By Rodney Sieh
Monrovia – Strains within Liberia’s security sector ahead of the imminent drawdown of United Nations peacekeepers heightened Saturday when officers of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Executive Protective Services bulldozed the marked RL 100 vehicle of the Director of Police Chris Massaquoi and attempted to hold the director at gunpoint.
The incident involved a tussle between officers of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) assigned with the Presidential Motorcade and Police officers assigned with the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, Col. Chris Massaquoi in Monrovia.
Eyewitnesses told FrontPageAfrica that the incident which took place around the vicinity of the Broad and Center Street where the President and several dignitaries had assembled to attend the funeral of the late Liberian Ambassador to Great Britain, Rudolph Von Balmoos. The incident reportedly started when the presidential guards attempted to boot Director Massaquoi’s vehicle out of the convoy.
The EPS officers reportedly went as far as attempting to hold the director at gunpoint leading to a standoff between the director’s guards and the presidential guards. Another eyewitness claimed that EPS officers were forced to act because the police director attempted to move ahead of the EPS vehicles and closer to the President’s car. “He overtook the vehicles and tried to move ahead of the convoy. The president car was already in motion. They(EPS) tried to exercise their authority and things got out of hand,” the witness, a member of the president’s security, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained.
Mr. Frank O. Nyenkan, Director of the EPS and an advisor on national security did not return phone calls and text messages seeking comment Saturday.
The incident was reminiscent of a similar one which took place at the Monrovia Central Prison in December 2013 when Director Massaquoi was greeted with a shocking public embarrassment after the President’s guards barricaded and physically stopped him from getting close to the President. To the director’s dismay, Prison Superintendent Adana S. Paye ordered his correction officers to hold the police chief because “He was misbehaving.”
The director’s vehicle was damaged as EPS cars smashed into his vehicle and threw the Director’s vehicle off the road.
President Sirleaf, FrontPageAfrica has learned has suspended two officers of the EPS in relations to the incident.
The Executive Mansion issued a statement late Saturday evening stating that the President had directed that the Command officers of both the Details of the Presidential
Motorcade and the Details of Inspector General of the Liberia National Police suspended with immediate effect.
The President has also constituted an Independent Panel that does not comprise any member of the security institutions involved to investigate Saturday’s incident and submit a report to the President. Further actions will be taken following the submission of the Investigative Panel’s Report.
Sources told FrontPageAfrica that the EPS’s action was carried out by the order of Mr. Charles Kaizer, one of the directors of the EPS.
The EPS which has a history of tussling with other security agency heads, was forced to apologize following the 2013 incident when it tried to prevent Director Massaquoi from the vicinity of the president. At the time, the EPS in a statement expressed shock at the embarrassment cause the Chief of Police and promised to neither countenance nor accept any action on the part of its agents that publicly embarrasses officials of the government, least to mention the police chief and as such.
Although an investigation was ordered in that incident, nothing was heard of regarding punishment for those involved.
In another incident in 2013, EPS officers on the directive of former Director Othello Warrick attempted to search Defense Minister Brownie Samukai as he attempted to enter the Monrovia City Hall where President Sirleaf was attending a function.
The EPS was also involved in another incident in March 2013 when the convoy railroaded several motorbikes off the road. Winston Harmon, a journalist explained in the aftermath of the incident that as the president’s convoy was driving toward Congo Town from her Foreign Ministry Office, the EPS vehicles were trying to get a motorcyclist off the convoy which resulted in the damage of two cars, including a private jeep and a taxi cab on 11th Street, Sinkor, severely injuring six persons.
The EPS’s action has drawn concerns not just from the public but from the national legislature. Representative Bhofal Chambers (Maryland, CDC) declared in 2013 that EPS behavior concerning security in the convoy of the President is worrisome.
United Nations peacekeepers are due complete their mission in June, leaving security of the state to local law enforcement. But in the wake of lingering strains amongst various security agencies, many are beginning to wonder whether Liberia’s security apparatus will be ready to pick up the slack when the peacekeepers leave amid infighting among the security hierarchy.
More recently, Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh attempted to usurp his functions toward other security agencies by trying to exert complete control the major security agencies and set up councils for both the Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization which he intended to head.
The minister unsuccessfully lobbied for the issuing of licenses to be transferred from the Police to Central Command at the Ministry of Justice and brought in his own principal aides including a former key lieutenant to former Justice Minister, Jenkins KZB Scott who is said to be running a parallel Police operative and clashing with LNP investigations. source fpa
Damaged police vehicle pic: www.frontpageafrica