Life 6 - The Unforgiven

Across the world it's increasingly recognized that civil conflict is as big a barrier to development as illiteracy or illness. Once war-torn countries can struggle for decades with its legacy. Liberia is still struggling to establish law and order, establish security for its people and find roles for ex-combatants. But can countries like Liberia — until recently ravaged by fighting of unspeakable savagery — forgive and forget in the absence of a proper legal process to try those responsible for war crimes?

One man who believes that only God has the answer to this dilemma is evangelical pastor Joshua Milton Blahyi. He recently travelled to Kenya to help a peace and reconciliation process after the bloodshed which followed its disputed election. And Mr Blahyi should know. He was once known as General Butt Naked, a warlord who admits to some of troubled West Africa's most horrific war crimes.

The general submitted himself to Liberia's own Truth and Reconciliation process at the end of 2007. In his testimony to the TRC, he admits to responsibility for 20,000 murders and cannibalism. He says it's up to the discretion of the TRC to decide his fate (it's due to report later this year), but that God's already given him a second chance — he's changed his ways, and can now help guide other former ex-combatants to rebuild Liberia.

So can — and should — the general and other perpetrators of atrocities really be forgiven for cannibalism and child murder? Many, after all, are still celebrated as heroes and role models by large numbers of Liberians. And in a country where evangelical Christianity underpins a culture of impunity for those responsible for 14 years of vicious civil war, most people advocate (or are encouraged to advocate) forgiveness.

But if the general and others like him are forgiven, what can be the sanction for future warlords? If the so-called war criminals are punished and held to account, how far will Liberia need to go — when almost everyone was involved in the factions in one way or another? What's the best forward - do you name and shame, and potentially destroy the fabric of Liberian society, or forgive and forget, and allow the perpetrators to go on living in the community — unpunished and unchecked, and potentially ready for renewed fighting.

'The Unforgiven forcefully examines, through the lens of Liberia's civil war and the massive human rights abuses that were committed there, questions concerning forgiveness and forgetting. Through the perspectives of those who committed the abuses and those who suffered them, the movie explores the benefits and harm from not dealing with harm suffered by victims in a very intense manner. In the context of a post-conflict society wanting to move on, the tensions concerning forgiveness versus accountability are forcefully examined. This film is an essential watch for all those interested in issues concerning justice, truth and reconciliation in transitional societies.' Dr Jeremy Sarkin, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Hofstra University Law School. Member, United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

'Life 6 is a wonderfully educational series that presents the viewers with the dilemmas faced by specific individuals in the socio-historical and economic context of their communities in the midst of an increasingly globalized world. The tremendous value of this series is that, in the brief thirty minutes that each episode lasts, it captures the complexities of the lives of those in it as they face Western influence that force them to reassert, defend, or challenge their local and/or individual identities, cultures, governance, wealth distribution, and practices of achieving justice and reconciliation--to name a few...Life 6 represents these issues in an objective and analytical way that will--without question--lead into a discussion and debate about them by academics and lay audiences alike.' Aniuska Luna, African Peace and Conflict Network


Main credits

Marlow, Emily (film producer)
Marlow, Emily (film director)
Malde, Smita (editor of moving image work)
Bradshaw, Steve (host)
Bradshaw, Steve (editor of moving image work)
Blahyi, Joshua Milton (on-screen participant)

Other credits

Editor, Smita Malde; series editor, Steve Bradshaw.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
Conflict Resolution
Developing World
Human Rights
International Criminal Court
Millennium Development Goals
Social Justice
Social Psychology
United Nations
War and Peace
Women's Studies


General Butt Naked, Liberia, civil war, barriers to development, illiteracy, illness, evangelical Christians, impunity forgiveness, West Africa, war crimes, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC, cannibalism, child murder, warlords, war criminals, evangelical Christianity; "The Unforgiven"; Bullfrog Films