MONROVIA – Senator Steve Zargo (LP-Lofa County) says his last-minute’s withdrawal from the Senate leadership election to give Senator Prince Johnson (NDR-Nimba Couty) a free ride to the position was because of betrayal from members of his party. According to the Lofa lawmaker, he was not sure whether he would have won had he gone into the election because his own political leader, Senator Nyonble Karnga-Lawrence, and colleague Darius Dillon would not have voted for him.
Senator Zargo withdrew last minute into the election for the position of chairman on the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense and promised to work as co-chair to Prince Johnson of Nimba County a former rebel general. Senator Zargo: “Liberty party has betrayed me. Let me be honest: you remember when I contested the Pro-Temp position? My own political leader never supported me; she was the campaigner for Sen. Armah Jallah. What guarantee I had that I would have won this election or Senator Karnga and Dillon would have voted me? To some extent, the election was influenced and as a member of the ECOWAS parliament, I thought I will spend more time out of the country so I settled for the Co-Chair position.
“I opted for the co-chair position after I realized I would not have won. It was not based on any negotiation. I felt gonging for the chairmanship I would not have won. There are hidden hands in this country who are willing to ensure that JNB doesn’t appear on the CPP ticket. “They removed me from the LP chat room, a group I created. I am a brainchild of the CPP. This year, because they know we will be finding a political leader based on voter perception survey or consensus, now they cannot have Zargo in the party. They want to demonize me so I become irrelevant.”
Condemned by Party
The Liberty Party in a press release said it was appalled by the eleventh-hour, unilateral withdrawal of its immediate past National Chairman from the race for the chairmanship of the Senate’s Committee on Defense and National Security. A LP press statement issued early Thursday, May 20, 2021, stated that Senator Zargo’s unexpected withdrawal, which paved the way for the unchallenged election of Senator Prince Johnson to this position, is a disappointment to the CPP Legislative Caucus especially so since, prior to the election, the CPP Legislative Caucus agreed to support Senator Zargo as Chair of the Committee on Defense and National Security.
Liberty Party stated that it sees Senator Zargo’s action as a downright push back at the efforts of Liberians, both home and abroad, towards the establishment of the war and Economic Crimes Court to end the culture of impunity in Liberia. “It is irrefutable that the election of Senator Johnson to chair such an influential committee undermines calls for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court to prosecute warlords for the atrocities meted out against Liberians during the Liberian civil conflict,” the party stated.
“As an institution highly acclaimed for adherence to the rule of law, Liberty Party wishes to distance itself from Senator Zargo’s action against the consensus of the CPP Legislative Caucus. Liberty Party also wishes to inform all of its supporters who continue to cry aloud for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia, both home and abroad, of its commitment to the fight for justice for victims of the Civil War.”
“The Liberty Party will be citing Senator Zargo to a meeting with its leadership on Friday, May 21, 2021, to provide an explanation of his action to withdraw from the Legislative, election in a manner and timing that effectively disallowed the CPP from putting forth another candidate, especially given the fact that he knew that this action would result in the single slate of Senator Prince Johnson being presented for this critical position.”
LP Statement Condemned
At the same time, Ms. Telia Urey, daughter of the political leader a constituent member CPP, ALP’s Benoni Urey, has described as a witch-hunt assertion by Liberty Party chairman Musa Hassan Bility condemning Lofa County senator Steve Zargo for his eleventh-hour withdrawal from the election that paved the way for Senator Prince Johnson as chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Defense and National Security. She said the chairman of Liberty Party is targeting the party’s former chairman because of his support for Unity Party standard bearer Joseph Boakai.
Urey said Bility’s fury at Zargo is political because of the Lofa County senator’s support for Boakai. She posted: “Musa Bility, please do not hide under War Crimes Court establishment to fight Senator Zargo for his support of Joseph Boakai over your preferred candidate, Alexander Cummings. You and your party don’t support the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court.”
“The glaring truth is that Musa Hassan Bility is fighting Senator Steve Zargo because of Zargo’s support for Joseph Boakai over Bility’s candidate Cummings. Hiding under support for War Crimes Court to fight Zargo is such a shame and must be condemned”.
“I read the Liberty Party statement signed by Musa Bility against Senator Zargo and I must say that I am very disappointed by the level of deception by Bility and LP”. Urey went as far as uploading a video of Bility where he’s heard speaking against the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court.
U.S. Reposes No Confidence
The United States Embassy in Monrovia on Wednesday questioned the seriousness of the Liberian Senate following the election of former warlord Prince Y. Johnson as the chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, in a sharp reaction to his new ascendency, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia in a statement stated that while U.S. government is proud of its longstanding partnership with the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia which will continue — they can have no relationship with Senator Johnson.
The U.S. Embassy: “Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well-documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are also well known. That the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate him to a leadership role – particularly in the area in which he has done this country the most harm — creates doubts as to the seriousness of the Senate as a steward of Liberia’s defense and security.” Henry Karmo/FPA