For the last decade Liberia has been one of Africa's most violent trouble spots. In 1990, when thousands of teenage fighters, including young men wearing women's clothing and bizarre objects of decoration, laid siege to the capital, the world took notice. Since then Liberia has been through devastating civil upheaval and the most feared warlord, Charles Taylor, is now president. What began as a civil conflict, has spread to other West African nations.Western correspondents saw in the Liberian war a primeval, savage Africa-a "heart of darkness." They focused on sensational "primitive" aspects of the conflict, such as the prevalence of traditional healers and soothsayers, and shocked the international community with tales of cannibalism, especially the eating of the body parts of defeated opponents, which was widespread.Eschewing popular stereotypes and simple explanations, Stephen Ellis traces the history of the civil war that has blighted Liberia in recent years and looks at its political, ethnic and cultural roots. He focuses on the role religion and ritual have played in shaping and intensifying this brutal war.