It is now left to Liberians to decide as to whether the long-awaited war crimes court is established or not, as the strongest opponent against the court’s establishment, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson (PYJ), said he is now open to impartial investigation.
Johnson has on previous occasions branded reports of setting up a war crimes court in the country as a “fiasco,” maintaining that he was a free man and will remain so until the end of his life.
Sen. Johnson made the u-turn on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, on Prime FM 105.5 in Monrovia, and said he is not afraid of any tribunal intended to try perpetrators of the country’s brutal civil war as well as atrocities committed against over 250,000 innocent people who were killed during the civil wars of 1989 to 2003.
He has earlier called for the inclusion of the war “financiers,” naming former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as one of them and an unnamed former official of the United States Embassy in Monrovia as one of the collaborators that supplied his breakaway rebel faction, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) with military hardware, etc.
Sen. Johnson’s appearance on Prime FM came barely 24 hours following his war of words with fellow senator Sando Daozoe Johnson of Bomi County, when the latter took the Senate’s floor to announce that during his constituency break, he spoke with his people in Bomi County, and they expressed displeasure about not only bad governance but also the government’s alleged reneging on creating an avenue for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in the country.
One political pundit told the Daily Observer on Wednesday that Sen. Johnson mustered the courage to face war crimes, because of recent developments in which the International Criminal Court lost its case against former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo for lack of evidence.
Johnson said when former warlord Charles Ghankay Taylor became president, an amnesty was enacted preventing all perpetrators of war crimes and their accomplices from being prosecuted due to “the ignorance of the devastating nature of the war.”
While in session on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, and as a Legislative practice by the Senate, Sen. Sando Johnson was given three minutes to say verbally his experience with his people while on his constituency break; but in a very short moment, a war of words ensued in the Senate chamber when his colleague, Senator PYJ, intruded by questioning Sen. Sando Johnson’s moral ground to talk about the establishment of a war crimes court in the country.
“My persistent comments on the missing L$16 billion are not intended to accuse anyone directly, but we cannot account for not only the L$16 billion, but also the US$25 million [which] government said was used to carry out a mop-up process in an effort to reduce the skyrocketing exchange rate between the two currencies,” Johnson said.
His statement followed the question of accountability, which did not go unnoticed, as PYJ said he (Sando Johnson) should keep quiet when it comes to talking about justice and accountability, because his former boss, President Charles Taylor, had the Central Bank of Liberia at his home rather than anywhere else and that he (Sando Johnson) was a beneficiary of corrupt monies over the years.
In response, Sen. Sando Johnson questioned Sen. PYJ about the billions of J.J. Roberts banknotes he (PYJ) reportedly looted from the National Bank of Liberia (NBL) now Central Bank of Liberia during the war.
He said PYJ looted containers of J.J. Roberts banknotes and transported them through the Bushrod Island to his INPFL base in Caldwell.
According to Sando Johnson, PYJ’s alleged looting of J.J.Roberts banknotes from the bank put him at loggerheads with former National Transitional Chairman, Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, who took the currency out of circulation and replaced it.
“How do we convince our people that no one is responsible for the missing L$16 billion and the US$25 million when lots of government officials, mainly from the Executive branch, are building fabulous homes? This is hard because they think that it is the country’s money the president and his associates are using to build their mansions,” he said.
Sen. Sando Johnson said Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year jail sentence, which should be a good lesson, and that Liberians should ensure that a similar action is taken against every other perpetrator war crimes committed against the Liberian people and other nationals who fell victim to the civil wars of the 1990s and early 2000s.
“Today, Mr. Taylor is in jail serving his term, and we believe that justice is not meant for one person; all those that were involved in committing heinous crimes in our country must face the same thing,” Sando said as the other members of the Senate cheered.
The exchange of tough words between the two senators reminded other senators present of the common saying that, “If you are in a glass house, do not throw stones, and if you can’t take a blow, do not throw blow.”
The two senators were among a host of other top men who began the Liberian Civil War of the 1990s, along with Charles Taylor, on December 24, 1989, in Buutuo, Nimba County. Four months later, PYJ broke away to form the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).
The INPFL reached Monrovia, their destination, in less than six months and subsequently established a stronghold in Caldwell. The INPFL’s guerrilla operations came under the command of PYJ, who later killed President Samuel Kanyon Doe.
As the row between the Bomi and Nimba counties’ senators continued, Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie immediately called for the adjournment of the session, which signaled the Senate’s first sitting after its annual break.