Thursday, November 18, 2010

BACK ON BASE: Prince Johnson Hailed in Return to Once-Feared Caldwell


CALDWELL RETURN: Eighteen years later, the residents of the Settlement gathered in their mass not necessarily to see one of Liberia’s next year’s presidential candidates, but to mainly catch a glimpse of the man who they only probably last saw in his rebel-form.
 Source: FrontPage Africa

- Nat Nyuan Bayjay

Monrovia -


Probably, he is not at all the kind of ‘devil’ that many might take him for. At least, this is not what most people in Caldwell think of the man who made their settlement feared during the early stages of the civil war in the early 1990’s.

Johnson works the phones at rally in Caldwell Thursday.

Prince Johnson, alias PYJ, now the Senior Senator of Nimba County, for the first time Thursday visited Caldwell since he escaped the settlement that he had made his rebel base in the face of a desperate-Charles Taylor’s ‘Operation Octopus’ in 1992.

Eighteen years later, the residents of the Settlement gathered in their mass not necessarily to see one of Liberia’s next year’s presidential candidates, but to mainly catch a glimpse of the man who they only probably last saw in his rebel-form.

For those aged above 30, to say the least, sought to see PYJ’s current form obviously with many things running through their minds: ‘Will he return with his silver pistol?’ ‘Has he really changed?’ ‘Is he still the militant-disciplinarian he was?’ and probably the biggest question: ‘Is he still feared?’

For those aged below 20 or in their early 20’s, they were particularly eager to see the man about whom their parents and others may have told them so much about as they were either not yet born or too small to remember that PYJ was in control of the ‘Caldwell Base’.

Caldwell, located across the Stockton Creek across the Bushrod Island from the commercial Dualu District, is one of the original settlements that comprised the Commonwealth of Liberia in the 1839 Constitution as drafted by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization equated to being the United States’ colonization arm that established what now Liberia is.

Leader of the defunct breakaway warring faction of Taylor’s rebel group, Johnson used the Settlement of Caldwell as a base for two years as he continued the rebellion against former President Samuel Kanyon Doe-a cause he subsequently succeeded in doing as he captured and ended Doe’s realm in September of 1990.

Throughout his control of the Settlement as well as the Bushrod Island from 1990 to 1992, Johnson’s Caldwell Base was greatly feared and sometimes referred to as the ‘Place of No Return’.

Daniel Smith



"I personally saw him quartered (flogged with 25 lashes) a general before me for maltreating a civilian. It was hard but he used to make sure to provide ways for us the civilians to get food.”

Daniel Smith

However, perceptions over his control of Caldwell had two sides: others, particularly his warring rivals and those perceived as such on one hand labeled it as ‘notorious’ while mainly residents of both Caldwell and the Bushrod Island on the other hand dubbed it as ‘a safe haven’.

‘Civilian Hero’

Daniel Smith, resident of the settlement since 1986, referred to Johnson as the civilian hero: “During the time he was here, he was the hero for us the civilians. PYJ only dealt with his soldiers who used to harass us the civilians. I personally saw him quartered (flogged with 25 lashes) a general before me for maltreating a civilian. It was hard but he used to make sure to provide ways for us the civilians to get food.”

A jubilating Alice Zayzay who was just 14 years when Johnson and his forces took over the Settlement told FrontPage that she remembers him in her daily prayers: “I pray every day for him. God came first, Prince Johnson second. If they always talk about rebel leader, PYJ was different because it was not for this man during the war time, most of us were going to die. They say he was bad but only his soldiers he used to deal with”.

Janet Capehart, aged 32 added her voice: “When they arrested my pa and took him to kill him on the base, he told them to leave him and said that the man was his doctor”

PRAYERS FOR PYJ

Alice Zayzay
Alice Zayzay who was just 14 years when Johnson and his forces took over the Settlement told FrontPage that she remembers him in her daily prayers: “I pray every day for him. God came first, Prince Johnson second."

Johnson’s exit of the base is well remembered by Smith who said, “I remember that day when he was leaving during the ‘Octopus’. He stopped right here on that road when the late Ellen Breeze asked him why he was leaving. He only told her ‘I am leaving because I don’t want to join Taylor to fight any more war’.”

Sights of PYJ’s former Caldwell Base still reflect the consequences of war, further explaining that jet bombers and fierce battles had their shares for the battle to take over Monrovia beginning there at times. Burnt houses add to the harsh economic lives of the locals in the area.

One group of people were however vividly seen during Thursday’s visit. Loyalists of the former warlord who still live in the township turned out in their mass and feared not being stigmatized as they openly disclosed that they were once fighters of PYJ’s defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).

As Johnson unfolded his political platform to them during his speech, they could but only cheered continually, apparently reflecting 18 years ago when he commanded them to go, shot, ‘tye-bail’ or ‘no retreat, no surrender’ during their ‘Scorpion Kingdom’.

President Samuel K. Doe captured by Prince Johnson

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Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah



Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah

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