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Prince Yormie Johnson (born 6 July 1952) is a Liberian politician and the current Senior Senator from Nimba County. A former rebel leader, Johnson played a prominent role in the First Liberian Civil War, in particular capturing, torturing, mutilating and executing President Samuel Doe, who, in turn, murdered the former president William Tolbert.
Johnson was born in Tapeta, Nimba County, in the east-central interior of the country, and was brought up by an uncle in the capital city of Monrovia. In 1971, while living in Monrovia, he joined the Liberian National Guard (LNG), which was transformed into the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in the aftermath of Samuel Doe's 1980 overthrow of President William R. Tolbert.
He rose to the rank of Lieutenant, receiving military training in both Liberia and the United States, where he was instructed in military police duties in South Carolina. A stern, often draconian, disciplinarian, he served as aide-de-camp to Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, the Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and accompanied him into exile in 1983, after Quiwonkpa was accused of plotting a coup against Doe.
Johnson later allied with Charles Taylor as part of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), serving as the NPFL's Chief Training Officer. Taylor's fighters crossed the border from Ivory Coast and began operations in Liberia on Christmas Eve, 1989.
Johnson told Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the assassination of Burkinabe President Thomas Sankara (allowing Blaise Compaoré to take power) was orchestrated by Taylor. After the coup and although Sankara was known to be dead, some CDRs mounted an armed resistance to the army for several days.
An internal power struggle resulted in Johnson breaking off from the Taylor-led NPFL and forming the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Despite intervention in the civil war by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), INPFL forces captured most of Monrovia in the late summer of 1990.
During the civil war Johnson was notorious for killing anyone who opposed or criticised his actions. When Hare Krishna devotees, who were distributing food to starving people in Monrovia in the midst of the chaos of the civil war, sent him a letter begging him to stop killing people, he personally orchestrated the murder of Hladini devi dasi—born Linda Jury—and five of her students on the bank of the Saint Paul River on the night of Thursday, 13 September 1990.
In September 1990 Johnson's supporters abducted President Samuel Doe from ECOMOG headquarters in the Monrovia port district. Doe was tortured and executed in Johnson's custody on 9 September, with the spectacle videotaped and broadcast around the world. The video showed Johnson sipping a Budweiser beer and being fanned by an assistant as his men cut off Doe's ear.
Johnson later denied killing Doe. Ahmadou Kourouma (who depicted Doe's assassination in his novel Allah Is Not Obliged) also accused Johnson of war crimes in the form of the abduction and torture of several Firestone executives.
After Doe's death Johnson briefly claimed the presidency of Liberia. Johnson's claim to power ended following the consolidation of rebel power under Charles Taylor. In an attempt by the weak national government to reconstruct Liberian politics, the INPFL was recognised at a conference held in Guinea, where Amos Sawyer was elected president.
Johnson was forced to flee to Nigeria to avoid capture by rebel forces supporting Taylor, and was not involved in the Second Liberian Civil War.
While in Nigeria Johnson became a Christian and reconciled with the Doe family through the intervention of Nigerian T. B. Joshua.