International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The Aftermath of Liberia’s Civil War … and General Butt Naked

During class, there was quite a bit of discussion around Charles Taylor and his trial at The Hague. However, there wasn’t much talk about the current state of Liberia and perpetrators besides Taylor. In this Vice documentary, we see a terribly bleak picture of what it’s like on the ground. The ex-warlords walk around as free men, sometimes still leaders in their communities.

Especially evident in West Point, utter lack of basic needs is rampant. Women are being forced to work as sex workers to pay for basic necessities like food, electronic shops serve as fronts for the large heroin and crack businesses, children are getting high or working as thieves instead of going to school. Throughout the documentary, it seemed as if most people had resigned themselves to this as the status quo.

The latter half of the documentary spotlights Joshua Blahyi, aka General Butt Naked. One of the most notorious warlords during the Liberian Civil War, Blahyi cut open innocent children and fed their blood and hearts to his child soldiers to give them mythical powers. Blahyi himself believed that doing so made him invulnerable to bullets, and throughout the Civil War, he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. While I found his blatant display of remorse fascinating, I was even more surprised by the fact that he has thus far not been punished for his crimes. Rather, he was pardoned after publicly converting to Christianity and serving as a priest.

Even after watching through the documentary twice, I still find myself conflicted over how sincere Blahyi is. I am pretty certain however, that political motivations underlie Blahyi’s pardon, and given the vast economic and social problems facing the country, in addition to Blahyi’s potential value in rehabilitating ex-child soldiers, I can’t say the pardon was a terrible decision. While Blahyi definitely had his moments of irrationality (i.e.: his “born-again Christian” moment), he appears to be a much more sane, much more reasonable man than I expected given his reputation.

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One response to “The Aftermath of Liberia’s Civil War … and General Butt Naked

  1. masonnathaniel March 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I found this documentary very interesting to watch, particularly the second half which focused on Joshua Blahyi, formally know as General Butt Naked, who is coincidentally also the basis for the african warlord character in the broadway musical Book of Mormon. It was fascinating to watch him talk about the atrocities that he committed with such frankness and ease, for example, the cutting open of innocent children and drinking their blood because he believed that he would be immune to bullets if he did so. One scene was particularly mesmerizing, in which Blahyi talk about which parts of the body are softer to eat when one would eat human flesh for hunger. The interviewer responds saying, “OK. We’re talking about eating human flesh in a graveyard. It’s a bit weird”, to which they both laugh. Blahyi is very calm and rational when he describes the horrific acts that he did, and he refers to himself as Butt Naked, differentiating that person from the new Joshua Blahyi, convinced that he has been converted and is changed. While his being pardoned for his crimes may have occurred because of pragmatic reasons, it still is a blow to the fight against impunity when a war criminal with such an atrocious past can be let off the hook.

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