Liberia: ex-warlord to support president in runoff

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2011 8:21 AM
Liberia: ex-warlord to support president in runoff

A notorious ex-warlord who is playing the role of kingmaker in Liberia's presidential runoff said he will give his support to incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ensuring the Nobel Peace Prize winner will likely win another term.

Prince Johnson, the third-place finisher in the Oct. 11 poll, described Sirleaf as "the lesser of two evils" when he spoke to the Associated Press late Monday. He said he would ask his supporters to vote for her in a Nov. 8 runoff.

Sirleaf took about 44 percent of October's votes. Challenger Winston Tubman took about 32 percent.

Johnson said he would rather see Sirleaf serve her final six-year term than support Tubman, who would be eligible for two terms.

"She is the lesser of two evils and she has only six years to go," he said. "I would prefer six years than to support anyone for 12 years."

Harvard-trained Sirleaf was Africa's first democratically elected female president and won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She is viewed abroad as a reformer but Tubman's camp portrays her as out of touch with the impoverished population.

Johnson, whose rebel army invaded Monrovia in 1990, once videotaped himself drinking Budweiser as his men cut off the ears of the country's captured former president, Samuel Doe, who later died.

He has since tried to refashion himself as a politician, and became a born-again Christian after the war, then went on to be elected senator of his home county.

On Monday, he said he hoped his support for Sirleaf would get his constituents better living conditions and more jobs.

"We want a long-term program that will better the living conditions of our people," he said.

Johnson appeared to be aligned with Tubman when the two joined a group of opposition parties that on Saturday announced they were pulling out of the poll over allegations that election officials were skewing the outcome in Sirleaf's favor. On Sunday, after it became clear that no candidate would win the majority needed to avoid a runoff, Tubman said he would urge the group to reconsider.

Johnson said his decision to join the group did not mean he supported Tubman.

"We are all in the opposition but we all are different parties with different ideologies," he said. "Anyone democratically has the freedom of choice. So if I choose to join anybody, it shouldn't hurt anyone."