which was meant to topple the Doe regime. Quiwonkpa, a son of Nimba, was arrested and butchered when the uprising failed. Johnson fled into exile.
This infuriated President Doe, who sent members of the army to Nimba. Nimbaians, together with ladies and youngsters, have been slaughtered and that massacre is understood right now because the “Nimba Raid.”
Johnson and Taylor launched Liberia’s civil struggle on December 24, 1989 and crossed over into Nimba, by way of Butuo on the border with Côte d’Ivoire. Johnson splintered from Taylor soon after and shaped his own rebel group, the INPFL. When, in 1990, Johnson captured, tortured and killed Doe, Nimbaians, remembering the Nimba Raid, hailed him as a hero and savior.
In accordance with Liberia’s Fact and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the INPFL could be held liable for two % of the whole violations —2,588 —tallied in its ultimate report.
Although this figure is low in contrast with Taylor’s NPFL with 41 % (63,843 violations), INPFL leader Prince Yormie Johnson is documented as having the very best variety of violations ever recorded for individual perpetrators throughout the whole civil conflict, which lasted 15 years. Johnson earned this report in comparatively brief spell (1990 to 1993) in the civil conflict.
In addition to killing Doe, the TRC documented other crimes committed by Johnson’s INPFL: “Two trucks filled with native Krahns and Mandingoes were captured from ECOMOG by the INPFL and apparently killed since they were never accounted for,” the report reads.
Among Senator Johnson’s violations, in accordance with the TRC, are killing, extortion, massacre, destruction of properties, pressure recruitment, and so on.
Many international and native rights teams have referred to as for the establishment of a warfare and financial crimes courtroom. However the current Liberian authorities underneath President George Manneh Weah is displaying little or little interest in this call, which can also be backed by some in the US Congress. The UN Human Rights Council gave Liberia till July 2020 to implement some acceptable type of justice or it’ll face growing international strain together with potential sanctions.
As the drumbeat for a courtroom continues and strain on Prince Johnson grows, Nimbaians may be pressured to decide on to struggle with their Senator or handy him over to face justice.
This story was a collaboration with the New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Venture.
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