General Butt Naked
Joshua Milton Blahyi (born September 30, 1971), better known by his nom de guerre General Butt Naked, is a former commander of forces under the wider control of Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson. During the First Liberian Civil War, Blahyi was known for his violence and atrocities in the early 1990s.
Blahyi claims to have originally been a tribal priest. Since the war he has converted to Christianity and become a preacher.
Early religious beliefs
Blahyi is a member of the Sarpo tribe in Liberia. He claims he was initiated as a tribal priest at age 11, and participated in his first human sacrifice. During the course of the three-day ritual that followed, Blahyi says that he had a vision in which he was told by the Devil that he would become a great warrior and that he should continue to practice human sacrifice and cannibalism to increase his power.
The Krahn elders later appointed him as high priest, a position that would lead him to become the spiritual advisor to Liberian President Samuel Doe. Blahyi adhered to a complex traditional belief system as a Krahn priest, and he has mixed those beliefs fluidly with Christianity. Blahyi himself explains, "I was a high priest for the biggest god under the Krahn tribe, and the late Samuel K. Doe, being a fellow tribesman, was automatically placed under my jurisdiction . . . I also placed Nyanbe-a-weh amongst the first three high-ranking deities in West Africa’s black-witch coastal line division."
Nyanbe-a-weh was Blahyi’s idol who—according to him—demanded ritual sacrifice; Blahyi would come to believe that Nyanbe-a-weh was the devil. He explains that the Krahn tribe selects leaders based upon physical prowess rather than birthright. The selection process takes place through an annual fight: "The traditional fight was a no-holds-barred affair. The eventual victor was allowed to kill and maim to show his strength and bravery. The strongest or last man standing after the bloody contest will take over the birthright and the headship of the tribe."
Blahyi has said he led his troops naked except for shoes and a gun. He believed that his nakedness was a source of protection from bullets. Blahyi now claims he would regularly sacrifice a victim before battle, saying, "Usually it was a small child, someone whose fresh blood would satisfy the devil."
He explained to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Sometimes I would enter under the water where children were playing. I would dive under the water, grab one, carry him under and break his neck. Sometimes I'd cause accidents. Sometimes I'd just slaughter them." In January 2008 Blahyi confessed to taking part in human sacrifices which "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat."
Blahyi claimed to a South African Star reporter that he "met Satan regularly and talked to him" and that from age of 11 to 25 he took part in monthly human sacrifices. In his account of a typical battle Blahyi claimed, "So, before leading my troops into battle, we would get drunk and drugged up, sacrifice a local teenager, drink the blood, then strip down to our shoes and go into battle wearing colorful wigs and carrying imaginary purses we'd looted from civilians. We'd slaughter anyone we saw, chop their heads off and use them as soccer balls. We were nude, fearless, drunk yet strategic. We killed hundreds of people--so many I lost count."
Blahyi also purported that during that period he had "magical powers that made him invisible" and a "special power" to capture a town singlehandedly, then call in his troops afterwards to "clean up". Some of Blahyi's soldiers--often boys in their early teens and younger--would enter battle naked; others would wear women's clothes. In June 2006 Blahyi published his autobiography that included pictures of him fighting with a rifle, wearing nothing but sneakers.
During the First Liberian Civil war he led a mercenary unit, many of whom were child soldiers, that was known as the Butt Naked Brigade. They were funded by Roosevelt Johnson and fought alongside the ULIMO militia against militias led by Charles Taylor and Prince Yormie Johnson. ULIMO was loyal to Samuel Doe, who was captured and executed--personally--by Prince Johnson. Charles Taylor eventually took control of the country.
Conversion to Christianity (1996)
Blahyi's rampage ended in 1996, when the civil war in Liberia was coming to a close. He states his conversion was bolstered by a church in Liberia where a Bishop Kun Kun is pastor. They claimed to have heard from God to fast 54 days for his deliverance. After the fast they claim God gave them spiritual powers to infiltrate his coven in the city of Liberia and preach to him. Shortly after, he had a theophany in which Jesus Christ appeared to him as a blinding light, spoke to him as a son, and told him that he would die unless he repented his sins.
