Amb. Wesley Momo Johnson and the Liberian Peace Process of 2003: A Tribute to a Legendary Progressive Leader
By: Romeo D.N. Gbartea
July 10, 2021
A leader is born and evolved based on the socialization process of a family. When the echo of progressive movement among Liberians commenced in the United States of America in the 70s, a young progressive, a student of business, an athlete that represented Liberia in 100m/200m in Summer Olympic in Tokyo, Japan in 1964, publicly came into existence and that unique character was nobody other than Amb. Wesley Momo Johnson. His Excellency, Ambassador Wesley Momo Johnson was born in Banjor, May 27, 1944. His home county is Bomi County. He speaks Dei-Gola and understood many Liberian ethnic groups. He was an astute scholar with a Bachelor degree in Accounting from St. Francis College, Brookyln, USA in 1975 and in 1977, he obtained a Master of Business Administration from Long Island University. He was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He had many professional certificates and taught many Universities in Liberia, including the University of Liberia. He served as Ambassador to many countries: Egypt, England, and Holy See etc. He worked with many professional organizations and traveled extensively. He has a family with eight children. The soft spoken Baptist Clergy (Licentiate and Deacon) helped to transformed PAL to the United People’s Party (UPP) in 1984. He served as the Vice Chair/Chairman for the UPP for many years. He served as a Legislator of the Interim Legislative Assembly, 1990-1994. His journey has just started with these backgrounds. A humble character and a legend is gone.
Many times in the lives of people they lobby to be friendly with people with huge wealth. Some don’t even care how this wealthy man/woman earned their riches, they are not bother as to whether they are morally corrupt but their interest is just to be associated with a wealthy character. This behavioral pattern leads to self-destruction. We must learn to associate with people who bring moral, peaceful and discipline credential to the table. However, in the case of Ambassador Wesley Momo Johnson, he didn’t have wealth but his service to humanity and his great knowledge helped his country remarkably and interesting to this Industrial Sociologist. My closed relationship started with Ambassador Johnson at the headquarters of the United People’s Party (UPP), on the old road. Whenever there was a general and Executive meetings, he was always quiet and will speak politely summarizing what decision the party should take in a given situation. I admired it so much. Prior to getting closed to him, I really admired Mr. Gabriel Baccus Mathews but got discouraged one day when I told him that I was graduating from the University of Liberia with a Bachelor Degree and he didn’t commend me but rather throw a talk to me that was not impressive. However, Chairman Baccus Mathews was a revolutionary.
Prior to reaching out to extend my friendship to “Bob Wes”, as he was called, I searched for his profile unknowingly to him. His profile has a characteristics of leadership for a country that was emerging from a civil conflict. When the situation unfolded itself where Chairman Mathews was leaving the epic center of power in the United People’s Party and he wanted the leadership to be headed by one of the strong workers in the party, this was where I got closed to Deacon Johnson and informed him that I will assist to make him the Chairman of the United People’s Party (UPP). He was so appreciative that I came around him because he had heard my views on issues in the party. I began to publicize his views and aspirations for the position of chairmanship in the national media. This was around the time we have experienced a deadly conflict and many interventions were needed by state actors to end the conflict.
During the course of the post war era, life was still fragile and only the strong with good educational skills could teach Universities and other secondary schools to survive. Others were struggling in different dimensions to get life on track. There were transport challenge with Honorable Johnson, therefore, I had to leave my 9th street community as early as 6am to get a taxi for him to get in town from Brewerville community to the party office. We needed to make history in our country and it requires dedication and commitment. The enlighteners must always use education to forge a peaceful revolutionary struggle. Hon. Johnson struggle was through intellectualism to take the mantle of power in the UPP and the nation-state. We developed a campaign team and those members were: Prof. Edwin K. Tetteh, Romeo D.N. Gbartea and Hon. Maboutu Vlah Nyanpan (late). We campaigned rigorously until Chairman Mathews said “throughout our progressive struggle, “Bob Wes” has been so cool, and how is he so public these days”? Somebody told the Chairman emeritus that the strategy was been led by me. Fortunately, the UPP convention was held at the Paynesville City Hall and it was chaired by Cllr. F. Musah Dean, the current Justice Minister of Liberia. The tense competitive election which also had the participation of Mr. Edmond Ponpon, Sen. Miltion Teahjay, running as Chairman of the party could not withstand our strategy. Hon. Wesley Momo Johnson won the election and served as Chairman of the United People’s Party. The friction in the party which was high due to the ascendency of Honorable Johnson became worse when he illustrated in his congratulation speech at the Paynesville Town Hall that “he will be his own man”. It was seen from different perspectives. Indeed, he was peacefully independent and he interacted with all stakeholders in Liberia.
