Senator Prince Y. Johnson, the political head of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), is one of Liberia’s longest-serving senators.
Since 2005, Johnson has received tremendous support from Nimbaians, who see him as the “Messiah” who freed them from the hands of former Liberian President Samuel K. Doe during the terrible Liberian conflict that lost countless lives.
Since his ascendency to power in 2005, the rebel leader has been a prominent participant in the country’s body politics and a decision-maker.
The people of Nimba primarily rely on Johnson for guidance during elections, as proven by the 2011 and 2017 presidential elections that brought Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George M. Weah to power, respectively, as well as the 2020 senate election in which Jeremiah Koung was elected.
Despite his inconsistency and controversy, many Liberian politicians looked to him during electoral processes to deliver his County, Nimba, one of Liberia’s largest and most populated counties.
Johnson very likely did business out of the people of Nimba just by rescuing them from the clutches of President Doe throughout the 14-year war.
In 2020, two months after Senator Johnson labeled Koung’s senatorial intentions as “greed,” Johnson praised Koung after a political meeting, proclaiming his support for Koung’s senatorial bid because the county would have benefited enormously.
“I have not come to tell anyone that I support Jeremiah Koung despite being a party member. He said, “Principally, I tell you this: to be too d***n greedy is not good. We elected Jeremiah Koung’ from 2017 up to 2023.
“Why does he want to remove Thomas Grupee, for example? Why does he want to contest against anybody, for example? [If] you do not know me, study me, I am a principal-minded person.”
Senator Johnson revealed his support for football hero turned politician George M. Weah in 2017 after returning from Nigeria with then-Senator George M. Weah, laying a severe blow to Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s campaign to succeed Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
It was believed that Johnson and Weah reached an arrangement that prompted him to back Weah over Boakai in the 2017 runoff election.
Johnson contested for president in 2011 as the candidate of the newly created National Union for Democratic Progress party nowMDR, finishing third with 11.6% of the vote.
His endorsement of incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf following a political gathering was critical to Sirleaf’s re-election in the runoff election over President George Weah.
Now, after being a significant player in Weah’s win in 2017, Senator Johnson is confronted with the U.S. Treasury sanction Global Magnitsky Act which charges Johnson of taking money from a politician in 2021 for his assistance during elections which they called ‘pay-for-play.
The U.S. government accused him of large-scale corruption – a pay-for-play plan using government ministries and organizations for personal wealth.
According to a U.S. Treasury Department report, Senator Johnson was implicated in a scheme in which the involved government ministries and organizations laundered a portion of the cash for the return to the involved participants after receiving funding from the Liberian government.
Following the U.S. measures, “any property and interests in property of the three individuals that are in the U.S. or the ownership or control of U.S. persons must be banned and reported to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.”
Before the U.S. Report in 2017, then Nimba County District #7 Representative Worlea Saywah Dunah warned Senator Johnson to stop doing business with the county for his gain.
“Nimba is not a commodity to be traded for profit,” Dunah said, adding that “Nimbaians are responsible people who make decisions that will improve their living conditions, which does not in any way suggest that the Senator (PYJ), who is also a Nimbaian, should commercialize the county for his selfish interest.”
Senator Johnson recently chastised the Weah-led government for failing to meet the deal Johnson gave the county to Weah in the runoff election that propelled him to the presidency.
Johnson, who had previously backed the government for the country and people of Liberia for months, is now accusing the president of driving the people into unimaginable misery and system failure.
During his customary Sunday service last week, Senator Johnson linked the president to the deaths of the auditors and the EPS officer, whom the government claims shot himself while on a County tour in Nimba, a claim contrary to the autopsy report.
By Hannah N. Geterminah