28 August 2008

Liberia: Samuel Doe's Body Was Burnt, Says Prince Johnson

The founder of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) Prince Y. Johnson has finally disclosed how the late former President Samuel K. Doe's corpse was buried.

Appearing at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Thematic and Institutional Public Hearing yesterday, the former warlord, now senior Senator of Nimba County, startled the audience when he revealed that the body of the late former President Doe was burnt and his ashes thrown into a river.

In his testimony, the former INPFL General told the TRC that the body of the former president which was embalmed for 25 years and properly buried with his name carved on the grave at his (Johnson) Caldwell Base was exhumed due to speculations that he was chopped to pieces and eaten up.

He said when it was rumored everywhere that he had eaten Doe's body, some foreign journalists came to interview him and he told them that the body was buried; but not satisfied with that explanation, they requested to see the body, which led him to giving his principal deputy, the late Samuel Varney the order to dig up the body for inspection.

Johnson said that after they had dug up the body for the said purpose, the journalists then requested Varney to rebury the corpse but he refused on ground that one man could not have two graves and so Varney proposed that they cremate the body and he (P.Y.J.) agreed.

He stated further that after those events, he left the country but later heard that the former interim chairman of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), Amos Sawyer had sent a tractor on his base and excavated the grave with the belief that he (Johnson) had buried arms in Doe's grave.

In furtherance of his testimony, Senator Johnson stated that he alone should not be blamed for the death of Doe when he was only used as an instrument stressing, "We all were involved in the Doe matter. It should not be blamed on one person," adding that they all thought they wanted change and that Doe was not needed in their midst.

He said that even ECOMOG has to account for the capture of Doe and the disappearance of Doe's men because it did not execute its mandate well, noting, "They had signed Doe off the book because they were interested in Sawyer's interim leadership."

Explaining how Doe was captured which led to his subsequent killing, the defunct INPFL General said that it was during the course of his fighting in Liberia that he and Doe signed a truce that any of them traveling to each other's territory should seek permission ahead of time.

He said that Mr. Sirleaf Thompson who was serving as a spokesman between them did not inform him about Doe's visit so he wondered as to what Doe and his men were going to do at the Freeport of Monrovia even though he had earlier paid visit to Doe in the Barracks and, he (Doe) informed him that he was coming to visit the ECOMOG.

So upon this surprise visit, Mr. Johnson said when he entered the port upon receiving the message, he was provoked by Sam Blay who was part of Doe's entourage that day saying that "a government can not hold into account a truce signed with rebels," and with that statement, Johnson said that he ordered his men to secure the upstairs and downstairs of the port with special instructions that his men inform the peace keepers to leave and go on their ship with their hands in the air.

Mr. Johnson said that as a result of the statement and orders from both sides, fighting ensued which resulted to the wounding of the late President Doe and his subsequent capture.

"We carried him on the base while ECOMOG took care of his soldiers whether they died or escaped, I do not know," the former General revealed; though he later said that he got information that Doe had informed Sirleaf Thompson to tell him (Johnson) that he was going to the Freeport.

When asked why he televised the killing of Doe, the Nimba County Senior Senator Johnson said, "if the death of the thirteen men; the death of Tolbert; the death of journalist Charles Gbenyon, General Thomas Quiwonkpa and many others were televised, I too decided to televise Doe's death so that people would see it."

He said that other people have forgiven those who killed their people during the war so why can't people forget the death of Samuel K. Doe, adding, "Men were put in a combat against the regime that murdered their children. I said sorry to Doe family. Am I a coward to continue to say sorry? Have you heard with your ears that the Krahn people have come to tell the Nimba people sorry?"

"Doe's regime did not favor my people. They killed them like chickens and created sleepless nights for them. What do you expect me to do to a man reflecting my mind on atrocities? Most of Doe's children were born by women from Nimba County yet he treated our people cruelly. Should I have given room to human rights to stall the things that I wanted done?" he asked in a serious mood.

Speaking on his links with Amos Sawyer and others on the formation of the interim arrangement in Banjul, Senator Johnson said that he cast the last vote that made Sawyer the leader of the arrangement that was formulated in Banjul.

"Sawyer was extraordinarily wicked. After we had vowed to have him serve as the interim leader and brought him to Monrovia as a leader on a platter of gold, he called us thieves when he changed the Liberian bank notes."

Johnson said that after Sawyer became leader, former President Doe had in his account at the National Bank of Liberia some US$8.7million and in the presence of the bank manager, he (Johnson) gave the vault key and all related documents to Sawyer but Sawyer wanted them to divide it and he refused.

Mr. Johnson who told the TRC that Sawyer must give account of the US$8.7 million taken from Doe's account said that Sawyer then changed the currency with a new one carrying the signature of Byron Tarr who was not confirmed by the Legislature as bank governor.

"Sawyer is ungrateful. He siphoned some the money and allegedly built his home in the US. When Sawyer was interim leader, he stole money which he did nothing with neither did he account for it.

Now he is made Chairperson of the country's Governance Commission. What will happen to the country? Sawyer is corrupt," Johnson reiterated. Johnson told the TRC that Sawyer was suffering his men, adding, "He forced my men to join the Octopus."

On the killing of the former city mayor, Roosevelt Sarvice and Fred Blay, Johnson said that a betrayal in revolution is equal to execution therefore since he caught Blay and Sarvice communicating with Doe on a handset; he had no alternative but to have them killed.

As for the late Larry Borteh, Johnson said that he (Borteh) surrendered to him and he kept him for one month taking good care of him but was discouraged when he observed that he was having secret meetings with some of the soldiers to stage another revolution and 'you can not have revolution in revolution so he was tried by my established tribunal and found guilty. We executed him."

He said that the popular musical star, T. Roberts was killed by the late General Varney by his principal deputy, because they saw him standing with a white man with rice and apparently they had gone to sell rice.

He said while investigating Roberts and the white man, Varney noticed that Roberts was a gay so he shot him dead.

"I tied journalist Isaac Bantu for suppressing my release. I tied him seriously and had him in my living room at my base for seven hours," PYJ mocked.

Mr. Johnson who said that he killed no civilian knowingly told the Commissioners "Michael Doe died of misinformation from former Miss Liberia, Annie Broaderick that angered me. Annie said that Michael brought the NPFL to attack us and that he was collaborating with Doe soldiers so he was shot in the chest. His death was not intentional."

The former field marshal who also confirmed the planners of the November 12 coup plot as Harry Greaves, Robert Philips and James Holder said that while in the Ivory Coast trying to reform the NPFL, TRC Commissioner John Stewart was with Boima Fahnbulleh and others forming another thing.

He said that they had returned to the Ivory Coast to regroup and form another NPFL when J. Nicolas Podier joined them first by providing them funds but he could not be made the leader because he did not have a base. Later, Moses Duopu wanted to join them but he did not have anything so they did not incorporate him.

The former military leader who told the Commissioners that he carried out no massacre in Bong Mines or anywhere said that he joined the military in 1974 and rose to the rank of field marshal adding that he got out of the force in 1992 after the Octopus. "I turned over to ECOMOG and my men went through the DDRR process."

Copyright © 2008 The Inquirer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.