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Ex-warlord Johnson in Liberia quits his own party

Friday - 5/17/2013, 4:58pm  ET

JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH
Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Prince Johnson, a former warlord-turned-politician who is best known for having videotaped himself overseeing the torture of Liberia's ex-president, announced Friday he is quitting the political party he founded.

For years since the end of Liberia's civil war, Johnson has tried to erase his violent past, first becoming an evangelical pastor, and later running for office. He was already a senator from his native Nimba County when he founded the National Democratic Union Party in order to run for president in the 2011 election.

Despite his notorious past, he came in third, allowing him to play the role of kingmaker in the election by throwing his support behind Nobel Peace Prize winner President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won a second term with Johnson's backing.

On Friday, Johnson told The Associated Press he was leaving the party because the party's executives "do not have regard for me as the standard-bearer, founder and financier." He added that the people he had brought on board to run the party were bent on "diluting my vision for the party and the country." He also claimed that party officials couldn't account for the funds he had loaned them.

"They were behaving like grasshoppers or birds, who cannot produce but can only chop (or eat)," Johnson said. "I won't pray that the party dies, because if it succeeds, the credit will go to me."

The spokesman of the party, Eric Gbemie, welcomed Johnson's resignation saying in a local radio interview that there were other financiers who were prepared to help the political body.

Nimba County, in Liberia's northeast, borders Ivory Coast and Guinea. It's there that warlord Charles Taylor started Liberia's civil war on Christmas Eve in 1989. Before joining Taylor's movement, Johnson headed his own rebel group and in September 1990, his men kidnapped Liberia's then-President Samuel Doe. They brought him to Johnson, who decided to videotape what came next.

On the grainy footage which was broadcast around the world, Johnson can be seen sipping beer as attendants fan him. Doe is on his knees begging for his life. In front of the rolling camera, Johnson's men then cut off Doe's ears. The president died in Johnson's custody.


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