Press Releases

Prince Johnson Massacred Nearly 50 Civilians: Witness

March 4, 2008

ZWERDU (TRC)?Fighters of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) massacred scores of ethnic Krahns in 1990 when ECOMOG peacekeeping soldiers tried to evacuate the Krahns from Liberia, a witness told commissioners of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Monday.

The witness said the victims were transported onboard five ECOMOG trucks from the Barclay Training Center (BTC) to the Freeport of Monrovia on September 11, a day following the death of President Samuel Kanyon Doe to await evacuation when INPFL fighters under the command of General Prince Johnson stormed the port and demanded their turnover.

Testifying on the first day of the TRC Public Hearings in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Henry Zonweayea, local chair of the ruling Unity Party who survived the massacre, said following their arrival at the Freeport they were temporarily housed in a warehouse of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) before Johnson, then leader of the INPFL now senator of Nimba County, arrived and demanded that the peacekeepers release all of the evacuees to him.

Prince Johnson, he said, was informed by the soldiers of the evacuation plan, but he contended that they would not be evacuated. He said the INPFL leader instead ordered his fighters to bundle several of the evacuees into two waiting pickups and a bus.

According to him the victims were taken to the Caldwell Bridge where all of them were ordered to kneel down as the fighters shot them execution style.

Zonweaye who claimed he escaped the massacre said those murdered numbered up to 50, naming some of the dead as former police intelligence chief Peter Thomas and National Housing Authority (NHA) managing director Samuel Tody.

He explained that when Johnson later returned to the port and ordered his fighters to take away another batch of the evacuees, he was held by ECOMOG soldiers under the command of General Joshua Dogonyarro who demanded that the last batch be returned before his release.

The INPFL leader, he said at that time communicated with his deputy Gen. Samuel Varney who had already lined them up for execution. Mr. Zonweayea testified that it was following the return of the captives that Gen. Dogonyarro ordered Johnson's release.

Also appearing Monday, another witness 70-year-old George G. Quiah, said fighters of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) killed dozens of inhabitants of Gbarbloh Town, Grand Gedeh County before setting the town ablaze.

He said the NPFL rebels who pleaded with the town's inhabitants to return from the bush deceived them, saying LPC leader George Boley sent them to carry the villagers to Tuzon for a meeting.

"We believed the fighters and everybody came out and lined up, but we were surprised when they started to kill everybody," the witness said.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations, review the history of Liberia, and put all human rights abuses that occurred during the period from 1979 to 2003 on record. The TRC mandate is to also identify victims and perpetrators and make recommendations on amnesty, prosecution and reparation.

The ongoing public hearings in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County are being held under the theme: "Confronting Our Difficult Past ForA Better Future." The hearings will Monday move to the port city of Greenville, Sinoe County.

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