Friday, October 21, 2011

Nobel Peace Laureate Johnson-Sirleaf in Tango with War Lord Prince Johnson (Guest Commentary)

By: Theodore T. Hodge

L-R: Pres. Sirleaf, Nobel Laureate,
Gen. Prince Johnson,
a brutal murderer

The saying, “Politics makes strange bed fellows”, is attributed to Charles Dudley Warner, a 19th Century essayist and novelist. But Mr. Warner would be rolling over in his grave now if he were to realize what an understatement that saying has become in contemporary times. Did he ever imagine a freshly named Nobel Prize laureate jumping under the covers with a globally known warlord? That is soon to be the case in Liberia with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former warlord and now Senator Prince Johnson.

The Nobel Peace Committee recently ignited a controversy when it untimely named President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf one of its three recipients of the 2011 Peace award while she was preparing to enter an election for a second term of office. While many Liberians hailed the decision as a good omen for the troubled country; a measure of respectability and goodwill… even my daughter called me to make the case, I was not persuaded. I wrote: “In my opinion, the decision to reward the president with such a prestigious and newsworthy prize is a deliberate attempt to influence Liberia’s internal politics. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf got an early Christmas treat…”

(For those readers who don’t know it, the prize is usually rewarded in early October, up to the 15th of the month. This year, the committee decided to rush forth and announce its recipients on Friday, the 7th; knowing quite well that Liberians were headed to the polls on Tuesday, the 11th. Well, had the committee waited to name its recipients on the following Friday, the 14th, nothing would have been lost. A skeptical mind has to wonder why the rush to name these recipients, knowing the expected chain of events?)

Now going forward, the first round of voting is history. Unsurprisingly, the president’s ticket won the most votes, but not enough to ensure a first round victory. The strongest contender, the CDC, garnered enough votes to participate in a run-off. But surprisingly, Senator Prince Johnson ran a strong campaign to end up in third place. Hailing from a politically strategic region, it was easy to see him as a spoiler, though he sees himself as a kingmaker. And a kingmaker he has become.

Before the ink dried off the first round ballots, Senator Prince Johnson appeared on BBC Radio to announce that he will support the incumbent in the next round. Many will see that as a nail in the opposition’s coffin, and yet another early Christmas gift for Madam President.

Samuel Doe
Samuel Doe
But before we crown our imperial leader… I mean before we inaugurate our president for the second term, we need to consider the ramifications of the soon-to-be-alliance of the Nobel laureate and the notorious warlord. It is no secret that Prince Johnson is widely known as the man who allegedly terrorized and killed fellow Liberians during our dark days as a nation. But he is best known for capturing, showcasing, and decapitating former President Samuel K. Doe. (Actually, the video showed him cutting off Doe’s ears) while drinking beer and playfully singing gospel songs. Anybody hearing about or witnessing this man’s atrocious activities during Liberia’s civil crises, and his taped execution of Samuel K. Doe, must come to the conclusion that he is a lunatic that deserves to spend time in prison or a mental institution. Prince Johnson may be a lunatic, but nobody can accuse him of being irrational; as a matter of fact, he is quite rational in his assessment of issues.

Ex-Warlord and now Senator Prince Johnson has been one of the president’s most bitter critics. He actually left the president’s party (Unity Party) to run as an Independent when she refused to support his senatorial bid. He has consistently opposed and criticized the president’s policies. So why is he siding with her now? Simple: The fear of prosecution. Prince Johnson is afraid that if the TRC’s recommendations were adhered to, he could find himself facing war crimes in The Hague, along with his old nemesis, Charles Taylor. The Honorable Senator does not want that to be his fate.

In his interview with the BBC, Mr. Johnson said he has chosen to throw his support to the president because she is the lesser of two evils. He said he met with both Counselor Tubman and his running mate, George Weah. He said he brought up the TRC issue and the gentlemen reiterated their position which he finds antagonistic; he has therefore decided that if he must become a fugitive of the law, he’s better off siding with another fugitive, namely the president. (There are many who see the president’s decision to ignore the TRC’s report as criminal).

And that’s how we ended up with this scenario of strange bedfellows featuring the Princess of Peace and the Prince of Wars (as they were described today by a fellow Liberian in an Internet forum). The only saving grace is Senator Johnson’s unpredictability; he is fond of changing his mind with amazing rapidity.

Ms. Leyman Gbowee
But for me personally, the question on my mind concerns President Sirleaf’s fellow Liberian Peace Prize recipient, Ms. Leyman Gbowee: She fought against Charles Taylor and other warlords in Liberia, including Prince Johnson; that’s her claim to fame. She has declared her support for Ellen Johnson’s candidacy. Now, is she willing to support Prince Johnson too? Does expediency top principle? Will both of Liberia’s recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize jump into bed with a brutal warlord for the sake of power? I wonder.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

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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