Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Bulletproof: Jimmy Rasta and the Malaitans

March 3rd, 2010 · 4 Comments

The long spell of political violence that rocked the Solomon Islands last decade, commonly referred to as “The Tensions,” is an episode we know far too little about. We were thus delighted to stumble across this excellent post-mortem from New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times, which details how the conflict’s aftermath still lingers in a major way. Like much of the best non-fiction, it combines general history with the narrative of a single man: feared warlord Jimmy “Rasta” Lusibaea, who led an ethnic militia called the Malaita Eagles Force. His amazing story includes a snippet that dovetails perfectly with our ongoing Bulletproof Project, in which we’ve been chronicling the demonstrably false claims of mystics that certain rituals, talismans, or beliefs can protect warriors from gunfire. Before picking up arms for the first time, Lusibaea was duped in such a manner:

Before their pacification by Christian missionaries, Solomon Islanders were fearsome headhunters. The people of Malaita, the largest and most influential ethnic group, still hold tightly to many of their old customs. Prior to battle, Lusibaea was beaten and put through the fire as part of traditional rituals of invincibility. “If they fire the rifle, I can dodge the bullet,” he says. “That’s why I’m still alive.”

Despite having committed numerous atrocities during The Tensions, Lusibaea is now a free man—he served just five years in prison for assault, while skating on more serious charges. During his time behind bars, he claimed to rediscover his Christian faith, and has since sought forgiveness from those he wronged—forgiveness that has been heavily ritualized in public ceremonies.

Lusibaea’s redemption arc is actually something we’ve seen before, in the strange case of Joshua Milton Blahyi, better known to the world as General Butt Naked.

(Image of Lusibaea’s baptism via xleetalo


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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Bobby

    I was actually thinking about your bulletproof project the other day when reading Jon Lee Anderson’s Che biography for a project I’m working on. When Che got to the Congo in ’64 or ’65, a lieutenant colonel of the rebels told him that they didn’t have to worry about enemy airplanes because they had dawa, a potion that would protect them from harm. Check p. 641 if y’re interested.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Bobby: Thanks for the great rec. Claiming that magic can provide protection against bombs takes the whole fallacious enterprise to Phase Two.

    Big Anderson fan. Need to read that Che bio one of these days. He’s one of those historical characters about whom I know far too little, despite all the pop-cult adoration.

  • Bobby

    You can imagine Che wasn’t to happy to hear that his comrades-in-arms were relying on witchcraft.

    I only read the back half of JLA’s book, but that part is good and, as the blurbs will remind you, very thorough (read: long).

    For a long time the adoration kept me away. It seemed to me a kind of college-leftie-kitsch. But for all his mistakes–and there were many–Che seems to have been a pretty remarkable specimen of humanity.

  • Teach a Man to Fish

    […] last time that Microkhan checked in with Jimmy “Rasta” Lusibaea, he had just found the Lord after a lifetime of sin. The […]