Inside John Stewart’s Narrative With George Boley:
“More Yoyo, “More Blessing,” Meaning ”Confusion & Unrestricted Looting”
For days on end during the months of September and October 1994, the attention of the nation was drawn continuously to media reports, especially BBC reports about the fall of Charles Taylor’s Gbarnga stronghold to opposing rebel forces. Then, rebel leader, Charles Taylor was attending a peace conference in Accra, Ghana. For weeks, the nation was held in suspense not knowing what was actually obtaining in Gbarnga amid media reports of intense fighting, indiscriminate killings, looting, and arson.
The Alhaji Kromah led-ULIMO-K rebel faction was claiming Gbarnga as its prize after its forces attacked the town on September 9, 1994, and put NPFL fighters to flight. And ULIMO K rebel leader Alhaji Kromah had proudly declared that Gbarnga was now his coveted prize. Also claiming Gbarnga as a prize was the George Boley led rebel Liberia Peace Council (LPC) faction after its forces attacked and overran ULIMO positions which caused ULIMO-K fighters to retreat north of Gbarnga to the town of Palala.
At the time the Francois Massaquoi led Lofa Defense Force rebel faction(LDF), as well as the LPC, were making a case for inclusion in the peace negotiations claiming that they were holding territories just as ULIMO-K, ULIMO J, and the NPFL. At the time only warring factions, who controlled territories were involved in peace talks and negotiations. When news broke of the fall of Gbarnga in early September 1994, I was at the time serving as founding Associate Editor of the New Democrat Weekly, then the nation’s largest-selling newspaper.
Sometime in mid-September 1994, a couple, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh walked into our Center Street offices seeking to speak with the Editor-in-Chief, Tom Kamara. They were ushered into his office, and I followed. And the purpose of that meeting they explained, was to invite the New Democrat to Gbarnga to verify reports of the fall of Gbarnga as well as to verify accounts that LPC was in control of Gbarnga.
The couple’s visit came in the wake of previous initial failed attempts we made to contact ULIMO-K rebel leader Alhaji Kromah to grant us access to Gbarnga to report on developments there.
However, Kromah instead granted access to the Inquirer’s reporter, Sidiki Trawally and that is how the Inquirer broke the story. Thus, when this couple, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh walked in offering to grant us access through their lines to report on happenings in Gbarnga, we jumped at the opportunity and agreed to send a reporter.
But we found ourselves faced with a dilemma-and that was no reporter appeared willing to take the risk of traveling through rebel lines to get to Gbarnga with all the associated dangers. Being unable to identify a reporter willing to undertake the assignment, I volunteered to take the assignment. Little did I realize at the time the enormity and gravity of the assignment I had volunteered to undertake.
Had I realized at the time, that our earnest desire to go all out to accurately informed would place my life at such grave risk and danger and would have had the ultimate effect of granting legitimacy to a rebel group with a bloody signature, I doubt, on reflection, that I would have undertaken that assignment.
But to make a long story short, I accepted the assignment and proceeded to meet with an official of the LPC to arrange my travel.
The official, LPC Secretary-General Weade Kobbah Wureh escorted me to the Thinkers Village home of the late Thomas Woewiyu who was not at home at the time. Thomas Woewiyu, a former Defense Minister in the NPFL, along with others including Laveli Supuwood and Samuel Dokie, had broken ranks with Taylor and formed a faction styled- NPFL-CRC which had entered into a coalition with the LPC.
There at Woewiyu’s home a pickup truck has driven by a young man who identified himself as “Major Trouble from Brigade” was loaded down with arms and ammunition including Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). There I was provided an escort by the same LPC official (Weade Kobbah Wureh now Weade Kobbah Wureh, Boley) current wife of George Boley who with him had previously visited our offices.
But before taking off, she shouted out a battle cry to the escort. “More Yoyo”, “More Blessing” came the instant reply and then she followed with “More Blessing” and came the instant reply, “More Yo Yo”. Prince would later confess to me that YoYo meant confusion and “Mo blessing” meant the rewards of unrestricted looting.
The escort, armed with an RPG identified himself as Prince, his last name I cannot recall now but, he told me he hailed from Zorzor District in Lofa. But he preferred to be called by his nom de guerre, “Prince Yudugbay Johnson”, the LPC’s version of Prince Johnson. My escort, Prince and two others were later publicly executed in Buchanan on Boley’s orders for “looting”. The incident was carried in local newspapers.
