Methodist Monitor Backs US Stance On Senator Johnson

The United Methodist Human Rights Monitor (UMHRM) has offered its support towards the United States government’s recent condemnation of Senator Prince Johnson’s election as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence and National Security.

According to the Program Director of UMHRM, Jefferson Knight, those who committed atrocity and crimes against humanity should not be allowed to hold public offices in Liberia.

He went on to say that it is about that all former warlords occupying public offices be made to  resign and face justice for their actions during the civil war in Liberia.

He noted that Liberians who elected former warlords showed no regard to the international community, which did everything possibly to ensure that peace was restored in the country.

Director Knight stressed that the statement of the US government is a step in the right direction to restore the dignity of Liberia.

He indicated that  warlords who are serving key positions at the Legislature are showing disrespect to humanity.

He lamented that the Liberian government should begin to put measures in place to prevent former warlords and generals from contesting for public offices.

Director Knight emphasized that their presence in key positions in government is undermining the fight against corruption and impunity within the Liberian society.

It can be recalled that the United States government condemned in a strongly worded statement the nomination of Senator Johnson, a once notorious former Liberian, warlord Prince Johnson to a sensitive Senate position and said it would not have any relationship with him in his new job.

Johnson was a brutal figure in Liberia’s first civil war from 1989-1997.

The 68-year-old Senator sent shockwaves around the world after a video showed him calmly sipping beer while looking on as his men tortured former president Samuel Doe to death in 1990.

Johnson was the head of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) during the civil war, which fought both rival warlord Charles Taylor’s forces and those of President Doe.

In addition to Doe, he is accused of killing hundreds of Liberians including popular musicians and members of Doe’s ethnic group.

“Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well-documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are also well known,” the US government said in a statement.

“That the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate him to a leadership role – particularly in the area in which he has done this country the most harm – creates doubts as to the seriousness of the Senate as a steward of Liberia’s defense and security.”

The US, a traditional ally of Liberia, founded by freed American slaves said its “longstanding partnership with the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia… will continue – but we can have no relationship with Senator Johnson.”

Liberia’s two civil wars, from 1989 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2003, were characterized by a litany of abuses attributed to all sides including massacres of civilians, torture, rape and drafting of child soldiers.

Some 250,000 people were killed and the country, one of the poorest in the world, was brought to its knees before being ravaged by an Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to help turn the page but their recommendations, including the establishment of a War Crimes Court, have yet to be implemented.

The Liberian Legislature has received several petitions from local rights groups for the establishment of a War Crime Tribunal to no avail.

Two weeks ago, Senator Darius Dillon referring to the petitions asked his colleagues to debate the idea on the floor sparking a buzz over the idea on social media and angering Johnson.

“Let them bring the war crime court so we all can go and explain. I was defending my people who were being killed by Samuel Doe’s soldiers,” Senator Johnson angrily said in response.

Johnson is on a list of eight warlords that the TRC recommended to be judged by a special court in 2009.

 

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