Liberia: Boakai’s Alliance With Prince Johnson Is Damaging Peace

In the face of a troubling lack of political resolve to bring to justice those responsible for the grievous atrocities of the civil war, the Liberian Legislature persists in being perceived as a safe haven for these warlords. These individuals audaciously seek citizens’ endorsement for legislative seats, cloaking their past transgressions as acts of protection for their people against enemies.

One such warlord seeking citizens’ reward for his kills is Roland Duo. Duo was a senior frontline commander of jailed ex-president Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

The final report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission indicts him for murder, torture, and abduction.

A Central Figure of Violence

Roland Duo’s actions, as described in the final report of the TRC, portray him as a central figure in a range of violent and abusive activities during the Liberian civil war. His involvement spans forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, intimidation, looting, and destruction of property. These actions collectively depict a troubling picture of his role in the conflict and its devastating impact on the population.

At Mahir Bridge in Bomi County, Roland Duo, along with Benjamin Yeatin, is implicated in a disturbing incident where hundreds of individuals were loaded onto pickup trucks with the promise of transportation to Monrovia. Instead, they were dumped into a river under the accusation of being supporters of the LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) rebel group.

Roland Duo, commanding NPFL fighters, engaged in looting and extorting logging companies, such as Carlton Resources (CR) owned by John Gbedez. In 1996-1997, Duo’s forces unlawfully detained a CR employee and seized company property, demanding a significant sum of money.

On June 9, 2003, under the leadership of General Roland Duo, a tragic event unfolded at Stockton Creek Bridge in Monrovia. Charles Taylor, Jr., reportedly perpetrated the murder of eighteen prisoners of war (POWs). These POWs had been arrested by Duo’s forces, suggesting his complicity in the incident.

Between October 11-26, 2003, another harrowing incident occurred along the Po-River on the Tubmanburg highway. Under the orders of General Wasue Donzo from the LURD, over 26 individuals were executed, with some bodies dumped into the Po River. Local accounts attributed the dumping of bodies to Marine Chief of Staff Roland Duo. The discovery of nineteen mass graves in Lofa County further implicates Duo in this disturbing event.

“Reward Me, Too”

On Sunday, August 13, 2023, Roland G. Duo addressed a gathering in Nimba, emphasizing the sacrifice he made for the County by partaking in the war and his aspiration for the Senatorial position. He highlighted the contrasting instances of Senator Prince Johnson’s 9-month participation in the war, which resulted in his double election to the Liberian Senate by the people of Nimba, stressing that he deserves similar recognition for his own efforts made for the county during the war.

Drawing a pointed contrast, Duo pointed out that during the same period when he and others were on the front lines of the war, Senator Prince Johnson was reportedly enjoying relative safety in a hotel in Nigeria.

“This old man fought for nine months, and y’all gave him 18 years in the Liberian Senate. How many of you people here don’t know that Roland Duo fought for 14 years in this country? How many of you people don’t know that when they said Gbarnga was captured, it was Roland Duo? When this Senior Senator [Prince Johnson] was enjoying himself in a big hotel in Nigeria, when they staged the war and left it, they went and started enjoying themselves, we were here trying to stand in front of the enemy for Nimba to survive.

“My people, I’m begging y’all, if y’all can give Adolphus Dolo his term [in the Senate], y’all gave Senator Johnson 18 years for the nine-month war that he fought, Roland Duo that fought for y’all for 14 years, y’all please give me a chance too.”

Duo went on to tell his supporters and the people of Nimba that he enjoys the confidence of President Weah; therefore, there will be a lot of development in the county if he is elected as Senator.


Mr. Hassan Bility, the Executive Director of the Global Justice Research Project (GJRP), lamented Duo’s campaign message. He said Liberia has been betrayed by all of its politicians, irrespective of which side they are on.