Hon. Wesley Momo Johnson was a unifier and he could forgive anybody anytime in spite of their rough interactions. In the early part of 2003, Bishop Michael Francis of the Catholic Church was one of the chief negotiators in Liberia to end the civil conflict, therefore he was meeting all the different political and civil society leaders to find way to end the conflict. Imagine, we had only a car which was owned by Prof. Edwin K. Tetteh to carry us to our different locations for campaign meetings and negotiation discussions. But, unfortunately the car broke down, thereby posing transportation challenge for us to attend the meetings but we survived it. Comrade Maboutu Nyanpan (late) on the other hand, designed strategy where foods were available for the progressives to work for their country. There were no resources but the masses knew the struggle has to survive. Senior Comrade Fred G. Bass was the chief architect for communication. Bishop Michael Francis wanted a statement from UPP and it was structured at Senior Comrade Fred Bass DC 101 radio station conference room on Crown Hill because it was not possible to go at the party’s office due to known and unknown challenges. The statement was posted to all well-meaning partisans and executives before it was submitted to Bishop Michael Francis. Our life must go beyond organizations or party affiliation. We must prioritize Liberia as a single and important variable. The UPP statement was clear how Liberian should have a peaceful society after a deadly conflict. Thank you, Honorable Wesley Momo Johnson. God bless you!
Hon. Wesley Momo Johnson strived to achieve the peaceful journey for Liberia. His global interest for peace started when the United Nations 36 General Assembly designated him on the committee on Disarmament in 1981. He worked with many International actors to solve conflicts in different parts of the world. Back at home, Liberia, when Bishop Michael Francis had informed the International Community about the readiness of the delegates from Liberia to the Accra Peace Accord. The United People’s Party Chairman, Wesley Momo Johnson had called me to asked for my views who could represent the party to the Accra Peace Accord. We consented that Hon. Maboutu Vlah Nyanpan will join Hon. Wesley M. Johnson for the Accra Peace Accord. When the United Nations Development Programme in Mamba Point, called Hon. Wesley M. Johnson for their package to travel, a group of known men from the United People’s Party attempted to kidnap UPP Chairman from traveling Accra, Ghana in 2003. It was Hon. Maboutu Nyanpan (late) that swiftly called the National Police to his rescue. It was a big scene in Liberia. I was shocked to see internal party conflict leading to brutality and witch hunt. It was a tough and unthinkable situations but God led him to Accra and then, he won as the Vice Chairman for the National Transitional Government of Liberia from 2003-2006. Your mission on earth has physically ended but I am convinced you will guide me through these challenges of the world and to continue your peaceful journey to the leadership of Liberia. I know, you last days were difficult but God’s is the only answer to everything in this world.
Hon. Wesley Momo Johnson, thank you for your service to humanity. I will never ever in this life forget about you. When you were elected as Vice Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (2003-2006), you made me Senior Research Analyst, Advisor to the Vice Chairman on the Accra Peace Accord. Then, the shocking and most joyous short term appointment, you made me Acting Vice Chairman for the National Transitional Government for two (2) hours (2003-2005). It was first time for security to salute me before entering a presidential car. The only sound I heard was the siren been blown far ahead of me carrying me on Randal Street, Monrovia, all the vehicles were parked on the side for the Acting Vice Chairman to perform state function especially to participate in one of the organizing meetings of the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE). Hon. Wesley Momo Johnson, also appointed me to serve on the National Transitional Government of Liberia Inaugural Committee for Incoming President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2006. During your tenure as Vice Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, I was always writing your speeches but I wrote a “National Peace Day Speech” for you in 2005 and you delivered it at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium and you surprised me with a gift that will never forget. My generations will be told about your peaceful attitude toward humanity. I know you are with the Lord, our God. Professor Edwin Kennedy Tetteh and I missed a partner our “own man”. He was a modest and distinct character that anybody can admire. Professor Tetteh, thank you so much for taking care of Ambassador Wesley Momo Johnson while I am away schooling. His soul is with our father in heaven. God bless you “Bob Wes”.
How could you permit me to displayed your celebration on May 27, 2021 on the social media, you give me no prior notice and you just leave like that. Thank you so much for helping to bring peace to the land of Liberty. I called you on June 26, 2021 and told me to take it easy and ensure I complete my program. We planned to meet and share the excitement of your new decent physical home. You were excited when we talked. I was impressed when we had the conversations and I wanted to understand your thoughts on how you celebrated the American Independence Day of July 4, 2021, so I called you on July 6, 2021 and they told me, you were resting, and then, the story now is not favorable for me and Liberia. I will take your productive pieces of advice into considerations to live in this challenging world and contribute in a peaceful way to humanity. I know your prayers will be upon this nation-state, Liberia to sustain the peace process of 2003.
God is with you! Rest in Peace
“In the cause of the people, the struggle continues”