General Butt Naked: the man who ate children

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Joshua Milton Blahyi is a Christian preacher in Liberia.  But he was once better known as General Butt Naked, one of the most brutal warlords in Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Every night for 14 years Blahyi talked with the devil. Every night the devil told him to do things… bad things… including sacrificing and eating children.

Blahyi’s creation as General Butt Naked started before he was even born. He was conceived on the orders of Krahn tribe elders and born on September 30, 1971.  From the time he was a child, Blahyi was told his destiny was to be a priest and a warrior.  When he was seven, his father handed him to the tribal elders, who schooled him in the rituals of the priesthood. His initiation as a priest was as senseless as it was brutal.

Against the beating of a drum, a man in a carved black mask led Blahyi to an altar. The elders brought him a little girl.  Her clothes were removed and her body smeared with clay.  The elders ordered Blahyi to kill her. Over the next three days, Blahyi ritualistically ate the little girl’s heart and other parts of her body.  He was officially declared a priest.  He was 11 years-old.

It was during this initiation that Blahyi first spoke to the devil.  The devil told him he would become a great warrior, but he must continue to sacrifice children and eat them to increase his power.

There was no shortage of people to kill during Liberia’s civil war. 250,000 died during the fighting, which lasted from 1989 to 2003.  Another million were displaced.  One in five children became soldiers, recruited by men like General Butt Naked. Their names tell the story: General Rambo, General Bin Laden, General Satan.

General Butt Naked earned his name by leading his men into battle wearing nothing but sneakers and a machete.  He believed it made him invulnerable to bullets.  It terrified his opponents. By Blahyi’s estimates, he was personally responsible for 20,000 deaths – though there are some who think he is just trying to make himself sound more powerful than he actually was

Blahyi recruited children as young as nine for his “Butt Naked Brigade.”  He taught them that killing people was a game. When he had slain someone, he had the boys cut up their bodies to deaden their feelings. Eventually his soldiers became so heartless that they would make bets on whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl. Then they would slit open her belly to see which of them was right.

Krahn troops forced civilians to mine diamonds in the territory they captured. General Butt Naked would trade some of these “blood diamonds” for arms and for cocaine, which he would mash into the boys’ food.  Before every battle he would sacrifice a child and eat it. He believed this would strengthen his soldiers and purify them for battle.

Most of the children General Butt Naked sacrificed were kidnapped.  But some were brought to him by the children’s parents, who hoped the sacrifice would spare their village the worst of the war’s devastation.

Blahyi’s conversion occurred during a particularly vicious battle in the summer of 1996.  As enemy rockets rained down, a woman brought Blahyi her three-year-old daughter.  General Butt Naked hesitated. Unlike the other children brought to him, this little girl didn’t struggle.  She was peaceful… she was beautiful. After he killed her, he was filled with remorse. A white light in the shape of a man appeared to him.  A voice said, “Repent and live, or refuse and die.”

Convinced that it was Jesus Christ, General Butt Naked stopped the sacrifice and cannabilism. The inner turmoil that followed his conversion led some of his men to believe he had gone mad.

Blayhi has told reporters he still struggles to cope with the enormity of his savagery. He says he has contemplated suicide many times. But Christ has given him a mission. Blayhi has changed his name to Joshua, the biblical successor to Moses.

He has built a mission for former child soldiers he finds in the streets.  He preaches to them and gives them food and clothing. He claims part of his mission is to stop child sacrifice and cannabislism, which he says are still practiced in Liberian villages.

Blahyi adopted three children after the war ended, but he does not live with them or his wife. For their safety, they live in hiding in Ghana, an irony not lost on the man responsible for the deaths of so many children.

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When the war ended, Liberia created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) to investigate war crimes.  Blahyi confessed – some say exaggerated – his crimes to the smallest detail… even the taste of human flesh.

The TRC pardoned Blahyi on the grounds of his candour and remorse. But they had no authority to punish him anyway as their sole mandate was investigation. The International Criminal Court in the Hague cannot punish him either, as it has jurisdiction only over crimes committed since its 2002 founding.  And no special tribunal with the power of prosecuting war crimes has ever been created in Liberia as happened in Rwanda, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia.

Since there is no one to punish him for his crimes, Pastor Blahyi visits the people he has hurt. He offers them his help. He asks for their forgiveness.

“I couldn’t feel anything in the past,” he says. “Now I feel their pain.”

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2 thoughts on “General Butt Naked: the man who ate children

  1. This is ridiculous. This has nothing to do with a “god”. This man is insane. He needs to be killed. Murdering an innocent child (after allegedly many) and then realizing how bad it is and coming up with a tale (or actually having a delusion) that Jesus talked him out of his evil ways, is just idiotic. This man is insane and does not deserve any form of forgiveness. I do not care what he does.

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