Taking Reprobation Before Inquest -Public Left In Shock With Former Min. of Defense’ Chief Exit

MONROVIA: Perhaps the shortest-serving Minister of Defense of Liberia is Prince C. Johnson, a young Liberian soldier who was prematurely retired as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and appointed by President Boakai as Minister of Defense. In less than two weeks, Mr. Johnson resigned his position, or was asked to resign, even while an inquest ordered by the President to find probable cause in  the matters pertaining to his job were still on the docket unheard or at least undisposed of. Since the incident, the Liberian public has been drowned in shock, still asking the hard question: is the action for the controversial resignation of the Minister of Defense worth it? The Analyst reports.

Just a few days after the confirmation of President Joseph Boakai’s first Minister of Defense, Mr. Prince C. Johnson, news broke out that the Minister had resigned.

The Executive Mansion announced, much to the apparent shock of the Liberian president, that the “President of the Republic of Liberia and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr., has received and accepted a letter of resignation from the recently confirmed Minister of National Defense, Mr. Prince C. Johnson.”

According to the Executive Mansion the former Minister of National Defense “outlined his reasons for his action noting that due to the current political and civil disturbances occasioned by the protest of women believed to be wives of servicemen, he has made the decision to resign and preserve the peace and security of the State.”

Prior to the Executive Mansion’s announcement about the resignation of Mr. Johnson, wives of AFL soldiers took to the streets and major highways first to protest his confirmation by the Liberian Senate and later obstruction of traffic in sheer protest to the appointment and confirmation.

The protest widened as other barracks around the country joined their counterpart in Shefflin, the major epicenter of the agitation.

There were reports also that some soldiers were showing faces amongst the female protesters and many began sensing signs of dangers to national stability.

Nationwide Address

The Johnson resignation scenario  was followed by a nationwide address of President Boakai who, amongst other things said: “On Sunday, February 11, I received in audience, the wives of some members of the Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers who had come to express their concerns on several issues. These issues included poor living conditions, high tuition fees for their children, lack of adequate medical care, and low salaries, among others. The women stated their most important demand was the removal of Retired Major General Prince C. Johnson, III, as Minister of Defense.

“They said their husbands had told them that unless General Johnson was removed there would be no Armed Forces Day celebration. We made it clear to the women that the Government would look into their grievances regarding all the issues, but that General Johnson had been confirmed by the Senate and appointed by me as Minister of Defense. We were hence not prepared to discuss his issue.

“Meanwhile, we received information throughout the day and night that some of the Armed Forces Wives and their husbands had initiated protest actions across the country by blocking major roadways and highways. Others had engaged in agitations in barracks around the country. In an effort to prevent violence and preserve lives and properties, we ordered that the Armed Forces Day celebrations for today be reduced to a low-key program. We have since held consultations with our strategic partner, the United States, and other regional stakeholders on the situation,” President Boakai said in his address to the nation.

“The issues raised by the Armed Forces Wives affect all sectors of our population throughout the country. We inherited these problems as we have been in office for barely 21 days only. The problems take on graver connotations when it comes to the military. The men and women in arms put their lives on the line to defend and protect us. We must be extra sensitive to their plight. The Army is our collective national pride, and we must preserve its dignity.

Setting up Board of Inquiry

At the end of the nationwide broadcast, President Boakai announced the setting up of a Board of Inquiry amid the stampede and its nature of national instability.

He stated: “I have therefore appointed a special independent investigator to probe into these grievances and report to me within two weeks. We have also activated the Board of Inquiry to look into the case of several soldiers who were discharged from the AFL for various serious crimes but were said to be undeservedly pardoned and reinstated.”

There have been mixed reactions from Liberians over the president’s action not only for accepting, others say coercing Mr. Johnson’s resignation, but also for setting up an inquest in matters for which the defense minister had already resigned.

There are Liberians who say the President acted cowardly and unfairly in the matter because they expected that he would either suspend the minister pending the outcome of the inquiry or simply pursue a logical conclusion of the case before arriving at the point of resignation or whatever.

“By setting up the Board of Inquiry, I suppose that the President wants to know whether the allegations levied by the wives of the AFL soldiers are true or not; whether Mr. Johnson is guilty as alleged, and that’s fine,” said Moses G. Mehn, Jr. a classroom teacher in Paynesville.

“In my view, a duly appointed and confirmed official of Government should not resign or be asked to resign just like that in such gross allegations,” Mr. Mehn continued. “Because in any inquiry, it is either the accused is found guilty and innocent. What if the inquiry finds out that Mr. Johnson is guilty as alleged by the ALF wives? And what if it is found that he’s innocent? What if the Board’s conclusion states that he has got nothing to do with what the women alleged? Will he be reinstated?”

Others posit that the President has set a bad precedent too soon, causing an official of the government to lose his job on account of mere allegations.

“What some of us expected was the President would temporarily deactivate or suspend the Minister of Defense as he was setting up the Board of Inquiry,” a Unity Party partisan asserted, asking not to be named in print.

“While it is true that those who were involved in the agitation are within the confines of the national security sector, it is equally true that they are Liberians and are subject to the laws and order of the country,” he UP official said. “Certainly, if Johnson was suspended and the Board of Inquiry set up, the protesters would see reason. If they did not see reason, then they needed to be brought to terms in any way possible. Like all other Liberians, they are not above the law of the country.”

He stated again: “So, let me ask: why wasn’t the Board of Inquiry set up before asking for the resignation of Mr. Johnson. Again, let me ask: So, if any group of Liberians, or say employees or the wives of employees of any ministry or agency or even of the AFL in the future do as was done, the remedy will always be what the President acquiesced—the resignation of the minister or head of agency?

“This is totally unfair. It is a completely bad precedent. We have to find a way to stop it.”

Some members of the Unity Party Alliance, particularly from the home county of the former defense minister, see it another way.

Others, such as Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Nimba County’s District #5 Representative Kogar have insinuated that the entire situation was orchestrated by President Boakai to deny Nimba such an important position in Government.

Kogar was quoted by the local media that the Johnson resignation saga was a complete plot to deny Nimba and humiliate their kinsman Prince C. Johnson, a trained military man, who was retired by the President in order to be appointed as Defense Minister.

  1. Kau Gontee says

    Others, such as Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Nimba County’s District #5 Representative Kogar have insinuated that the entire situation was orchestrated by President Boakai to deny Nimba such an important position in Government. HOW ?

    Unless, you two lawmakers have a hidden diabolical agenda, you need to rethink your foolish deduction, because a Liberian from whether Nimba or any other county appointed as Minister, ADDS NOTHING to Nimba or whichever county the given appointed defense minister hails.

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