Liberia: CDC, UP Trade Barbs Over Violence at Sen. Johnson Church

Supporters of the National Patriotic Party, a constituent member of the ruling coalition, marching towards Senator Johnson Church in Paynesville on Sunday


The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and its major rival, the opposition Unity Party are trading barbs over yesterday’s violence at Senator Prince  Johnson’s Church in Paynesville. 

The vicious criticisms exchanged, which highlight the tension between the two old rivals, follows a protest action by a group claiming to be partisans of the National Patriotic Party, which is a constituent member of the ruling coalition.

But hours after the incident, the Unity Party accused President George Weah ruling coalition of sponsoring the violence at the Senator’s Christ Chapel of Faith. 

The Unity Party alleged that the  President’s ruling coalition has been uneasy since Boakai announced  Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba County as his running mate. 

“The Unity Party strongly condemns the disruptive and violent incident that took place during a church service at the Christ Chapel of Faith, perpetrated by thugs of the Coalition for Democratic Change,” said the former ruling party, which is now headed by former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai. 

“It is important to note that the church is led by Senator Prince Johnson, a respected religious leader, and prominent political figure who recently distanced himself from the CDC government due to its failure to implement beneficial policies for the people.”

However, the ruling party, while countering its rival claims, denied  orchestrating the violence and accused the Unity Party of engaging in acts of political desperation intended to buy it public sympathy.

The governing coalition added that while the people’s right to assemble is constitutional, it however does not condone violence and at no time  planned or executed the one at the Senator’s Church.

“The group appeared to be exercising these rights in a non-violent manner. Even Senator Johnson, against whom the protest was directed, did not say in his interview with the VOA following the protest that it was violent,” the party said in a statement. 

“For the Unity Party to come to such a conclusion and accuse the CDC is an act of political desperation; so desperate that it now calls the former warlord — who they have long denigrated — ‘a respected religious leader,” it added. “However, the CDC has got much more valuable use of its time right now than validating the cowardice of a lawmaker feigning being a ‘Man of God’ while profiting off the backs of the people he represents.”

The barbs between the two parties, which have dominated the country’s postwar politics, came after Johnson, the political godfather of vote-rich Nimba County had promised to respond to Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor’s verbal “attack on his person.”

Taylor last week branded the Nimba County Senator as a “killer” during an endorsement program for Weah held by some Legislative staffers in the joint chambers of the Capitol Building.

The Nimba County Senator had last week informed Liberians via Facebook to assemble at his church Sunday, where he promised to respond to Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, who during the week branded him a “killer” during an endorsement program for Weah held by Legislative staffers in the joint chambers of the Capitol Building.

Johnson, who is a former warlord and former supporter of the Weah administration, earlier informed members of his congregation that some “hooligans” from the ruling party would disrupt their Sunday service.

The Senator was then forced to change his sermon from the theme, “Dull and Confused Leadership Brings Plague to a Nation,” with text coming from the book of Acts 20:17-35.

According to Johnson, he did so to avoid tension, which did escalate, causing panic among the Senator’s church members and him. 

The National Patriotic Party Vice Chairman for Press and Propaganda said people assembled at the Senator’s church after he had called on Liberians in numbers to listen to his response to the Vice President.

Peter Blidii, the leader of the group said: “In as much as he used his Facebook page to give a hint that he was going to vilify our political leader, we are here too to call for War Crimes Court because we know he’s a murderer. 

“We did not fight war, we fought intellectually and today it’s a historic day. We are here with men and women of the National Patriotic Party. We are here to… let [Senator Johnson] know that the NPP is a radical Political Party.”

But Johnson, addressing a news conference after the incident,  claimed the attack on his church was orchestrated by the Vice President, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee, and Maritime Commission boss, Lenn Eugene Ngabe, saying they want him dead.

“What I heard one of them saying [was that] Jewel Howard-Taylor instructed them, along with Koijee, to come and disrupt the church, fight us, and wound the people. I am the target,” he said.

According to Johnson, he was reportedly warned by a senior member of the Executive Protection Service to beef up personal security as the Weah- led government planned to have him killed.

Johnson meanwhile warned the Weah administration to desist from sending extremists after him as he is prepared to react. 

“I am 70, you think I will die out of trouble? Whoever hunts me will die. I know Jefferson Koijee’s house, I know these people’s houses. If you can hunt me, my people choose to hunt you. It is not a conflict. We don’t want conflict. We beg you, let us exercise our freedom well,” he warned.