From being a satanic priest to a preacher, the story of Joshua Blahyi will shock and amaze you. Joshua Milton Blahyi is a former Liberian warlord who did some of the most devilish, wrong, and inhuman acts during the Liberian Civil War. Before going to battle, he sacrificed children and ate their hearts. Mr. Blahyi was once said to be “the most evil man in the world” after admitting to killing thousands of innocent people.
Besides, he was one of the most feared and violent warlords to rise from Liberia. Most people from this West African country still know him by his nickname, General Butt Naked. He acquired this name because of going to battle naked. Joshua Milton Blahyi was born in 1971 in Liberia. At age 11, Krahn elders appointed him as high priest.
Later on, this position led him to become a spiritual advisor to the then Liberian President Samuel Doe, who took over presidency in 1980 through a coup. Blahyi says that he used witchcraft to help the President Doe win a second term. In 1989, Samuel Doe’s former ally, Charles Taylor, invaded the country with dozens of soldiers and waged a guerrilla war against the government.
Joshua Blahyi’s Naked Base Commandos
At the time, Blahyi had a squad dubbed “Naked Base Commandos” that backed President Samuel Doe. The assassination of the president in 1990 marked the beginning of a full-blown civil war that continued for several years.
As time went by, Joshua Blahyi recruited more fighters. Most of his soldiers were drugged children who played different roles including serving as human minesweepers, sentries, and spies.
Many were trained as child soldiers forcibly, sometimes at gunpoint. Others became soldiers to seek protection, food, or out of desperation. According to The New Yorker, some of Blahyi’s fighters were as young as nine years old. Additionally, some accounts record that he often mashed cocaine in children’s food and made them watch action movies to take away the fear of death from them.
Whenever they went for war, Blahyi and his troops faced their opponents naked except for sneakers. He believed that nudeness was a source of safety from bullets. In other words, he considered that fighting naked offered him and his fighters spiritual power that rendered them invisible. The notorious warlord would sacrifice a child before going to war. Speaking to the Seattle P-I, he said,
“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.”
From Killing to Saving Lives
Blahyi’s turning point came in 1996 after executing a girl. He says that while his hands were still covered with her blood, he heard a voice. He recalls,
“When I looked back, I saw a man standing there. He was so bright, brighter than the sun.” Then, the man told him, “Repent and live, or refuse and die.” Joshua Blahyi adds, “I wanted to continue fighting, but my mind never left this person—how bright he was, how passionate his words.”
Subsequently, he quit fighting and started sleeping in a nearby church. The pastor of the church soon discovered him and prayed for him. Then, the now converted Blahyi returned his weapons and amulets to his commanding officer and said, “My new Commander is Jesus Christ.”
The civil wars in Liberia spanned from 1989 to 2003 and they were characterized by mass killings, rape, and torture. While testifying to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) formed after the end of hostilities, Joshua Blahyi stated that he had murdered not less than 20,000 people throughout the civil war. He also stated that he used cannibalism and human sacrifice to obtain magical powers. According to him,
“I needed to make human sacrifices to appease the said deities or the gods… Every town I entered . . . they would give me the chance to do my human sacrifices, which included innocent children.”
‘Journeys Against Violence’ Rehabilitation Program
After the war, many child soldiers could not go back to their communities. Most of them went to live in ghettos in Monrovia. In addition, a vast majority were addicted to drugs with some showing signs of posttraumatic stress disorder. This is what informed Blahyi to start a rehabilitation program called Journeys Against Violence in 2007. Now a pastor, Joshua Milton Blahyi is helping many former child soldiers to turn out of crime and get off drugs. He recounts,
“We made them take up arms and consume drugs,… Now I want to repair that mistake. For me, these kids are victims and not perpetrators. I usually explain to them my own story, and then I ask them to follow suit by giving their lives to Christ and leaving the drugs.”
In 2012, he also built a 25-kilometer compound north of Monrovia where he mentors ex-child soldiers and helps to reintegrate them into their communities. While testifying to the TRC, the now reformed Blahyi stated that he accepts his responsibility for committing crimes. The ex-warlord supports the prosecution of war perpetrators including himself. He is willing to be tried and punished if convicted. He said,
“I destroyed so many people’s children,… If I refuse to answer to it … that same violence that I started will come after me and my children.”