Could A Former Brutal Liberian War General Become A Champion Of Reconciliation In His War-torn Nation?
By Moco McCaulay
Joshua Milton Blahyi, a former Liberian warlord known as “General Butt Naked,” has been called many names – a mass murderer, an occult priest, a cannibal and the list goes on – but could his new life as an evangelist and the director of a program helping to rebuild the lives of former child soldiers and outcast street youth make him a champion of reconciliation in his war-ravaged nation?
The Liberian Civil War, which lasted for 14 years and resulted in the deaths of over 250,000 people, was described by Stephen Ellis in his book, The Mask of Anarchy, as a war which “…topped and surpassed [all other wars] in form and character, in intensity, in depravity, in savagery, in barbarism and in horror.” And if all the superlatives of the grotesque brutality that was on display during Liberia’s Civil War could be personified in one person, that person would have been General Butt Naked.
By Moco McCaulay
On March 14, human rights activists and especially victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, celebrated the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) pronouncement of a guilty verdict on Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former Congolese warlord, for “the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003.”
This was the first guilty verdict issued by the ICC and it has been hailed as a historic victory for international justice and especially as a warning notice to warlords everywhere that they will be held accountable by the international community for violations of war crimes committed by their rebel armies.
And now, the world awaits April 26 for the final verdict announcement by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the trial of Charles Taylor, former president of the Republic of Liberia, who has been charged with “11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of human rights” for his allege support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Sierra Leonean rebel group that waged an 11-year brutal civil war in that country. As I conjectured in an earlier article (Immovable Judgment Day: The Die Has Been Cast for Charles Taylor), all the signs seem to portend that Taylor too will be found guilty. And once again, human rights activists will celebrate how that verdict will go down as a watershed moment in the annals of international justice.