There are divergent of views on the actual reason why Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, erstwhile Chairman of the Senate Statutory Committee on National Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs resigned his position though the Nimba County Senator had cited family advice, and his focus to work towards the re-election bid of President George Manneh Weah and that of his own senatorial ambition.
Senator Johnson has been under pressure from several institutions including the US Embassy near Monrovia and civil society groups since his re-election to the position he has held for a protracted period of time now in the Senate.
In May this year, immediately after his election, the US Embassy issued a scorching exception condemning the action of his colleagues in the senate, terming him as a “notorious warlord.
“The U.S. Embassy strongly condemns the election yesterday of notorious warlord Prince Y. Johnson as Chair of the Liberian Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence. 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. 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 Embassy said in a strongly worded release..
The release further said “The U.S. government is proud of our longstanding partnership with the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia which will continue — but we can have no relationship with Senator Johnson.”
Senate Johnson was not alone in the condemnation from the Americans. Senator Varnie Sherman who was also elected to the leadership committee as Chairman of the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions Committee was never spared as he equally got the scorn from the US Embassy.
“We note as well the continuation of Counselor Varney Sherman, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery, as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions. By giving Senators Johnson and Sherman these leadership roles, the Senate is effectively ensuring that corruption and lack of accountability flourish”.
The Members of the senate and its leadership were put on notice that a major ally, the United States was watching the deterioration of governance in the country and would not do business with individuals accused of serious human rights abuses .
The Senate quickly responded that it would engage the US Embassy to try to address its concerns regarding its decision to elect Senators Johnson and Sherman who all came under serious criticism and challenge from the US officials
From all indications, The Analyst has been made aware by sources at the National Legislature that the Americans were not disposed to backing down on their decision to avoid doing business with Senators Johnson and Sherman, and that if the Liberian Senate insisted on keeping them as heads of the various committees, it would harm relations and further isolate the Weah administration.
Senator Johnson at the time responded to the statement from the US Embassy terming it as “unconstitutional and contradictory”, adding that it was unfortunate for the US government to describe him as a notorious warlord when he had not been indicted or given a chance in the court to defend himself or even been convicted.
The Senator incurred the wrath of the US government and other civil society organizations when he openly opposed to the establishment of a war and economic crime court for Liberia and vowed to use whatever means necessary to make sure it does not see the light of the day, claiming he and others were granted immunity in 2003 by a legislative act under the Charles Taylor administration.
Political pundits believe that the latest move by the maverick senator to quit at this time speaks volumes of the external pressure he has been under to step down from the portfolio and not his own making as he has told people.