Today's practice of ritual killings in Liberia - because it still exists! - mainly is a combination of traditional beliefs which inspire men-eating and modern-day criminal behavior of unscrupulous politicians who consider their ambitions worth more than the life of their victims. During the 14-year civil war
(1989-2003) there were so many cases of gunmen - some of them child soldiers - eating their vicim's hearts and other body parts that the Catholic Church issued a formal denunciation of these practices (Stephen Ellis, The Mask of Anarchy, 1999: dust-jacket).
"Nor was it just teenage fighters who held the idea that they could have access to spiritual power through the consumption of human flesh, or at least by a ritual use of human body parts. (....) Most interesting is the allegation concerning (President) Charles Taylor himself made by his former defense minister, Tom Woewiyu, (....). "We saw a lot", said Woewiyu, describing his time as Taylor's right-hand man, "including the formation of a group of cannibals called Top 20. Taylor is a member of this group. Human sacrifices, under the direction of his uncle Jensen Taylor, take place in Taylor's house." A group of sixteen NPFL (Taylor's army) generals and fourteen Special Force commandos made similar allegations
concerning Taylor. They issued a formal statement affirming that "we .... stand in readiness to testify Taylor's ritualistic killings of our peers." Ellis concludes: 'True or not, such claims are widely believed' (Ellis, 1999:
These accusations caused Charles Taylor to legally pursue Stephen Ellis. After the British Times newspaper repeated the allegations in its review of Ellis' book ('The Mask of Anarchy' - see Sources)
President Charles Taylor started a libel case against Ellis but he withdrew it, early 2001, allegedly because of the high cost of pursuing the case in London. Given his immense wealth, it is more likely that Taylor was afraid of being requested to come to London and testify before court, an action which would have made him vulnerable and susceptible of arrest which human rights groups were asking for because of his crimes against humanity. (The Guardian: 2 February, 2001).
Many more cases could be cited that sadly confirm Liberia's reputation in the area of ritualistic killings and cannibalism. The Liberian evolution of the traditional belief which lies at the basis of ritual killings is a particular one, as will be shown. Let us look at the past before turning back to the present.
Ghastly Accounts Of Factionsí Cannibalism
A witness told commissioners of Liberiaís Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC) grisly accounts of how fighters
of the defunct ULIMO-K faction slaughtered and ate eight
civilians in 1993 in Lofa County.
The witness who was a child during the killings said following
the groupís capture of the area, the fighters ordered them to go
on a hunting game, but when they returned from the forest only
one group of them brought an animal.
September 22, 2008
General Butt Naked was the
war name of Milton Blahyi during the first Liberian civil war
(1989-1996). More about this Liberian warlord turned evangelist
below in this column.
Milton Blahyi has his own site:
I ate children's hearts, ex-rebel says
Milton Blahyi, a former feared rebel commander in Liberia's
brutal civil war ('General Butt Naked') has admitted to taking
part in human sacrifices as part of traditional ceremonies
intended to ensure victory in battle.
There had been numerous rumours of human sacrifices during the
1979-93 conflict but this is the first time anyone has admitted
publicly to the practice.
He was speaking to the BBC, after telling Liberia's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that his forces had killed
BBC News, Monrovia, 22 January 2008
The following link leads to graphic pictures and description of
'The Confessions of
General Butt Naked'
Stephanie Horton's fascinating book review reveals the horrors of
Liberia's civil war and the motivation of derailed individuals like
General Butt Naked in light of their psychological background and
traditional beliefs. It also contains an interesting section on the
death of President William Tolbert, in
1980, during the military coup led by
Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe.
"(....) Trading Priesthood for Priesthood, Joshua Milton Bouye Blahyi's
confessional memoir is a story of entangled histories, ancient kinship
schisms, myths and migrations, mysticism and mystery, blood covenants,
predatory magic, torture, deathly power struggles, human sacrifices,
divine miracles, spiritual atonement, and Christian redemption. And it
is not only its confessional revelations, its ethnography, its
traditional religiosity, its prophetic articulation, that compel
attention. Its tone of authenticity is piercing. Its violence is
intimate. Its scope spans centuries. It is wholly atypical for its
demystifying truth-telling. It
individualizes a 'cannibal.' (....)" - Stephanie Horton
"(...) Blahyi claims that the black
stone-studded knives used by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe to
ritually slaughter President William Richard Tolbert, Jr. were the altar
knives of his Sarpo priesthood. It's important to add
that Blahyi asserts that the priesthood knives have disappeared since
that day. Given the mysteries still surrounding President Tolbert's
murder, perhaps, as someone has suggested, the knives are in a "private
museum" somewhere next to Lumumba's teeth, Biko's backbone, the scalp of
Crazy Horse, and other like "mementos" of the dominant I/We and the
subordinate Other/They inferno. (...)"- Stephanie Horton
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Filmmakers Eric Strauss and Daniela Anastasion follow Joshua
Milton Blahyi aka General Butt Naked, a brutal warlord who has
renounced his violent past and reinvented himself as a Christian
evangelist. He confessed to ritual murder, cannibalism, trading
blood diamonds for guns and cocaine... an astonishing docu...
Joshua Milton Blahyi alias
General Butt Naked
The feared General Butt Naked is responsible
for the death of numerous innocent Liberians during the country's civil
war that cost about 200,000
Train Evangelistic Ministries (ETTEM)
The former General Butt Naked, whose real
name is Joshua Milton Blahyi, has admitted to the gruesome killing of
several children for ritual purposes. He resides in Liberia where he is
a preacher of the gospel.
All about ETTEM