By Leroy M. Sonpon
Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson has sternly reacted to the United States Embassy’s assertions concerning his alleged gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil war, arguing that he is still “assumed innocent” until the outcome of a trial in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Earlier, Senator Johnson has disclosed that if “Big Brother” United States comes out to express disdain over his election as Chairman on Defense and Intelligence Committee, he is ready to give up the post because he wants his Liberia to progress.”
“I love my country and want the security to get support so the country can move forward. If our big brother can say they do not want me, I can resign and will still be Senator of Nimba. My people elected me, I was not appointed,” Senator Johnson said.
But a day later, Senator Johnson, the newly elected Chairman on the Senate’s Statutory Committee on National Defense and Intelligence, has downplayed the US Embassy statement against his election.
According to the Senator, US Embassy is entitled to its “opinion” and that does not concern him and just a bluff. Senator Johnson, further disclosed that he is baffled why the Embassy is issuing its opinion against him after contesting four elections, both presidential and legislative elections, and successfully won two as Senator of Nimba County.
“Our law says if accused, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty through the court of law. So as a country of law, I am still assumed innocent,” Sen. Johnson argued.
In an interview with journalists via mobile phone, a furious Senator Johnson said he had served as chairman on the Senate’s Committee on National Defense, Intelligence Veteran Affairs and Security for six years, and when he was overwhelmingly elected as the third Deputy Speaker at the ECOWAS Parliament, he relinquished his post and served the West African region for four years.
On his return from the ECOWAS Speakership position, he said he was appointed as Acting Chairman on National Defense and Intelligence, and no one commented.
“And what is the problem now, I can’t understand,” Sen. Johnson wondered.
He indicated that he has been working in a close relationship with the US Embassy while serving the same capacity previously, for which the Embassy is now rejecting and demeaning him. However, he insists that on a legal basis that he is still “presumed innocent.”
Senator Prince Yormie Johnson is a military man with vast experience, having served with the Armed Forces of Liberia before becoming a warlord during Liberia’s civil war. His warring faction, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), captured Samuel Doe on September 9, 1990, a military achievement for which his Nimba people respect him so highly.
Perhaps based on his experience, the Senate leadership deemed it expedient to repeatedly award him with the Chairmanship on the Committee of Defense and Intelligence, which the U.S Embassy has now emphatically rejected, citing the Liberian Senate’s apparent resolve not to show interest in accountability.
On Wednesday, May 19, 2021, the United States government, through its Embassy near Monrovia, questioned the seriousness of the Liberian Senate after electing Senator Prince Y. Johnson as Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.
In a statement, the Embassy said “That the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate him (Senator Johnson) 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.”
It added “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.
Senator Johnson was elected to the post on April 18, 2021 on white ballot.
The Embassy further that “While the U.S. government is proud of its longstanding partnership with the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia, which will continue — we can have no relationship with Senator Johnson.”
The United States also raised concern over Cllr. Varney Sherman who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery, remaining as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims, and Petitions.
The US Embassy’s statement on Senator Johnson, comes on the heels of a war of words the Nimba County Senator recently had with Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon over the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to promote transparency and accountability in Liberia.
Senator Johnson, in a stern reaction to Dillon’s pronouncement calling for a war and economic crimes court, rained insults on his colleague and promised that if he continues, they both will disrupt session the next time Dillon talks about the court with the attempt to scorn him (Johnson).
Dillon, on the other hand, has vowed to raise the issue of war and economic crimes court every time they are in session, stating, “I think Prince Johnson will be running away from session every day we meet because I will always raise the issue of war and economic crimes court.”