Monrovia: The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major General Prince C. Johnson III, has been challenged by Lofa County Senator, Stephen A. Zargo, to come clear by telling the Liberian people as to who wants to overthrow President George Manneh Weah.
Senator Zargo who is also a security expert, in a telephone conversation with OK FM on Thursday, December 8, 2022 called on the Chief of Staff to make full disclosure of individuals who are sending text messages to him aimed at overthrowing incumbent President George Weah.
Senator Zargo, who is also Chairman of the Senate standing committee on Defense, National Security, and Veteran Affairs mentioned that in the context of a ‘conspiracy theory’, it is significant to make full disclosure of the names of people who are involved in the alleged plot aimed at breaking such conspiracy.
“Under the conspiracy theory, if there is a disclosure of a conspiracy, you are not to do partial disclosure rather full disclosure,” stressed Zargo.
He maintains that for anyone or group to encourage the AFL Chief of Staff who is a neutral person to overthrow the sitting President of the Liberian nation requires a full disclosure.
Ahead of 2023, “if we are not happy with George Weah, there are options on the books, those options are the opportunity to go and vote out the President,” the Senator asserted.
According to him, it is quite unfortunate for people to be calling on the Army to overthrow the President of the Republic of Liberia as those with such alleged plans are yet to be identified.
At the same time, the Senate Chairman on National Security and Veteran Affairs wants the Minister of Justice who is also Attorney General of Liberia and Chief of Joint Security Forces to, without delay, convene a meeting to make a determination of the AFL Chief of Staff’s recent disclosure.
At the same time, a leading civil society advocacy group, Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), in response to the Chief of Staff statement, stressing the need for Liberians to adhere to the rule of law and resolving their differences in court is tantamount to interference in politics by the Army Chief of Staff.
The statement, which the Chief of staff said represents a caveat has the potential to close the civil space for political participation in the lead up to the 2023 elections, ECC said.
The ECC in a statement on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 slammed General Johnson’s assertion as being “completely out of order and a form of the military interfering in civil matters by instilling fear, and intimidation of citizens who wish to exercise their constitutional rights to assemble as guaranteed by Article 17 of the Liberian constitution.”
The AFL Chief of Staff came under intense public criticism following his recent statement that the AFL will deal with anyone who may attempt to undermine Liberia’s peace and democracy as the nation prepares for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections.
“If you decide to take the law into your own hands (disregarding the rule of law), regardless of your current or past status or affiliation, and if the LNP can’t control your actions and/or is overwhelmed, we will execute our constitutional duties,” he stated in a Facebook post.
The army chief’s statement is reliant on Chapter 2, Section 2.3 (E) of the 2008 New Defense Act. It states:
“The duties of the AFL in peacetime shall include support to the national law enforcement agencies when such support is requested and is approved by the President. Such support shall include the exchange of information, personnel training, and mobilization and deployment of security contingents. At no time during peacetime, however, shall the AFL engage in law enforcement within Liberia, such function being the prerogative of the Liberia National Police and other law enforcement agencies. Notwithstanding, the Military Police of the AFL may, on request of the Ministry of Justice made to the Ministry of National Defense, and approved by the President of Liberia, aid these law enforcement agencies as determined by prevailing situations. The AFL shall intervene only as a last resort when the threat exceeds the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to respond.”
According to Maj. Gen. Johnson, his caveat was based on receipt of multiple inciting text messages from people at home and abroad, asking him to use the military to unseat Pres. Weah, especially now that he’s out of the country. He disclosed that the messages are from Liberians in the United States and in Liberia.
He, however, noted that the army will not revert to what happened in 1980 when men enlisted in the army overthrew an elected government. He assured Liberians that this would not happen under this leadership.
“We allow democracy to prevail and that should be through the ballot box, or we use the Constitution through the courts. The Army will not revert to what happened in 1980. That will not happen under this leadership,” he said.
Though he did not provide any evidence to his claim, his assertion has shocked several prominent citizens both home and abroad. Others are at the same time terming the statement as unnecessary warning.