Rebel returns to Liberia to confess to 20,000 deaths

From the Associated Press

One of this country’s most notorious rebel commanders, known as Gen. Butt Naked for charging into battle wearing only boots, has returned to confess his responsibility for 20,000 deaths.

Joshua Milton Blahyi, who now lives in Ghana, returned last week to face his homeland’s truth and reconciliation commission, this time wearing a suit and tie. His platoon’s practice of charging naked into battle was a technique meant to terrify the enemy.

Blahyi is urging other former killers to come forward as the country founded by freed American slaves in 1847 struggles to recover from past horrors.

“I could be electrocuted. I could be hanged. I could be given any other punishment,” the 37-year-old Blahyi said in a weekend interview after his truth commission appearance last week. “But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go.”


The civil war, which killed an estimated 250,000 people in this nation of 3 million, was characterized by the eating of human hearts and soccer matches played with human skulls.

Drugged fighters waltzed into battle wearing women’s wigs, flowing gowns and carrying dainty purses stolen from civilians.

“More than 20,000 people fell victim” to Blahyi and his men, he said, beginning in 1982, when he became responsible for making human sacrifices before battle.

The commission, modeled on the one in post-apartheid South Africa, has been taking testimony from victims and former rebels for two years, urging a full accounting of wartime atrocities. While the commission cannot charge killers with a crime, it can recommend charges be brought.