What an irony and travesty of justice it was. Here was the LPC leader a chief beneficiary of the widespread looting carried out by his men, accusing others of looting. They were hurriedly tried by a kangaroo court set up by Boley at Flour Mill, Buchanan, and put to death by firing squad.
From Thinkers Village we drove to the LPC Buchanan, Flour Mill to meet LPC Field Commander, General Ruth Milton aka General Arteelah. She was a heavy-set individual, and she looked the no-nonsense type. I learned that she had been one of the first females to be enlisted into the AFL after President Tolbert assumed office following the death of President Tubman in 1971
There at the LPC Flour Mill Buchanan headquarters, she delivered a final charge to Major Trouble and “Yudugbay” to escort me safely into Gbarnga. We then began a harrowing all-day journey on a route littered with landmines.
Our first stop outside Buchanan was at Big Joe Town, where ECOMOG’S last checkpoint stood, Major Trouble disembarked from the vehicle and proceeded by foot examining every inch of the road ahead up to a church building standing on the left side of the road, about 50 yards away.
“Look at that church”, Major Trouble declared.” During the Peace talks, that is where NPFL General KuKu Dennis used to park his vehicle and then walk to the ECOMOG checkpoint.
After the fall of Buchanan, Charles Taylor had planted anti-tank mines along the stretch of road to prevent any potential advance by ECOMOG. But Major Trouble had spotted three (3) landmines at different points along the road. Heavy rains had partially exposed them.
And over each of the mines, he placed a broken metal bucket turned upside down in order to alert other users of the road to their presence. Next, he searched out the ruts, track marks of vehicle tires on the road to ensure the absence of mines.
After the exercise, we resumed our journey. At Buchanan, we had picked up additional fighters to accompany us to Gbarnga. As we proceeded the fighters riding the back of the pickup truck opened up with random bursts of automatic rifle fire aimed at nothing but the bushes. My heart it seemed, skipped a beat with each burst of gunfire. Here I was in the company of complete strangers, armed to the teeth not knowing how the journey would end.
Eventually, we made it safely to Sammy Kollie Ta, just a stone’s throw from Gbarnga, by nightfall.
However, a return vehicle to Buchanan, which we encountered along the road filled with looted goods and some wounded LPC fighters ran over a landmine that exploded leaving a single survivor out of ten individuals aboard that vehicle.
We slowed to a halt as the vehicle, a pick-up truck approached. There was a wounded fighter in a wheelbarrow being pushed by five other fighters. In vain they pleaded with the Buchanan-bound vehicle to take them aboard. Not succeeding they turned to us asking for help to take them to Buchanan.
But the driver, Major Trouble stoutly refused insisting that he was carrying supplies for men at the front and could not, therefore, abandon his mission to return to Buchanan.
And we continued our journey to Sammy Kollie Ta a village just outside Gbarnga. After spending nearly three weeks, I was able to obtain a firsthand account of how life was behind LPC rebel lines. It was there in Sammy Kollie Ta, I encountered hundreds of displaced people without shelter nor food to eat.
They had to resort to scavenging, harvesting abandoned rice fields, and seeking shelter in whatever available abandoned structures there were. Moreover, they lived in constant fear of summary execution for whatever contrived reason.
It was from them that I learned that the LPC’s favorite method of killing was what they called “design”, meaning that a victim would be chopped into pieces and the remains strewn along the roadside.
Even some fighters themselves boasted of such wicked exploits.
This was intended to induce fear and force people to flee.
Their abandoned villages would then be plundered and stripped of every valuable item. The fighters called the booty from this kind of pervasive looting as “risk-taker”.
Finally, I returned to Monrovia and wrote a story, “Gbarnga Burns” that made front-page headlines.
Not long after then, a peace conference dubbed Abuja I, held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in 1995 was convened with all the warring parties present. I covered that conference in Abuja as a journalist working from our room at Nicon Noga Hilton hotel together with other journalists including Sando Moore, Ben Asante, Lindsay Barrett, and BBC reporter Sola Odunfa.