“Liberia has been betrayed by all of its politicians, irrespective of which side they’re on. It looks like the contaminated renegades of the old political order, whose bags of exhausted and unmarketable political tricks are succeeding,” he said.

Bility called on the people of Liberia, specifically the electorate, to reject all warlords and their associates in the forthcoming October general and presidential elections.

“The failure of the Liberian Legislature to take any form of action aimed at implementing the TRC’s recommendations is a total disgrace for the respective constituencies they represent and the oldest republic in Africa. Political office seekers are shying away from addressing this crucial issue of justice. How can one plan to prosecute a thief but allow a mass murderer to go free and reward said person? This is totally abhorrent,” he said.

He called on the international community, especially the US, to widen its sanctions horizon to include all warlords and their political promoters.

Bility further added, “This is ridiculously outrageous and is a total disrespect for the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that were unjustifiably short-circuited by these murderers. I can assure you that additional US sanctions are coming soon. War criminals should NOT be rewarded; they should be punished.”

Also reacting to Duo, Adama Dempster, Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, lamented that the country’s failure to prosecute warlords and former rebel generals to account for their atrocities committed during the war has led them to see the Legislature and other government offices as a safe haven.

Eddie Jarwolo, the Executive Director of Naymote, expressed that the war, a tragic and destructive period in the nation’s history, should not serve as a source of pride for anyone seeking to leverage their wartime actions for political gain. Rather than focusing on such divisive and potentially harmful narratives, Jarwolo emphasized the importance of directing attention toward discussions of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice.

“The war killed and destroyed the fabric of the nation; nobody should be proud of using his/her actions in the war as a campaign matter. We should be holding conversations on reconciliation or creating a war crime court to bring closure to those who got killed during the war. Our election should be more about issues that will improve the quality of life, fight against the mismanagement of state resources, and improve access to justice, human rights, and accountability of elected officials. What are the issues they want to address when elected and how?”

Shying Away from War Crimes Court

The call for the establishment of a war crimes court has always been a controversial issue. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and even her successor, President George Weah, ignored calls by citizens, local and international advocates to implement the recommendation of the TRC that a court try the worst perpetrators of Liberia’s civil wars which left an estimated 250,000 people dead.

Before assuming the Presidency, President Weah had made a commitment to establish the court. However, he later reversed his stance, seemingly as a concession to Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who played a significant role in ensuring his success in the 2017 elections.

Senator Johnson hails from Nimba, the second most populous county in Liberia. Johnson, infamously known for killing former President Samuel Doe, prides himself as the godfather of Nimba County.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai has also toned down his call for the establishment of the court as he now enjoys the confidence of Sen. Johnson, who broke ranks with Pres. Weah to support Boakai’s presidential bid in the upcoming elections. Boakai’s picked his vice standard bearer, Sen. Jeremiah Koung, from Sen. Johnson’s Movement for Democratic Reconstruction.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview with New Narratives/FrontPageAfrica, the standard-bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander Cummings, said Liberia’s fear of confronting the difficult past, which has led to present-day fragility, has only ensured that the country remains a fragile society.

“The War and Economic Crimes Court will deepen and accelerate the processes of national reconciliation and healing, strengthen the bonds of a divided nation through justice, and bring much-needed closure to years of wars and tenuous peace,” Cummings opined.

Also, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, the flag bearer of the Liberia People Party, also opined that the time for a court is long overdue, and he expects the new representatives that join the next Legislature will be more open to passing a bill to establish a court.

“We anticipate a speedy national, and especially, international mobilization, as well as the commitment of the needed resources to establish the court and support the judicial reform process that is required,” he says. “Our hope is that support for the establishment of the WECC can be provided early so that the process is concluded early. This will be crucial and helpful.”

Gongloe said as part of a series of plans for the court, he will set up a small committee of Liberian legal experts to relook at a bill the Liberian National Bar Association under his leadership as president and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) submitted to the Legislature in 2021.

Source: FrontPage Africa