See also:
» 17.12.2009 - Media rights group condemns arrest of media players
» 07.09.2009 - New UN trained special police graduate in Liberia
» 07.07.2009 - Liberian president angered by TRC report
» 04.05.2009 - Taylor's acquittal plea thrown out
» 06.04.2009 - Lawyers seek Taylor’s acquittal
» 20.06.2008 - UN extends Liberia embargo
» 29.05.2008 - Ex-soldiers want Liberia's president impeached
» 15.05.2008 - Taylor's RUF link exposed

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Human rights | Politics

Warlord reveals his part in Burkina Faso coup

afrol News, 28 August - Former Liberian warlord, Prince Johnson, admitted Tuesday that he had trained in Libya and helped topple Burkina Faso government, before overthrowing Liberia's president.

Earlier this year, Mr Johnson refused to appear before country's truth and reconciliation commission, saying that he had already apologised to former Liberian president Samuel Doe, who died in his custody in 1990.

His testimony on Tuesday before a packed hall, was another turning point in Liberia's struggle to make actors of its brutal 14-year conflict face up to horrors they inflicted.

Although he is now a senator, Mr Johnson is viewed by many as a warlord-in-a-suit. He is best known for gruesome torture of slain ex leader, Mr Doe.

Mr Johnson reportedly led the assault, taking Doe hostage and then videotaped himself drinking Budweiser beer as he ordered his men to cut off former president's ears.

The videotape was reportedly copied and sold on street corners. Mr Johnson's men are said to have celebrated by parading dead president's body in a wheelbarrow.

But since Liberia emerged from civil war in 2003 and he, along with other warlords, reinvented himself as a senator, Mr Johnson has reportedly tried to distance himself from president's death.

He told truth commission yesterday that although it was his forces that captured Mr Doe, others are responsible for his death.

He argued that long before he led 9 September 1990 overthrow, an interim government had been formed in exile. Its goal was to overthrow the president, who had become deeply unpopular by favoring members of his ethnic group and allowing government forces to brutally kill his rivals.

"They sat in exile and formed an interim government to replace Doe government when Doe was still on throne, I was only instrument that they used," he said.

He added, "we all were involved in this Samuel Doe matter. We all wanted change."

To overthrow the president, Mr Johnson said he and other Liberians-in-exile reached out to Blaise Compaore, head of Burkina Faso's army and trusted friend of Burkina Faso's president Thomas Sankara.

Mr Compaore reportedly helped Mr Johnson and warlord Charles Taylor go to Libya for guerrilla training.

In his testimony, he does not say how or why he helped overthrow Mr Sankara. But in his 2003 autobiography, Mr Johnson explains that when Mr Sankara learned of planned coup, he refused to let his country be used to destabilise Liberia. So Mr Taylor conspired with Mr Compaore to assassinate president, Mr Johnson wrote.

1987 death of Mr Sankara, who was widely considered one of Africa's hopes, was a blow for region.

At hearing, Mr Johnson revealed that Mr Doe was first buried on a beach, and was later exhumed and cremated.

"Doe was cremated and thrown in river, so let us not open wounds," he noted.

Although Liberia held transparent elections in 2005, the country is struggling to knit itself back together.

With exception of Mr Taylor who is now on trial at The Hague for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, none of other players in Liberia's conflict is currently facing charges.

In an effort to heal wounds of past, Liberia's new government created truth commission, where victims and perpetrators are invited to lay past bare.

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