Among the ECOMOG peacekeeping soldiers left behind at the main entrance of the Freeport of Monrovia, were Emeka, a few of the soldiers who had been carrying equipment out of the ships and a handful of peacekeeping troops. With the INPFL insurgents were some distinguished rebel fighters, among them General Death, Rambo, Dead Body Killer, Colonel Esther, and a few others. A few of the fighters had come wearing their zekie, usually in the form of cowrie shells worn round the head, the neck and the arm. Those who had arrived in the pickup had their faces painted with chalk. For a while the rebels and ECOMOG soldiers stood in silence, until suddenly a male dog appeared across the street.
He was a huge brown dog with a big head, a large, slobbering mouth, from which his tongue hung heavily, and a long tail that buzzed with flies. His back was filled with sores and festering. Most of the hair had already fallen out. Jogging at a leisurely pace, the dog came down the tarred road towards central Monrovia. Then he stopped and began to sniff the air, as though anticipating a meal in the form of a human corpse by the roadside. The rebels and ECOMOG soldiers turned to look at the dog, which had seen them at the port entrance and stopped in his tracks. Then, turning proud and imperious, the dog lowered his big head and, accelerating his pace, headed for the dead body of a man in the street.
Reaching the carcass, the dog sniffed at it a little, shook his head from the flies buzzing about the corpse, and took a huge bite. From a distance of about twenty yards one of the fighters picked a rock and threw it at the dog. The rock bounded across the tarred road and came within a foot of the dog.
Momentarily distracted, the dog looked towards the fighters and ECOMOG soldiers in front of the entrance of the Freeport but showed no alarm.
The rebels laughed.
The dog took another mouthful of flesh from the corpse, raised his head, and looked again towards the port entrance, his jaws rocking and what seemed to be a bit of human flesh hanging from one corner of his mouth.
“I say dis time the dogs dem na scarlor anybody,” said one of the fighters. She was about seventeen years of age and had arrived with the others in the pickup. She was short and slightly built, with a tuft of disheveled hair and a deep scar that ran the length of her forehead. “Look at deh way deh dog lookin’ at us sef, like it wan eat us,” she added, and burst out laughing.
“Somebody go kill that dog,” Colonel Esther said. She was about twenty years or so, full-breasted, with wide hips, looked rather too sexy for a rebel fighter, and wore her hair plaited in cornrows. She was dressed in full military fatigues, carried an AK-47 rifle, and wore round her neck a few cowrie shells, her dark brown boots polished to a glitter.
“Yes sah.” Dead Body Killer moved a few steps from the entrance of the Freeport. He took aim at the dog and fired. The bullets hit the dog on the left flank, knocking him down at a distance of about six feet from the tarred road.
A burst of applause came from the rebels. Dead Body Killer returned to his place at the port entrance, smiling with two missing front teeth.
Two INPFL fighters farther down the tarred road towards Bushrod Island came round a house, pushing a slim, tall man, weeping at the top of his voice, his face covered with blood. One of the fighters was a young man of about nineteen and the other a boy of no more than thirteen years of age. The man would fall to his knees and wrapped his arms around the legs of either the boy or the young man, who would then raise the butt-end of his rifle and hit him hard on the crown of the head. The man would scream and fall to the ground, and the fighters would hit him again and again, shouting at him to stand up.
His legs trembling, he would raise to his feet, and they would push him again. Thus the three crossed the asphalt. At about three yards from a burned car by the roadside, they stopped. The fighters shouted at the man to move a few feet farther in front of them, pushing him backwards with the muzzle of their rifles. The man screamed and began to cry at the top of his lungs. For a moment he seemed to have lost his senses. Emeka and the ECOMOG soldiers at the port entrance watched, feeling an urge to rescue the unfortunate man but dare not leave their post. They knew it would be a weakness which the rebels with them, regarding the unhappy man with complete indifference, would seek to exploit. Realizing the futility of pleading with his captors and as though he had finally resigned himself to his fate, the man threw up his arms. He moved a few feet from the rebels, stood along the port fence, and became completely still. Even he seemed to have shrunken and grown taller. The fighters moved a few yards from him, cocking their rifles.
The ECOMOG soldiers and rebels at the port entrance held their breath, waiting.
The rifle of one of the fighters seemed to have jammed. He stood fidgeting with it while the other, his gun held at the ready, waited patiently. Whatever it was with the gun took seconds to sort out. The one who had been fixing it fired a few burst into the air, evidently to see if he had gotten the problem fixed.
Both fighters then moved a few steps farther from the man in front of them. The man had not moved and still stood where he was, his arms raised high above his head, his face as blank as the wall behind him.
The fighters fired. The man fell over.
The fighters crossed the road and stopped in front of a house next to the roadside. They waved at the fighters at the entrance of the Freeport, shouting something in Pidgin. The others waved back. Then they turned, went round the building and disappeared.
The tall man lay along the port fence, his eyes and mouth wide open, as though struck with surprise.
The Betrayal of Samuel Doe
A group of rebels came and went out of a shipping container, toting assorted goods on their heads and shoulders. Standing beside the container and flanked on both sides by fighters and ECOMOG soldiers, were ECOMOG force commander General Quainoo, his Chief of Staff and Prince Johnson. They watched as the rebels carried the goods out of the fence and put them into the back of two military trucks captured from AFL soldiers and which had been packed in front of the port entrance. This lasted for more than an hour. When the container had been emptied, the rebels closed the iron-wrought doors and stood waiting.
Leaving the group of ECOMOG soldiers and rebels in front of the shipping container, Prince Johnson and General Quainoo walked a few paces away from them until finally they stopped at a distance of about fifty yards. Then they began to talk, their heads bent close together. Prince Johnson could be seen nodding his head as the ECOMOG force commander spoke. The General in turn would nod as the rebel leader spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
“We will make sure that Samuel Doe is captured one way or another, and you can take my word for it,” said the ECOMOG force commander, as finally the discussion between the two came to an end. “As to the date and time he will arrive, I’m not sure, but it will be soon. But tell me, what have you been able to learn about the NPFL?”
“They will attack in a few days from now and are amassing their forces in the Gardnersville area. It’s about two or three minutes’ drive from here. They are said to be in the thousands.”
The Ghanaian force commander felt his bowels turned to water. He seemed to stand with the limbs of a mosquito, and his legs looked ready to collapse.
“I don’t like your Nigerian Chief of Staff ordering us to leave our weapons at the gate,” Prince Johnson said. “Who does he think he is?”
“Forget the Nigerian,” said General Quainoo, smiling obsequiously. “Nigerians are self-conceited and arrogant by nature. But I’m ECOMOG force commander and will leave with the troops at the gate an order not to harass your men.”
With his head bowed slightly and hands folded in front of him, the ECOMOG force commander General Arnold Quainoo looked more like a servant standing submissively alongside his master than a general in command of an army.
Joining his men, Prince Johnson said something in the dialect of the Gio tribe, spoken to a short, barrel-shaped, middle-aged man with broad shoulders. This was CO Varney, then second in command to Prince Johnson himself. Then the rebels turned and began to walk back towards the entrance of the
Freeport. Ahead of them came Prince Johnson, flanked on both sides by young men armed with machine guns, which they had gotten from the ECOMOG force commander a few days earlier.
Reaching the port entrance, the rebels got into their cars and drove into the direction of Bushrod Island, the trucks full of looted goods ahead of the convoy. The ECOMOG peacekeeping soldiers watched until they had disappeared farther down the tarred road. Then they went back to their guard posts. The
Force commander and his Deputy headed for their separate headquarters. Behind them came a number of soldiers from the various contingents.
To be cont’d.