Playing the Ethnic Card: Is Prince Johnson a Presidential Material? Is George Boley a Hero? You Make the Call Soccer Legends

Source: The Liberian Dialogue

– Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

When a nation is in crisis, its citizens of all ethnic, religious and political persuasions often will come together in unity to stop the danger that threatens their homeland and their people’s future.

We came together as patriotic Liberians in the 1970s, during the height of the social, economic and political threats that loomed at us dangerously at the time and fought it without thinking of the consequences. Now, some are only pushing their personal and ethnic/tribal agendas at the detriment of the Liberian nation.

However, as Liberian citizens, we were united at the time in our efforts to fight our common enemies: President William Richard Tolbert Jr., and the Americo-Liberian Apartheid-like governing system that denigrated indigenous Liberians and denied them the right to vote, to be educated equally, and the right to be equal socially and economically, which was a just cause that deserves no apology then and now.

While it is true that those rights were won the hard way when the military fatally wounded a sitting president, William R. Tolbert Jr., coupled with the subsequent killing of the indigenous president, Samuel Kanyon Doe, by a splintered rebel faction led by Prince Johnson, the Liberian nation, which was later exposed to an internecine rebel armed incursion that lasted for 14 years has never been the same.

Even though our nation has never been the same since, our patriotism has never been the same, either, with some Liberians – perhaps because their part of Liberia took center stage during the armed crisis, or because some prominent members of their communities were at the forefront of the crisis made these Liberians inclined to put ethnic interests over national interests at a time when all Liberians are needed to come together to rebuild their crumbling country.

The incarceration of the former rebel leader, George S. Boley in federal US prison for possible immigration violations and human rights crimes, and the recent declaration of the former rebel leader, Prince Y. Johnson to run for president in the 2011 election are enough reasons for the unabashed supporters of the individuals to have a coming out party.

Bai Gbala, a prominent Krahn who worked in the administration of President Doe, also Krahn, and has been conspicuously vocal in his support of Mr. Boley, referred to him as a “hero” who “was forced to lead a resistance movement against an armed insurgency engaged in indiscriminate massacre of his ethnic/tribal (krahn) people and rebellion against a legitimate government.”

What Bai Gbala did not mention in his outright denial of events is the fact that George Boley’s LPC, according to testimonies from survivals and eyewitnesses on the ground, also went after and slaughtered, raped and maimed innocent villagers in Sinoe, RiverGee and other southeastern counties. Even as some of the villagers escaped to safety in neighboring African countries, their villages were run over and destroyed by the gangsters who were bent on terrorizing those innocent Liberians.

Is Gbala saying that all of the individuals in Liberia; not the ones in the US whom many claimed came forward because of their pursuit of Green Cards and political asylum to remain in the United States (even though they appeared to be credible) are far from telling the truth?

However, instead of Bai Gbala, the “Eminent” person and Elder vigorously protecting his clansman, he should have apologized to Boley’s non-Krahn victims in an effort to bring closure and peace to the victims and the region since these individuals are neighbors and are also linked by geography.

That attempt at peace would have also fostered trust and confidence-building. Instead, Gbala is involved in provincial politics and the blame game, which is not helping Boley and the relationship between the Krahn people and their southeastern neighbors.

Is this the way Mr. Gbala, who was appointed along with others as ULAA’s “Eminent” person and Elder to mediate that dysfunctional organization’s never-ending crisis going to bring peace to ULAA? No wonder that organization, with no ounce of credibility left in its arsenal continues to be a laughingstock among Liberians and Liberia watchers as it becomes irrelevant everyday, and slowly crumbling into oblivion.

Not wanting to be outdone and outmaneuvered by the publicity surrounding George Boley’s legal troubles and the 2011 presidential election, supporters of Prince Johnson’s fledgling presidential bid, (mainly Nimbaians) in the United States and Liberia are gearing up to make their native son’s dream a reality. Ha ha ha! Are they serious?

What makes Prince Johnson’s presidential aspirations so weird and laughable is the support he’s getting not from your fly by night armed chair ideologues and political hatchet men, but from seasoned academics – the brightest Nimba County has to offer who are putting their names, credibility and professional integrity on the line to support this clown’s presidential ambitions.

Again, this proves once again how some Liberians – no matter how educated they are will promote their narrow tribal/ethnic agenda over national interests, which does not bode well for Liberia, and quite interestingly, does not bode well for the individuals, either, because their decision to support this unstable person and fringe candidate, Prince Johnson also questions their professional judgment, credibility and integrity.

That’s because most Liberians see Prince Johnson not as a presidential material; but a menace, a killer, a crazy man who he is unqualified to be president, period, and who cannot and will never win any national office in Liberia, which brings to mind this question: Why in the world will the people of Nimba County even elect this man Senator to represent them and that strategic part of Liberia in the first place?

Then again, like the Krahn people of Grand Gedeh County, who considers George Boley their hero because as Gbala said, led a “resistance movement against an armed insurgency engaged in indiscriminate massacre of his ethnic/tribal (krahn) people and rebellion against a legitimate government,” the people of Nimba County also considers Prince Johnson their hero as well, for going after and helping to kill President Samuel Kanyon Doe.

Other than defiance and the fearsome persona that defines him first as a dreaded former warlord and now a senator from his part of Liberia, Prince Y. Johnson cannot pinpoint a significant bill he put forward and help passed that helped changed lives on the national level. Can his supporters also pinpoint any significant legislation he ever put forward that created jobs, reduced poverty, provide affordable housing and made healthcare and education affordable and accessible to his people in his home county?

Are the supporters of Prince Y. Johnson ever reminded of Charles Taylor, the pariah who couldn’t travel overseas as President of Liberia because of fears he would be arrested by the UN and prosecuted for war crimes? Are they concerned that a “President” Prince Johnson could also meet that same fate? Are they concerned about “President” Prince Johnson’s war past and how his counterparts and foreign dignitaries would view him? Will world leaders ever recognize his administration to do business with him? Will his presidency be detrimental to the national and international interests and survival of the Liberian nation? Will he be relevant as President of Liberia?

Prince Johnson’s supporters, I am sure will be tempted to point at the war past or alleged war past of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to make their case that he too can be President of Liberia. This will not hold any water because these are two individuals with dissimilar backgrounds and track records who are seen differently by Liberians and the entire world for what they are.

We cannot rebuild Liberia when prominent Liberians or those that are considered to be prominent Liberians put their narrow ethnic interests over their country’s interest, and refuses to see the larger picture when it comes to putting Liberia first, which is sad indeed.

We just cannot continue to travel that dangerous road that will get us nowhere.

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