It was at that meeting that legitimacy was conferred on the LPC granting it representation on the Transitional Council and firmly establishing its leader, George Boley as warring faction head.
The Transitional Council was made up of proxies representing the various factions. Representing the NPFL was rebel General Isaac Musah (deceased) while ULIMO-K was represented by Dexter Taylor (deceased) and the LPC/NPFL CRC was represented by LPC Secretary-General, Weade Kobbah Wureh (Present wife of George Boley).
Quite clearly, the LPC’s drive to establish itself as a warring faction with a seat at the table of peace negotiations had been accomplished.
Both of its top executives, George Boley and Weade Kobbah Wureh had ascended to the high office of Vice Heads of State respectively at different intervals. Their path to high offices in the land was however smeared with blood and paved with heaps of corpses of innocents whose lives were cut short by the mass and indiscriminate killings committed by fighters of the Boley-led Liberia Peace Council (LPC).
The experiences of many of those who witnessed the killing of relatives and friends or suffered egregious human rights abuse at the hands of the LPC are well documented in the TRC Final Report.
More to that eyewitness accounts of the massacres and looting spree carried out by the LPC are also documented in the TRC Report. One of such massacres took place in Bloh Town situated on the road leading to Cestos City. There TRC Commissioners were led to a site in a rubber bush where they observed a large number of human remains scattered about in the rubber bush opposite the town. Survivors and eyewitness accounts say about 400 persons were killed by LPC fighters using machetes, axes, and wooden clubs.
Additionally, logging equipment including front-end loaders, trailers, power saws, tons of rubber looted from the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) in Grand Bassa and the Sinoe Rubber Company plantation as well as timber, etc. were looted and sold into the Ivory Coast and beyond according to accounts provided by former LPC fighters.
Further, former LPC fighters and informed sources from Ghana have revealed that about twenty-two (22) looted vehicles were allegedly taken across the Ivorian border and into Ghana where some were sold to different buyers.
Some of the vehicles including a bus were converted into public transportation. This suggested that Mr. Boley was actively engaged in the transportation business in Ghana while back home in Liberia, his LPC rebel group looted, pillaged the Country, and murdered people indiscriminately.
One of the buyers of the looted vehicles was a young Ghanaian male who purchased a state-owned bulletproof black Mercedes-Benz.
According to investigative sources and former LPC fighters, it was the same vehicle used as an official vehicle by President Samuel Doe during the last days of his Presidency.
But as things turned out, according to credible sources including former LPC fighters, the young Ghanaian had paid only US$10,000 out of the asking price of US$30,000 and had reneged on further payment.
The black Mercedes Benz was allegedly worth around $92,000.00
According to former LPC fighters (names withheld), local Ghanaian drivers who were running the other vehicles as taxis absconded with the vehicles and to date have not been found.
One such compelling story is about the bus that was used as public transportation which was also alleged to have been looted from Liberia by George Boley’s LPC fighters on his behalf.
Sources alleged that the driver for the bus also absconded with the bus but was later found and taken to court by an official of the Boley-led LPC identified as Weade Kobbah Wureh, now Mrs. Boley.
But in an unusual twist, the Ghanaian bus driver, according to sources, told the judge that he was being coerced to pay for a stolen vehicle by rebels from Liberia who had looted state property and that the bus was one of the looted vehicles.
Further according to sources, the Judge, upon listening to the bus driver’s testimony, became incensed and railed at the complainants for looting their country and shamelessly pursuing payment for an illegally acquired vehicle.
According to sources, the judge threw out the case telling the LPC official and her supporters to go back to Liberia and fix the Country they helped destroy.
But more to that informed sources, including former LPC fighters, have disclosed that Boley allegedly purchased two compounds. One is located in Community 9, Tema, and the other in Community 10 Tema, Ghana, where he frequented during the Taylor regime.
Sources further alleged they jointly operated a business firm (South Eastern Trade Links) in Ghana through which funds realized from the illegal sale of looted tropical timber rubber and other valuables were channeled.
Boley, according to US media reports, had also bought properties all in cash in the US including a mansion allegedly valued at about US$1m situated on a 10-acre spread in the city of Clarkson, upstate New York after his stint as Vice Head of State in the Transitional government.
