25 October 2004

Liberia: Roosevelt Johnson Is Dead

Monrovia — Gen. David Roosevelt Johnson, who was head of the Liberian splinter warring group, "United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO-J), is dead.

The news about the former faction leader's death came from a relative in Nigeria who called to inform other relatives in Monrovia. Sources said other relative members made contact with Nigeria and received confirmation that indeed, Gen. D. Roosevelt Johnson has passed away in the Federal Republic of Nigeria following a protracted period of illness.

Our own efforts relative to this sad story got us in touch with Mr.

Peter Solo, Deputy Managing Director for Administration, Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation, who was identified by a source as a relative of the deceased.

In his short chat with this paper, Mr. Solo confirmed the death of Gen. Johnson. He said he died last Saturday October 23, 2004 in Nigeria following a protracted illness. Asked about the cause of death, Mr. Solo only said Gen. Johnson was sick over a period of time, and that their family was meeting last night to discuss matters relative to the demise of their son.

Mr. Johnson, a teacher by profession, recently returned home following the induction of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) having been in exile for about six years.

He fled the country along with a dozen of supporters including Mr.

George S. Dweh Jr. who is now the Speaker of National Transitional Legislative Assembly(NTLA), through the United States Embassy near Monrovia after the September 18, 1998 Camp Johnson Road gun-battle. The gun battle between the ULIMO-J and state security that lasted for two days, claimed many lives and destroyed several properties.

Two prominent figures who got killed during the September 18 incident were Mr. Madison Wion, former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and Mr. Teh Quiah, former Deputy Minister of Defense.

For their alleged involvement in the September 18 incident, several of Roosevelt Johnson's kinsmen including Mr. Bai Gbala, Charles Breeze, David Gbala, James Chelley, who is presently serving as a Commissioner at the National Elections Commission(NEC) etc., were charged and convicted for treason and subsequently sentenced for 20 years each at the Central Prisons.

Prior to the Liberian civil crisis of the 90's, Mr. Johnson served the Liberian Government first as Customs officer and later principal of Suah Memorial Junior High School in Zwedru.

He also served the Liberia National Transitional Government as Minister of Transport prior the 1997 proportional representation elections that ushered in the Charles Taylor-led NPP government.

Despite all of the negative relationship the late Johnson had with now exiled president Charles G. Taylor, he was appointed as Minister of Rural Development in the National Patriotic Party-led government.

While serving as Minister of Rural Development, the late Gen. Johnson suffered a stroke that nearly got him paralyzed. Former president Taylor moved in to his assistance by providing the amount of US$40,000 which enabled him to seek medical attention abroad.

Gen. Johnson began his military exploits serving as the Chairman of the Military Wing of the defunct ULIMO rebel movement. Gen. Johnson, being backed by a group of fighters, mostly his kinsmen, broke away from the movement when he issued a press statement denouncing the Supreme Chairmanship of Gen. Alhaji G.V. Kromah for taking a unilateral decision to replace the movement's nominee to the Council of State(COS) Thomas Ziah, with former Councilman Dexter Tahyor. The COS was then headed by Prof. David Kpormakpor.

According to Gen. Kromah, his action to replace Mr. Ziah was based on the fact that he (Ziah) had betrayed the cause of the ULIMO by voting in favor of Prof. Kpormakpor instead of the group's nominee , Dr. El Mohamed Sheriff, who was among three other councilmen vying for the LNTG's chairmanship position. Other councilmen that were vying for the Chairmanship position against Prof. David Kpormakpor were Cllr. Philip Banks and Dr. El Mohamed Sheriff.

The break-away scenario led to a serious fighting between the two ULIMO factions which started in Tubmanburg city, Bomi County, which was the headquarters of the movement.

Later, an internal rift in the splinter ULIMO-J group, led to one of the most bloody civil battles on 6th April, 1996. The split came about when the Roosevelt Johnson took a decision to replace the then Governor of the National Bank of Liberia, Mr. Raleigh Seekie, with Mr. Ignatius Clay. This decision brought about a serious row within the ULIMO-J faction that led to the death of one of the faction's strong fighter, one Dweh, who was a relative of the movement's Chief of Staff, Gen Armah Youlu, thus prompting the then ruling Council of State headed by Prof. Wilton Sankawulo to issue an executive order to have Gen. Johnson arrested and prosecuted on the charge of murder. This order was vehemently challenged by Gen. Johnson and his loyalists with backing from former Councilman George E. Boley who was also head of another warring group, the Liberia Peace Council(LPC).

Other members of the COS at the time were former president Charles Taylor, leader of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia(NPFL), Alhaji G. V. Kromah, leader of the other ULIMO faction(ULIMO-K), while Oscar J. Quiah, and the late Chief Tamba Taylor were representing the civilian population.

The then Councilman, former president Charles Taylor who was the instigator of the attempted arrest of Gen. Johnson's, ordered his NPFL fighters to close rank with their colleagues of the ULIMO-K faction to effect arrest of Accused Johnson and have him brought before a competent court of jurisdiction.

The two defunct rebel groups, operating under the name "Government Forces", launched an early morning attack on Gen. Johnson's Sinkor 19th Street residence on April 6,1996. The late Johnson, with the assistance of his fighters and that of the Liberia Peace Council, survived the attack and sought refuge in the Barclay Training Center on UN drive, thus leading to a full war in Monrovia.

The April 1996 fracas was very deadly, as it led to the death of thousands of Liberians, destroyed millions dollars worth of properties and displacing thousands of Liberians in the country mostly Monrovia.

Some Liberians also sought refuge in other parts of the sub region. The war also saw the rise of the famous General Butt-Naked, now turned evangelist, Joshua Milton Blayee in full action for Gen Johnson's ULIMO faction.

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