What Is Next for Nimba in the Justice Debate?

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Nimba County was the “launch pad” of Charles Taylor’s National Parotitic Front of Liberia (NPFL) – marching across the border from Côte d’Ivoire to Butuo on December 24th, 1989 and initiating the rebellion insurgence that started the First Liberian Civil War.

For a long time, the general perception has been that the majority of the people of Nimba resist the prospect of a war crimes court in Liberia.

It has been rumored that discussions around justice and accountability have been discouraged in Nimba. Most recently, Flomo Theater tried to perform their theater show in Ganta and were met with so much resistance that there could be no performance.

“When we arrived in Ganta City, we received a different message than other towns” said Alex Swaray, executive director of Flomo Theater.

In Nimba, many people still fear the worst, “the war crimes court will start conflict between the communities,” said the Mayor of Ganta.

For many years, debates on criminal accountability in Nimba has been polarized, and most Liberians believe it is the result of unwavering support for Nimba County’s Senator, Prince Yormie Johnson.

“The war started here because we were mistreated by Doe, and someone came to our rescue. If there is a war crimes court… everybody will be carried away” said an officer at the Mayor’s office.

It is widely known that Prince Yormie Johnson was the leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) after splitting from Taylor’s NPFL in early stages of the war. Today, Prince Johnson is currently the Senior Senator for Nimba County.

Prince Johnson has repeatedly stated that there is no need for a war crimes court in the past.

But defying this perceived norm, there has been a general movement in Nimba where people are speaking out in favor of justice. In January 2019, FrontPageAfrica published an article outlining the supporters of a war crimes court and found that Prince Johnson’s comments might be at odds with the opinions of Nimbaians on the ground.

Only a few days after Flomo was turned away from their performance in Ganta, Prince Johnson has now changed his mind. Prince Johnson is now “not afraid” of a war crimes court in Liberia while speaking on Prime FM 105.5 in Monrovia last Wednesday.

What will this mean for the people of Nimba? Will justice and accountability be openly discussed in the streets in Ganta?

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