Gouging out “old wounds”?
What initially appeared to be a routine procedure, in which a member of the senate is allotted three minutes to give verbal report to his colleagues upon return from annual break, quickly evolved into the gouging of “old wounds” between two senators with the same last name: Sando Dazoe Johnson of Bomi County and Prince Yormie Johnson of Nimba County.
The brief but vehement verbal exchange ensued on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, when Sando Johnson took the Senate floor to briefly inform his colleagues on his activities in his county during the First Sitting of the First Session, but mentioned persistent questions and concerns about the missing L$16 billion.
Sen. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Concession, further clarified that his persistent comments on the missing billions is not intended to accuse anyone directly; “but L$16 billion is missing, we cannot also account for US$25 million and, in the midst of that, when government officials get involved in building fabulous homes, the speculation will be that it is the people’s money that they are using.”
He added, “So some of us flagged this issue during our vacation; we always respect our leaders, but when things are wrong, we will say it. As we have come back, the Liberian people are watching us; I want us to put aside the partisanship, friendship, county and tribal connections and remain firm to avoid integrity war; if we do that, they will respect us.”
Senator Sando Johnson disclosed how, when he was on annual break, he worked with civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure that the issue of war and economic crimes are established in Liberia.
“Today, Mr. Taylor (Charles Taylor) is in jail serving his term, and we believe that justice is not meant for one person; all those that were involved in creating heinous crimes in the country must face the same thing,” Sando said amid laughter and cheers from the audience.
It was at this juncture that Senator PYJ interjected with a question for the Bomi Senator: “You are talking about L$16 billion; during the time of President Taylor, where was the Central Bank of Liberia? Was it in the bank or at Taylor’s house?”
In response, Senator Sando Johnson asked the Senator PYJ: “What did Senator [Prince] Johnson do with the container of money he looted from the bank and took to the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) base in Caldwell, outside Monrovia, to his looted home? What did you do with the J.J. [Roberts] banknotes you looted from the Freeport of Monrovia and that put you at loggerheads with then Interim President Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, for which the two of you have remained divided?”
Sando Johnson’s statement reminded most of the Senators and spectators of the reggae music: “If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones; and if can’t take blow, don’t throw blow.”
Senator Sando Johnson, a long time affiliate of ex-President Charles G. Taylor, also served at one point as spokesperson for the Taylor family while the ex-President was standing trial in the Hague. Both Johnson (Bomi) and Johnson (Nimba) served with Charles Taylor in the early days of Taylor’s NPFL insurgency on the regime of then President Samuel Kanyon Doe in 1989. About four months into the revolution, Prince Johnson and Charles Taylor parted ways due to “policy differences.”
Both Johnsons (no relation to each other), being former ranking officials of warring factions, eventually got elected as senators for their respective counties.
Senator Prince Johnson, however, has been very vocal against calls for a war crimes court in Liberia, even as several individuals and groups have made calls for him to face the court, once established. No doubt, the subject of establishment of war crimes court is known to be a disturbing one for the Nimba Senator. Regardless, he still enjoys the unflinching confidence of the people of Nimba County.
Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie, who sensed the emerging chaotic exchanges in session, announced a motion to adjourn until Thursday, January 31, 2019.