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A butt naked truth

23 May 2013, 13:05

People never change; at least that is what we are brought up to think. You can never teach an old dog new tricks and other such idioms that make us wary of ever trusting completely. Makes me wonder if we could ever come to a place of completely breaking the dividing barriers that fuel blame shifting for our country’s problems.

However, the focus for now is not at home but comes from up north, Liberia to be precise. Anyone who has an inkling of what has occurred in Africa over the past three decades will know that conflict has claimed millions of lives across the continent. Of the many civil wars that crippled Africa over the decades, one cannot overlook the Liberia war that claimed the lives of over 200,000 people between 1989 and 1996. The war was like any other, a struggle of power. President Samuel Doe who had come into power through a coup, had under his employ Charles Taylor. Enraged by his dismissal from government for embezzlement, Charles Taylor underwent guerrilla training in Libya and returned to Liberia to take revenge against Samuel Doe, culminating into the first Liberian civil war. The 1989-1996 Liberian civil war, one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. Entire villages were emptied as people fled. Child soldiers committed atrocities, raping and murdering people of all ages. At the forefront of this war was one Joshua Milton Blahyi, popularly known as General Butt Naked for fighting stark naked. 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

At the height of his atrocious career, Butt Naked suddenly disappeared from the battle front, only to return with the most bizarre of tales.

“I found Jesus...” was his explanation. “I have reformed...”

A man who professes to have killed more than 20,000 people either directly or as a result of orders issued at his command, says he has take a 180 degree turn. From being a ruthless killer to being a fighter for justice and defender of the man on the street. “The children I orphaned, I will father. I will be a brother to those whose siblings I killed”

Many are still baffled at this turn around but Joshua is undeterred. “Even if they have to kill me, throw me into prison, I am not afraid anymore because I am free because of what Jesus did for me.”

Joshua appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia which recommended him for amnesty and to be exempted from trial by the ICC. However, while his fellow comrades and commanding officers seat in parliament or hold prominent positions in the country, Joshua continues to go around the country asking for forgiveness for his wrongdoing and attempts to rebuild the ruins he helped create. What sparked interest in this man is the fact that he will be launching his book in Cape Town in a week’s time and it leaves me wondering is it not possible that people can truly change? 

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