Monrovia — A former notorious Liberian rebel general turned Evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi, has called on former warlords, including Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson to face a war crimes court in Liberia to account for their individual roles played and the actions of their respective troops which committed atrocities and war crimes during the Liberian civil conflicts.
Evangelist Blahyi who was notoriously known as "General Butt Naked" was a fierce and fearless warlord during the civil unrest in Liberia which claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 Liberians. He is Krahn by tribe.
According to him, germane testimonies must be provided by key actors of the Liberian civil conflict at a war crimes tribunal in Liberia to serve as deterrence to those wanting to follow similar path and prevent what transpired in the past.
Speaking when he appeared as guest on Spoon Talk on Tuesday, June 1, Evangelist Blahyi emphasized that the act of telling the truth at the court will accord people the opportunity to think and discourage people from killing their fellow compatriots for no reasons.
He further maintained that his consistent habit of embracing the establishment of the war crimes court in Liberia is intended to stop or limit reoccurrence of actions meted against citizens and others during the brutal 14-years civil conflict in Liberia.
He noted that the growing wave of lawlessness in Liberia will continue to increase if people, including perpetrators of war crimes are not held accountable for their actions.
"I live on perpetual regrets especially with the type of kids the Lord had blessed me with. They are very intelligent and every time-I have done everything to keep them very humble because, I personally feel that I don't deserve the happiness of kids or being a father. I live in regrets almost every time not just because of the people who I made childless, but children who I deprived of their parents".
Evangelist Blahyi is married and his union is blessed with four children.
He noted that jungle justice will be on the increase in post conflict Liberia these war perpetrators continue to remain unremorseful of their actions.
"The act of telling the truth gives people the opportunity to think. When I am coming and talking this truth, I am hoping that people will hear these truths to create an environment for the future to stop or limit reoccurrence of my actions. If all of the fighters or perpetrators who bear greater responsibilities would have done this, the TRC would have had the chance to craft a policy to give it to other thinkers to advance that policy to stop reoccurrence".
"This is only opportunity that this nation can have to fight the culture of impunity. That's why it hurts me when politicians are politicizing this great opportunity that this country has".
He observed that most perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia did not use the opportunity accorded them by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process in Liberia to tell the truth of their involvement in the Liberian civil conflict.
Evangelist Blahyi maintained that though he regrets his action, he remains motivated to providing the necessary opportunities for young Liberians who do not have the opportunity as a result of the loss of their parents or guardians during the civil wars, noting that, "I could be responsible for their conditions directly or indirectly".
Support to war crimes court
Evangelist Blahyi has been on record for consistently calling for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.
On numerous occasions, he has encouraged former warlords including Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson and Grand Gedeh County Representative George Boley of the former notorious Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and Liberia Peace Council (LPC) to "embrace" the establishment of the court to give account of their actions.
"I support the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia 100%. The same way I went to the TRC and appeal to be one of the first perpetrators-is the same way I am going to appear and voluntarily turn myself over to the war crimes court".
When quizzed whether Senator Johnson and others who have been unremorseful should face the war crimes court, Evangelist Blahyi stated: "I think everyone of us should face the war crimes court especially key players who commanded troops".
Evangelist Blahyi described himself as a war criminal that remains willing and committed to provide intelligence to safeguard Liberia's future by explaining what he did about 20 years ago when he was a rebel general.
He indicated that though he remains steadfast and willing to appear before the court, he will not convict or crucify anyone who is not convicted of their actions or support towards the Liberian civil conflict.
He added that there has been series of opportunities accorded him to engage into civil wars, including the recent war which forced the departure of former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor, but he cannot return to fighting or engaging into violence.
Evangelist Blahyi wondered while politicians who previously endorsed the establishment of the war crimes court in Liberia have switched pendulum and are currently playing a lukewarm attitude towards ensuring the actualization of the court in the country.
"I got convicted on the frontline and since then I have to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. I thought it was an unusual favor and I always felt that I did not deserve the amount of grace towards me. I learn from scripture that I will enjoy your personal freedom as I speak the truth and exercise pure remorse and so 1999 a friend of mine took me to Ghana and I started pursuing Liberians asking for forgiveness. And so we have a Ministry called the End Time Train Evangelistic Ministry where we decided reaching Liberians in the diaspora".
He noted that his decision taken at the time to meet with Liberians in the diaspora was not only to ask for forgiveness, but to also speak and tell them the truth.
