So the other day I was in a small local restaurant across the street from the TRC. I had just paid for a can of Coca-Cola. It was 50 Liberian Dollars (LD).About $0.92. I thought this was a little pricey. I was with Fully, the IT officer at the TRC, and I told him this was way expensive. And he asked how much it was in The States. I told him about the same. A bottle of Coke is only 20LD ($0.30) and is the same amount of coke. So I told him I’d only buy bottles.
Fully looks towards the rest of the restaurant and says, “this man says a can of coke cost the same here as it does in America.” And so I said something about how a can is so much more than a bottle. And I think we all know coke out of the bottle is the way to go. So this other guy chimes in and is like, “well the bottles are made here in Liberia and they’re lesser quality and the flavor is different. But the cans come from America.” Now having lived in Atlanta, GA, the world headquarters of Coca-Cola, and knowing how companies like that value quality and a consistent product, I know that they would never allow their product to be distributed unless it met their quality standards. Nor would they allow the flavor to be changed, unless their market research deemed it necessary to change the taste of coke. But for the sake of avoiding an argument, I just said I thought they tasted the same and the bottle was good enough for me. I did notice that this gentleman seemed well to do, had a couple of people with him, and when he answered the phone he switched to a much more western accent. But this is common for a well to do Liberian. Fully continued to talk with the man about coke for a minute or two and then we left.
As Fully and I are walking back to the TRC he says, “John you know who that was?”
“That’s General Butt Naked”
General Butt Naked (AKA Joshua Milton Blahyi) is one of the most notorious perpatrators of violent acts in the Liberian civil war. I assume you can imagine how he got his name. Uniforms were optional. He was also a local spiritual leader, and was called apon by the various war lords to carry out human sacrifices to ensure their success in battle. At a recent TRC hearing Mr. Blahyi said that he killed 20,000 people during the war. This may be slightly exaggerated, but no doubt the man was responsible for a considerable number of deaths.
I couldn’t believe I was just talking about Coke with such an infamous person. Mr. Blahyi did seem quite nice to talk to. Since the war’s end Mr. Blahyi has found Jesus and is now an evangelists, speaking at local churches.