Credible sources say, after the fall of Buchanan, Greenville, and Harper to the LPC, thousands of logs stockpiled (valued several million dollars) at those ports were illegally shipped to Vincennes, a shipping port on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Former Chairman of the National Investment Commission(NIC) Trohoe Kpargahai and former Liberian Ambassador to France Aaron George were, according to sources serving as middlemen arranging the illegal sales of stolen timber from Liberia.
Timbers were sold to French buyers who reports say had an insatiable appetite for tropical timber and were prepared to go any lengths to acquire same.
Quite clearly, Dr. George Saigbe Boley is and has been a beneficiary of the country’s civil conflict. And he has benefited, acquired wealth from the wanton plunder and illegal sale of private and state resources.
Today, George Boley, a recruiter of child soldiers and former leader of the notorious LPC warring faction whose bloody footprints still litter the landscapes of Bong, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Grand Kru, River Gee, and Maryland Counties, sits in the Liberian Parliament while his former LPC Secretary-General, now his wife, Weade Kobbah Boley is a Vice President at the University of Liberia.
Neither of them has been held to account for their roles and participation in the civil war as leaders of one of the most brutal and notorious warring factions. And he Boley, has been unrepentant as ever.
He recently told a fellow parliamentarian in a high-handed and shameless manner that had he not done the things he did, many people including his colleague would not be here today.
In other words had his foot soldiers like Generals Noreiga and Satan not terrorized the peoples of Sinoe, Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, Maryland, and River Gee Counties with random indiscriminate killings, and the massive looting of private and public property, Representative Dixon Seeboe would not be where he is today.
During parliamentary discussions recently, Representative Dixon Seeboe had openly accused George Boley of killing his relatives during the civil war.
For my part, Boley has on several previous occasions accused me, John H.T. Stewart, as one of those individuals opposed to peace in Liberia because of the TRC report which documented the atrocities committed by fighters under his command.
Recently on the Ashford Garley show, he again repeated the same accusations. Journalist Ashford Garley did not and has not so far provided me the opportunity to react to Boley’s threatening utterances against me and possibly that of my family and close associates.
Thanks, however, to social media, I am availed of the opportunity to respond to threatening comments by George Boley. I must admit that I am not surprised by his utterances.
Those threatening utterances are induced and driven by fear. It is the fear of eventually being dragged to court to face criminal charges for war and economic crimes.
It is also the fear of facing similar prospects to that of his counterpart, Charles Taylor currently serving a 50-year sentence in a British jail.
But Representative George Boley is not alone in this regard. His legislative colleague Senator Prince Johnson also harbors such fears and I dare say they are deeply ingrained fears.
On several occasions during his church service, Prince Johnson has launched vitriolic attacks and made threatening statements against my person.
And his reason just like George Boley’s is because I served on the TRC that indicted him and recommended his prosecution for crimes against humanity.
I have often brushed off Senator Prince Johnson’s as insane comments from a mentally challenged person; however, I am not unmindful of his killer instincts neither am I unmindful of George Boley’s vindictive and evil character.
Remember his (Boley’s) late brother-in-law, Charles Gbenyon who was killed at the Executive Mansion in the wake of the November 12, 1985, abortive invasion, and how he did not lift a finger, according to family sources to help save his brother-in-law from execution?
Journalist Charles Gbenyon, according to eyewitness accounts was beheaded by soldiers at the Mansion.
Also, remember George Boley dressed in military fatigues flaunting an M-16 automatic rifle and virtually gloating over the lifeless body of failed coup leader, General Thomas Quiwonkpa on national television?
Remember also, reports of George Boley leading soldiers to the Bentol home of assassinated Liberian President, William R. Tolbert on the day following the coup according to family members?
Regarding that incident, Mr. George Boley was also accused by a Co-Member of the PRC, Captain Kalongo Luo, who testified before the TRC in the US and attested to Boley’s looting of the President’s home and taking away his safe and other valuables.
When Boley appeared before the TRC, he denied being part of any waring group and insisted that the LPC group which he led was simply an advocacy group.
But when I posed the question to him in which capacity did he sign the Abuja I Accords since it was only warring factions who were signatories to the Peace Agreement he fumbled for an answer.
That question apparently infuriated him. And George Boley, lying through his teeth, responded emphatically declaring that I John H. T Stewart led the LPC attack on Gbarnga on September 14, 1994.
