After 100 days under siege by both rebel factions, soldiers in the government-held quarter around the Monrovia presidential mansion are struggling for survival, no longer with their guns but with a diet of leaves and dog meat.
On a clandestine trip Saturday through the city-center enclave, which has been effectively closed to journalists for two months, market shelves were straining under the weight of looted goods stolen by soldiers who rampaged through the capital after President Samuel Doe's death on Sept 9.On the government side of a buffer zone created five days ago by the peacekeeping force of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, no government checkpoints or military defenses were encountered.
Soldiers who, a week ago opened fire indiscriminately, were more concerned about selling the stolen videos, computers and electric fans they carried on their heads.
Bottles of dark beer, green leaves and fresh dog meat were the only items of food on display.
President Doe's herd of cows, as well as two lions bought by the president in January on a trip to Kenya, have long since been eaten, residents said.
As many as 1,000 government soldiers and an estimated 6,000 civilians are trapped in an area of a few square kilometers between the executive mansion and the Barclay military training center.
Since Doe's death by torture at the hands of rebel leader Prince Johnson, law in the government enclave has become the preserve of gun-toting gangs.