Liberia: Protesters Storm Senator Prince Johnson’s Church, Forcing Evacuation and Service Cancellation

By Jaheim T. Tumu

Paynesville — A youth group under the banner National Patriotic Party (NPP) Youth Council Sunday created panic at Senator Prince Johnson’s Christ Chapel of Faith Ministry, forcing members to flee for safety after they stormed the church’s premises chanting “War Crimes Court”.

The group’s actions also forced the notorious warlord turned evangelist to call off his service.

The Nimba County Senator had last week informed Liberians via Facebook to assemble at his church Sunday, where he promised to respond to Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, who during the week branded him a “killer” during an endorsement program for President George Weah held by Legislative staffers in the joint chambers of the Capitol Building.

Prior to Sunday’s service, the Nimba Senator had informed his audience that he had gotten a hint that “hooligans” from the ruling Coalition for Democratic (CDC) were around the church’s premises and had planned to attack him and disrupt the service.

Senator Johnson, who had prepared a theme: “Dull and Confused Leadership Brings Plague to a Nation” with text coming from the book of Acts 20:17-35, immediately changed the theme apparently to avoid “hooligans” inflicting injuries to his members after the tension outside begins to escalate.

Peter Blidii, Jr, National Vice Chairman for Press and Propaganda of the National Patriotic Party Youth Council who led the protesters said, they had assembled at Senator Johnson’s church after his open invitation to Liberians to turn out for his response to the vice president.

Said Blidii, “We are here because Senator Johnson had promised to vilify the standard bearer of the NPP, Jewel Howard-Taylor. We don’t fight war, we fight intellectually and today it’s a historic day. We are here with men and women of the National Patriotic Party.

“We are here to worship with Prince Johnson and to also let him know that the NPP is a radical Political Party.”

“In as much as he used his Facebook page to give a hint that he was going to vilify our Political Leader, we are here too to call for War Crimes Court because we know he’s a murderer,” he added.

Addressing a press conference after the incident Sunday, Senator Johnson claimed the attack on his church was orchestrated by Howard- Taylor, the Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee and Maritime Commission boss, Lenn Eugene Ngabe, whom he alleged they are planning to assassinate him.

“You witnessed what happened, you were there, it is not something that I am telling you. I just only want to overemphasize what we all saw. What I heard from one them over saying it is Jewel Howard- Taylor instructed them along with Koijee to come and disrupt the church, fight us, and wound the people. I am the target,” he said.

“I want to say thanks to Police Director Patrick Sudue. When I called, I couldn’t get him, I sent him a text then they sent police instead of the police rushing to the church. They stood at the junction at LBS, so when those boys finished doing the job now, if they have kill then they will come,” he said.

According to Senator Johnson, he was reportedly warned by a senior member Executive Protection Service (EPS) prior to the attack on his church to beef up his personal security as the CDC- led government recalibrated through the straight orders from Vice President Taylor Koijee to hit him after the previous plan failed.

He warned the CDC-led government to desist from sending extremists after him as the act of violence instigated at the front of the US Embassy in Monrovia when protesting students were flogged on the orders of Koijee, when District 8# Representative Acarious Gray entered the University of Liberia campus and beat students and disrupted classes.

“I am 70, you think I will die out of trouble, whoever hunts me will die. I know Jefferson Kailee’s house, I know these people’s houses. If you can hunt me, my people choose to hunt you. It is not conflict. We don’t want conflict. We beg you let us exercise our freedom well, he warned.

Meanwhile, the ruling CDC which is a coalition with the NPP has termed Sen. Johnson’s allegation against the party and its stalwarts as a “deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the events.”

“First, the CDC wants to make it categorically clear that as an institution, it does not condone violence of any kind and did not plan nor execute one at the Senator’s Church. However, the party is of the opinion that in our new dispensation, the right to assemble and voice one’s views are fully guaranteed under the law,” the party stated in a press release hours following the incident.

According to the CDC, the group appeared to be exercising these rights in a non-violent manner. Even Senator Johnson, against whom the protest was directed, did not say in his interview with the VOA following the protest that it was violent.