It's indicative of just what a stress this refugee influx is that almost five times as many Liberians are malnourished as Ivorian refugees.
The Special Representative for the Secretary General in Liberia Ellen Margrethe Loj briefed the Security Council today. Then, I spoke with her about the situation over the border in Ivory Coast. Her message was clear: the violence over the border in Cote D’Ivoire is posing a very serious threat to the stability of Liberia.
About 25,000 Ivorians have fled their country to neighboring Liberia. The UN Refugee Agency just posted this video about a Liberian community struggling to cope with the influx of refugees.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sacks her entire cabinet - except for one minister - on the eve of a national holiday and an overseas trip, only one week after her party nominated her for the 2011 presidential election.
Remember Prince Johnson, the Liberian senator accused of war crimes and threatening to re-ignite the civil war? He’s now claiming that the US paid ten million dollars in the 90s to fight the war. He isn’t entirely clear on just who from America paid him – he mentions both countries and the Liberian Diaspora. Five million, he says, went for arms and ammunition for Charles Taylor to use to launch the war. The rest, we can assume, was profit. But hey, at least he’s no longer threatening a new civil war. Maybe. It’s hard to tell from this quote “Senator Johnson said he is no longer interested in any war again, but rather total peace and forgiveness, he will resist any punitive actions against him as recommended by the TRC.”
While diasporas have a long and ugly tradition of supporting violence in their countries of origin, (See Boston Irish community and the IRA, a radicalized Sri Lankan diaspora, and the role of Somalis abroad in financing the conflict there) and it’s in keeping with Charles Taylor’s claim that the CIA helped him break out of jail, I just don’t buy it. The US has been accused of supporting pretty much every side of the Liberian war. Taylor, and Johnson, probably did receive funding from the Liberian diaspora, but I can’t quite believe in a US government conspiracy to support 14 years of misery and child soldiering.
The indictment of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was not the only conclusion of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that could have a far-reaching impact. True, they recommended banning her from politics for 30 years. But she’s not the only Liberian politician mentioned in the report.
Former warlord and current Nimba County senator Prince Johnson was also named in the report. It recommends that he be prosecuted for gross human rights violations and war crimes, specifically mass murder, extortion, destruction of property, forced recruitment, assault, abduction, torture, and rape. Of the 88 people cited for atrocities in the report, Johnson is ranked #1 for the severity of his crimes as leader of the Independent Patriotic Front of Liberia, the group that executed former President Samuel K. Doe.
As an added bonus, there are rumors that he is threatening to re-start the civil war if he is prosecuted.
Foreign Policy Magazine has a new interview of Johnson, with freelance journalist Glenna Gordon. Not surprisingly, Johnson disputes the TRC report’s conclusions. Not only does he dispute the conclusions, he seems to be politically ambitious. Some quotes from the interview:
“I spoke at the TRC and said, "Forgive me for my sins, but when two elephants fight, the grass suffers." I was repentant. I've accepted Jesus.”
“Every country in the world knows the history of Nimba [Johnson's county]. They know what [former President Samuel] Doe did to my people. I had to defend my people.”
“If people say go there [run for president], I'll go. Leadership does not come from how much you know. Leadership does not go by how much education you have. A leader that is born, you can see the characteristics.”
“I'm honest, straightforward, disciplined. When I say "yes," it's yes. These are characteristics that make people ... trust you. Tolerance, etc., etc. It's a gift. An individual gifted with wisdom is more than the man who is knowledgeable. When you gain knowledge you also gain wisdom. But there is no institution where you can gain wisdom. You got too many institutions that teach knowledge. Wisdom is a gift from God.”