Now as soon as he got back to his quarters, Lieutenant-General Arnorld Quainoo climbed the stairs up to his office, opened the door, shut it behind him, and walked across the office. Then he sat behind his desk, a dark polished oak table which had formerly belonged to the Managing Director of the Freeport of Monrovia. The desk was huge, almost spanning the length of one wall. At the edges had been chiseled finely cut horizontal lines, with a broad stroke in the middle. But while the desk might have been the Managing Director’s, the office had been owned by the head of port security. But the story goes that the Ghanaian commander, when looking for a building which would house his offices, had come into this office, which was larger than the other and well suited to his needs, and had ordered the simple furniture removed. He had then brought in the Director’s desk, having the legs removed and put back again because the desk was too large to come through the door altogether. He then also had all the high-backed chairs brought in from the Director’s office, setting two in front of the desk and the others along a length of the office wall. At last he had brought in the cabinet and even a flower vase he had found on the desk. Now here he sat, dressed in battle fatigues and full military regalia. His hands, clasped in front of him, were large and hairy, the nails even and conical. Apparently, he had had his beard shaved a few moments earlier. The skin looked raw and smelled of lather. His soldier’s haircut, the hairline neat and precise, was sprinkled with gray. His mouth was large, drooping slightly at the corners, his nose aquiline and set below thick eyebrows. He had all the hallmarks of Ghanaian men: dark, handsome, and with a face that would have suited a younger man but made him looked good all the same.
If the truth were told, he was far from happy about this peacekeeping operation to Liberia. The dark cloud over his brow seemed to mirror his doubts. He knew that a mission like this, in which the troops were contributed by disparate African countries, needed much more funding and logistics. And it did not seem to him that ECOWAS, whose membership consisted of virtually poor African countries, would be able to cater to expenses by providing adequate food and medical care for the soldiers, not to mention arms and ammunition. The Ghanaian contingent was, of course, the only peacekeeping force to
Liberia to have brought sufficient weapons. But peacekeeping contingents like the Sierra Leoneans had come so poorly equipped that they did not even have sufficient boots. Although the Nigerian contingent was an exception, he suspected that they harbored a grudge in that he had been made force commander, and not a Nigerian, a clear sign of infighting within ECOMOG and an indication that the mission to Liberia would be far from successful. This was probably why francophone countries like Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast had made no effort to send troops to Liberia, claiming the civil war an internal issue. Besides he disliked dealing with Nigerians. He thought they were arrogant and snobbish.
Then there was his lucrative merchandise business in Accra, which his wife and sons were managing. With time, he would be able to establish branches in Europe and South America and possibly retire from the army sooner than later. He hoped the rebel Prince Johnson would honor his word and give him the cars he requested. He had hoped the rebels had left a few brand new cars in one of the shipping containers, but had learned that those were one of the first things the fighters had looted. Although one couldn’t put much trust in the INPFL, he understood that they needed weapons and would be forced to negotiate with him. He wondered if the twelve Sedans, BMWs, and Chevrolets Prince Johnson had promised would arrive soon enough. Well, he would find that out from the rebel leader first thing tomorrow. In the meantime, he needed to smoke and relax. And so Lieutenant-General Quainoo took a Cuban cigar from his pocket, and leaning back in his comfortable chair, began to smoke. But soon he found himself thinking about the NPFL assault looming large on the horizon, and suddenly sat up.
Shouting for his army orderly, he requested a drink of water, drank it down, and sat staring into space. It was bad enough having to serve in this poor peacekeeping operation with Nigerians and the fact that much needed logistics was lacking. Besides, he had to tolerate the rebel Prince Johnson, whom he despised and of whom he was secretly afraid. But now he had to deal with an impending assault from the NPFL. The very thought made his stomach churned. He almost panicked. Well, if they attack, he would take refuge in one of the Ghanaian warships until his men, aided by troops from the other contingents, drove out the rebels. He would then set sail for Ghana and brief the Ghanaian president on the situation in Liberia. Then he would seal it with a visit to Dauda Jawara, and would tell the ECOWAS chairman that the mission to Liberia was as much a futility as the Americans were to learn in Vietnam. Cursing under his breath, Lieutenant-General Arnold Quainoo rubbed his forehead and sat back in his chair with the expression of a man who felt suffocated.
Copyright © Saah Millimon 2016
About the author: Saah Millimono is the author of the award-winning novel Boy, Interrupted, which was awarded 2nd Place for the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013. His short story Broken Dreams won in 2009 the Short Fiction Prize of the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings. He lives in Monrovia and is pursuing a BA degree in Mass Communication at the African Methodist Episcopal University. He has written for the Daily Observer and The Guardian (UK).