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Former Liberian Warlord Ponders a Presidential Run in 2011

The presumptive running mate for former Liberian warlord Prince Johnson in the 2011 presidential election said his military background, and that of Prince Johnson, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous Liberians, qualify them to seek the nation’s highest office.

Former Liberian warlord now Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Liberian warlord now Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Abel Massaley, who is a senator from Liberia’s western Grand Cape Mount County, told VOA President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has a credibility problem with Liberians for reneging on her promise to serve only one term.

This comes as Liberia’s electoral commission this week certified Prince Johnson’s National Union for Democratic Progress party to contest the 2011 elections.

Massaley said the certification should be seen by Liberians as the party’s revolutionary drive for state power.

“Sometime ago, the senator approached me for us to form a political party so that we can contest the 2011 election. Since that time, we have been working assiduously putting in place the required mechanism to form this political party called the National Union for Democratic Progress. We met all of the legal requirements set forth by the Election Commission. We want to say here, in clear and unambiguous terms, that the formation of this party must be seen by Liberians, both at home and abroad, as a major step forward in our own revolutionary drive for state power,” he said.

Massaley said, even though he supported President Johnson-Sirleaf in the 2005 presidential election, he believes the president has a credibility problem with Liberians for reneging on her promise to serve only one term.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia

“When she contested the election and a second round came about between her and George Weah, I was one of those who felt that the chance should be given to her to lead. Besides that, she told us that she wanted one term, and we did everything humanly possible to ensure that she was given this one fair chance. So, to see President Sirleaf reneging on this promise that she made to the Liberian people that she was going only going to run for one term, we feel that, even though it is not wrong to do that, but this will create some credibility problem,” Massaley said.

He said Liberians should choose their president in 2011 from among candidates who have gone through what he called the rank and file like he and Prince Johnson have.

‘Senator Johnson was in the military, he’s a disciplined military person. I have a military background, too, and we think the Liberian people have explicit confidence in us. We come from the indigenous side of this country, and a lot of the Liberian people want to see this kind of leadership that we are about to provide in this country,” Massaley said.

Massaley said Prince Johnson’s National Union for Democratic Progress party has already begun consultations with other opposition parties on how best they could work together to defeat President Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party.

“As a matter of fact, yesterday [Wednesday] we invited some of the major opposition political parties to the program marking the accreditation of the National Union for Democratic Progress and, immediately after the ceremonious aspect of our program, we proceeded in house to advance the idea as to how best we all can come together to build consensus so that we can stand as a unified force to battle against the ruling party. And, I think that idea has been embraced by all of the political parties that turned out yesterday to grace our program,” Massaley said.

Some members of the legislative caucus from Nimba County from which Prince comes are said to have endorsed President Sirleaf. Massaly said members of the caucus do not represent the views of the voters.

“The senators and representatives who presented the petition to President Sirleaf in Nimba County did so because most of these people do not stand the chance of being re-elected. So, what they did out there was a stage-managed presentation. Petitions are not representative of the views of the majority of the people of Nimba County, neither are petitions representative of the views of the people of Montserrado County,” he said.

Prince Johnson is notorious for the capture and murder of Liberian President Samuel Doe during the country’s bloody civil war, something that has for years caused a rift between the people from Doe’s Grand Gedeh County and Prince Johnson’s Nimba County.

But, Massaley said Johnson has expressed remorse for Doe’s death. He blamed politicians for causing the confusion between the people of Grand Gedeh and Nimba.

“We regretted that Prince Johnson and the Nimbaians, on the one hand, and the people of Grand Gedeh on the other hand had to go through the kind of confusion they went through and as a result of that President Doe got killed. But, we wish to say here that it was a group of people, the very politicians who have confused [the] political stage of this country [who] were behind the commotion, the division that came between the people of Nimba County and the people of Grand County. But, we have come to realize that we all were used in the process,” Massaley said.

Massaley said his party has told the people of Grand Gedeh and Nimba counties to bury their differences and work as one.