He emphasized that the move was also intended to discourage others from engaging into atrocities and other crimes.
Evangelist Blahyi pointed out that though some of his kinsmen were not happy about his decision on grounds that he was betraying them by exposing the "powers" he and them operated with at the time, he mustered the courage to continue the campaign.
The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Liberia was enacted in May 2005.
The Commission worked throughout the first mandate of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after her election as President of Liberia in November 2005.
The Liberian TRC came to a conclusion in 2010, filing a final report and recommending relevant actions by national authorities to ensure responsibility and reparations.
Dressed in white suit, ex-General "Butt Naked" took responsibility for about 20,000 citizens who lost their lives during the Liberian civil conflict at a TRC hearing held on January 15, 2008.
"If I were to calculate; if you're talking about April 6th or throughout the war or every evil I have done-it should not be less than 20, 000. I want to say sorry to this nation. I want to thank the TRC for giving me the opportunity to openly come and say I am sorry" he responded to an inquiry from one of the commissioners.
Evangelist Blahyi told Spoon Talk that his decision taken to testify at the TRC, despite numerous condemnations from his kinsmen was intended to speak the truth and help ensure that what happened during the warring days in Liberia do not reoccur.
"I went to the TRC because the TRC was like a healing process. I went to the TRC with the spirit of seeking my personal freedom and I was going to have the chance of talking to many Liberians. When I went to the TRC, I was not afraid of going to jail because, if I went to jail, the jail will just be a limited space to stay but, my freedom matter".
He maintained that he freed his conscience by appearing before the TRC to tell his story to Liberians and others.
He further bears the responsibility for the deaths caused by others as a result of his decision to give arms to minors during the civil war.
"There is no way that people will keep track of everyone they killed on the frontline. I requested for an open air trial at the TRC. And a question of how many people I think I was responsible for was asked. And I said I was responsible for the deaths of not less than 20,000 people. And the reason the answer was given is because I could even say I am responsible for the 250,000 people that died".
"The reason is-If I give an innocent child arm, allow the child at the age of nine or ten to first-every person that child killed, I am responsible for that. But beside that, I came to Monrovia as a priest. I was a spiritual priest and I came to help my tribe".
Evangelist Blahyi recalled that as a priest, he was engaged into preparing "bulletproofs" for children who were fighting on the frontline.
He stated that though he did not keep track of those he killed on the frontline, he personally killed "many people" and he takes full responsibility for his action.
He noted that though he was one of those recommended for amnesty by the TRC, he feels strongly obligated to Liberia and its citizens, and as such, he has returned to the country from exile to provide assistance to needy Liberians through his project.
Journey Against Violence (JAV)
The former notorious rebel general is fighting the war against drugs in Liberia through his Journey Against Violence (JAV) project under his ministry.
The specific mission of JAV is to help decrease drug trafficking and abuse among the youths and provide them with drug treatment, housing and job training, among others.
Evangelist Blahyi pointed out that the project is intended to empower ex-combatants who are suffering from trauma, rejection, among others as a result of their involvement in the senseless Liberian civil wars.
He claimed that these ex-combatants have been neglected by both their parents and the society in general.
"I thought we should give back to the society by helping those kids. That's how I started the project. We have to go by taking these young children from the streets; giving them skills; introducing them to Jesus; encouraging them to feed themselves. We reconnect with their families and the communities telling them sorry and the wrong they have done".
About "Butt Naked"
Joshua Milton Blahyi alias General Butt Naked, is a father of four children and the former commander of forces under the wider control of Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson.
He was known for his violence and atrocities during the First Liberian Civil War in the early 1990s. Once described as "the most evil man in the world", Blahyi claimed to have also carried out regular human sacrifice and cannibalism of children.
He led his troops naked except for shoes and a gun and believed that his nakedness was a source of protection from bullets.
During the First Liberian Civil War he led a mercenary unit, many of whom were child soldiers, which was known as the Butt Naked Brigade.
They were funded by Roosevelt Johnson and fought alongside the ULIMO militia against militias led by Charles Taylor and Prince Yormie Johnson.
ULIMO was loyal to Samuel Doe, who was captured and executed--personally--by Prince Johnson. Taylor eventually took control of the country.
Blahyi's rampage ended in 1996, when the civil war in Liberia was coming to an end.
He stated that his conversion was bolstered by a church in Liberia where Bishop Kun Kun is a pastor.
He is now the President of the End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries Inc., with headquarters in Liberia.