His lies that I led the attack on Gbarnga, made news headlines the very next day.
But I say all this with no malice towards him(George Boley) nor any of his kith and kin some of whom I know very well. However, for me, this is a life and death matter over which such sentiments of amity do not hold sway.
I take the threats of Parliamentarians George Boley and Prince Johnson seriously and I am now informing the world that owing to their threats against me, I am placing my life and safety in their hands.
I cannot and can never underestimate their capacity to actualize their vile threats neither can I dismiss their intent to bring harm to my person, family, friends, and or associates.
However, let me inform all and sundry that I am not afraid of evil men and women.
God being my helper, I have, over 45 years in the struggle for rights and justice survived and overcome many trials and tribulations including imprisonment, torture, and economic marginalization.
Even if they succeed in killing me, they cannot kill the desire of the Liberian people for freedom justice, and accountability.
George Boley and Prince Johnson including their allies and friends may be rich and powerful, but their wealth stems from the spillage of innocent blood and their respective paths to power are smeared with innocent blood and littered with heaps of corpses.
Compare the attitudes of these rich and powerful men, George Boley and Prince Johnson to that of Joshua Milton Blahyi otherwise known as General Buck Naked. “Buck Naked” has since continued to display a spirit of humility.
Aside from acknowledging his role in the civil war and admitting to killing innocent people, he has welcomed the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
He has shunned politics and has also expressed remorse for his actions but at the same time called for the prosecution of warlords including himself to serve as a deterrent to future would-be and wannabe warlords.
Warlords Prince Johnson and George Boley on the other hand are boasting of their wicked wartime exploits and shamelessly parading themselves as heroes. They have and continue to rubbish the TRC Report.
Their stance is quite unlike that of the once-feared “Buck Naked” whose display of humility starkly contrasts that of the haughtiness of warlords George Boley and Prince Johnson, who have now become rich and powerful men occupying high political offices.
But to such rich and powerful men (Prince Johnson and George Boley) comes a warning from The Book of James Chapter 5 verses 1-3 in the Holy Bible.
“Go now ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Your gold and silver are cankered and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and shall eat your flesh as it were fire”.
Slowly but surely, the Biblical prophecy is being revealed. These former warlords and their minions should know that Justice, no matter how long delayed, is sure to come.
A reminder of this can also be found in the Holy Bible Chapter 3 Verse 25 of the Book of Colossians.
And it reads: “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Yesterday may have been killing time but, now it is time for accountability. There is a time and season to everything says the Bible.
Right now, both men must be very troubled indeed. Senator, Reverend Prince Johnson is clinging on to what he says is an Act of Legislature passed on August 8, 2003, granting general amnesty to all who participated in the civil war from 1989 to 2003.
But notably, it was during that period, with rebel armies banging at the gates of Monrovia, laying siege to the city. By then the entire government had broken down with government offices including the courts all folded up.
This so-called Act of Legislature was simply a last-minute move by Charles Taylor to absolve himself and thus grant him immunity from prosecution for crimes committed against the Liberian people.
In any case, no Act of the Legislature can ever absolve anyone of criminal liability for the commission of war and other egregious crimes.
To my mind, it is desperation that is driving Senator Reverend Prince Johnson to seek reliance on the August 8, 2003, Act of Legislature that was never printed into handbills to give it legal effect.
It was simply because government offices had by then ceased to function owing to the onslaught on Monrovia by rebel forces.
But as songwriter Jimmy Cliff says, “A drowning man would clutch even at a straw”
In conclusion, let me express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the people of Liberia for being unwavering in their desire for sustainable peace and unrelenting in their quest for justice.
Let me further express the hope that in all this talk about war and economic crimes court, proper recognition and timely consideration will be given to victims in terms of having them repaired as a first step towards the eventual restoration and repair of broken relations and trust amongst local communities throughout the length and breadth of Liberia.
The Reverend Senator Prince Johnson and his legislative counterpart Dr. George Boley ought to be reminded that the clock is ticking, slowly advancing towards that great day of reckoning when they will find themselves facing JUSTICE as indicted war and economic criminals.
To my mind, both individuals ought to be sitting in jail where they rightly belong. Now it is just a matter of time! Written by John Stewart