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Former warlord backs Nobel Peace Prize winner for president

October 18, 2011 | 12:50 pm

REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- They make an odd team: the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the former warlord who once sipped a beer while watching his men cut the ears off a president and then kill him.

But politics makes strange partners — especially in Liberia, where many public figures have a history.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who won the peace prize early this month, is pragmatic about her bid for a second six-year term. She told the BBC she was willing to work with “all Liberians” (after it became obvious she had failed to win a majority in the first round of the presidential election last week, forcing her into a runoff).

All Liberians apparently include one of her election rivals: former warlord Prince Johnson, notorious for enjoying a Budweiser as his men tortured and killed President Samuel Doe in 1990. The self-proclaimed born-again Christian, who came in third place in last week’s balloting, this week threw his support behind Johnson-Sirleaf.

The ex-warlord won 12% of the vote, with almost all of the ballots counted. But those votes would be enough to give a majority to Johnson-Sirleaf, who polled 44%. Her closest rival, Winston Tubman, received 32%.

Johnson has told journalists he wants to use his clout to win jobs in the new government, though he says Johnson-Sirleaf hasn't promised him a thing.

The runoff election is set for early November.


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LIBERIA: President's Nobel Peace Prize criticized by election rival

-- Robyn Dixon

Photo: Liberian warlord-turned-presidential candidate Prince Johnson campaigns in the village of Demeh on Sept. 14, 2011. Credit: Simon Akam / Reuters