Liberia: PYJ Slams Boakai’s War Crimes Court Stance

Sen. Prince Johnson

— “You come after us, thousands will defend us”

Senator Prince Y. Johnson expressed his strong disagreement with President Joseph Nyumah Boakai over the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia. Johnson, a Senator for Nimba County, has consistently opposed the idea since the administrations of former presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah, arguing that peace has been restored and the focus should be on national development.

During his inaugural address, Boakai mentioned his commitment to the war crimes court, which did not sit well with Johnson, alias PYJ. He claimed that Boakai suffered from heat exhaustion during the speech, causing him to faint, because of the mention of a war and economic crimes court. He blames the authors of the President's inaugural address for including the idea and argues that the country should focus on celebrating peace and prioritizing development instead.

PYJ, who played a significant role in Boakai's campaign and has a stake in the government, as his Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) occupies the Vice Presidency of the administration, voiced his concerns during a sermon at his Christ Chapel of Faith Church in Paynesville.

Johnson emphasized the need for job creation, improvements in the education system, and sufficient food supply for the people. According to him, ministries such as Transport, agriculture, and health need urgent attention, with a focus on providing resources and improving services.

Johnson’s sermon, titled “I Refuse to be Defeated”, invoked biblical references to highlight his belief in overcoming challenges. He also expressed the importance of auditing the previous government and investigating the deaths of auditors and others within the fiscal system who possessed damaging information about the previous administration.

While Johnson cautioned against dwelling on the past and bringing it into the present, he asserted that those who laid down their weapons after the Civil War made a great and patriotic decision. He argued that the amnesty granted after the war should nullify the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) regarding the prosecution of individuals for war crimes.

In a contentious warning, Johnson declared that if Boakai were to proceed with establishing the war crimes court and targeting him, thousands of his supporters would rise in his defense.

He even suggested that Boakai’s mention of the establishment of the war crimes court in his inaugural address may have contributed to the heat wave that almost caused him to faint while delivering his inaugural address. 

Senator Johnson meanwhile emphasized the need for job creation, education reform, and food security, asserting that these issues should take precedence over the pursuit of a war crimes court. Johnson further called on Boakai’s administration to conduct an audit of the previous government, led by President Weah, to assess the state of the country's resources and finances.

He also urged investigations into the mysterious deaths of auditors and others involved in the fiscal system, suggesting that they possessed valuable information that could tarnish the Weah-led government.

However, Johnson cautioned against dwelling on the past and bringing the atrocities of the civil war into the present. He argued that Liberians must focus on building a better future rather than being consumed by past grievances. Johnson defended his religious activities, rejecting claims that he and Joshua Blayee (formerly known by his wartime moniker, “General Butt Naked”), both of them now preachers of the Gospel, are simply attempting to atone for their past crimes.

Regarding PYJ’s contentious warning against the establishment of a war crimes court and “targeting him,” and thousands of his supporters would come to his defense, it remains to be seen how President Boakai will respond to these criticisms and what decisions he will make regarding the war and economic crimes court.