In 1997 Blahyi traveled to the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana. It was at the camp, he recounts, that he made confession for his sins at a church and "had his life saved". When he goes out to preach now, he says he sometimes encounters relatives of his victims. "I feel very bad, so bad", he said, but he insists it was satanic powers that possessed him in the past and he cannot be held responsible. He has since expressed willingness to be tried for war crimes at the Hague.
Blahyi is now the President of the End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries Inc., with headquarters in Liberia. He is married to Pastor Mrs. Josie and has four children: Michaela, Joshua Milton Jr., Janice Marva and Jackie MaryBeth. For a few years he was estranged from his family and hiding in Ghana, due to his fear of reprisals from his victims and/or their relatives.
In 2004 Liberian-American director Gerald Barclay traveled to Buduburam to shoot a documentary which included interviews with Blahyi. In January 2008 Blahyi returned to Liberia from Ghana and claimed before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia that between approximately 1980 and 1996 he and his men were responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 people.
Although the TRC accepted that figure, Norris Tweah, the Information Minister of Liberia, has since disputed that Blahyi was responsible for that many deaths. Blahyi was the subject of a 2010 documentary film: True Stories: The Redemption of General Butt Naked by the Sundance Institute, produced and directed by Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion.
In popular culture
- In the United States, Pastor Robert Letner Jr. has begun spreading Blahyi's message of redemption and forgiveness. This has resulted in the flourishing ministry of the Trilateral Church of the South.
- General Butt Naked's current life as an evangelist was a significant focus of Vice magazine's documentary The Vice Guide to Liberia.
- Matt Stone and Trey Parker based the character "General Butt Fucking Naked" in their musical The Book of Mormon on General Butt Naked. Like Blahyi, he has converted to Christianity (in this case Mormonism) by the end of the show.
- Jim Klima. "Going Mental". It Will Be So Awful, It Will Be Wonderful. Archived from the original on 2005-10-29. Retrieved 2007-01-15. Photograph.
- Blahyi 2006, p. 1
- Edna Fernandes (November 28, 2010) "Face to face with General Butt Naked - 'the most evil man in the world'" Daily Mail
- Blahyi 2006, p. About the Author
- Blahyi 2006, p. 68
- Blahyi 2006, p. 45
- Blahyi 2006, p. 4
- Paul Gains (17 August 2003). "Where angels will not tread". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 28 May 2005.
- Tina Susman (August 4, 1997). Liberia's Fierce Butt Naked General Now Preaches Peace. Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- Jonathan Paye-Layleh (January 22, 2008) "I ate children's hearts, ex-rebel says" BBC.com
- Ellis 2007, p. 268
- Gary Brecher (2003-06-12). "Please Don't Eat the Pygmies". eXile. Retrieved 2006-01-24.
- "Repentant Liberian warlord delivers himself for judgment". Agence France Presse -- English. 16 January 2008.
- Blahyi 2006
- Blahyi 2006, p. 121
- "Liberia: The Love of Liberty Brought us Here (2004)".
- Associated Press (January 21, 2008) "Ex-warlord confesses to 20,000 deaths" CNN.com
- See Vice Guide to Travel
- "The VICE Guide to Liberia | The VICE Guide to Travel". VICE. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Starr, Liane Bonin (20 September 2012). "'South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk 'Book of Mormon'". Starr Raving. HitFix. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- Blahyi, Joshua Milton (2006), From Priesthood to Royal Priesthood, Lagos: C.R.M. Press, ISBN 978-072-683-7
- Ellis, Stephen (2007), The mask of anarchy; the destruction of Liberia and the religious dimension of an African civil war, New York: New York University Press, ISBN 978-0-8147-2211-4