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General Butt Naked

from The New Yorker

The Greater the Sinner

A Liberian warlord’s unlikely path to forgiveness.

BY

Blahyi’s public contrition satisfied a deep need, a reporter said. “It was only Joshua who said, ‘I am sorry, please forgive me.’ ”Blahyi’s public contrition satisfied a deep need, a reporter said. “It was only Joshua who said, ‘I am sorry, please forgive me.’ ”CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY DOMINIC NAHR FOR THE NEW YORKER

On a recent Sunday morning in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, a few dozen people gathered in a tin-roofed church to hear a former warlord preach. His name is Joshua Milton Blahyi, but most Liberians still know him by his nom de guerre from the nineteen-nineties: General Butt Naked. A burly forty-five-year-old with a head shaped like a cannon shell, Blahyi took the stage wearing black dress pants and a cream-colored shirt. He has delivered sermons across West Africa about the power of forgiveness and the perfidy of Liberian politicians, but one of his favorite topics is himself. “In South Africa I was privileged to preach to parliament,” he told his congregation. “Hallelujah! It can happen to you!” A slip of paper fell from his Bible, and a worshipper hurried to pick it up. “Keep it as a souvenir,” Blahyi said.

In 1980, Samuel Doe seized the Presidency of Liberia in a coup. Blahyi claims that he later became Doe’s spiritual adviser, and that he used witchcraft to help Doe win a second term. (Doe also used more mundane methods, such as burning his opponents’ ballots.) On Christmas Eve, 1989, Charles Taylor, a former Liberian government official, invaded from Ivory Coast with a hundred soldiers, and the country plunged into civil war. There was a ceasefire in 1996, and Taylor was elected the next year. Then, in 1999, another rebel group invaded from Guinea, sparking a second conflict, which lasted until Taylor was ousted, in 2003.

[ click to continue reading at The New Yorker ]

Posted on March 12, 2016 by Editor

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