LIBERIA: Following Tussle between Police Chief and EPS Commander, President’s Axe Falls

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has directed that the Command officers of the Presidential Motorcade and the Details of Inspector General of Police be suspended with immediate effect.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf issued the directive on Saturday, January 9, following a tussle between officers of the Executive Protective Service (EPS) assigned with the Presidential Motorcade and Police officers assigned with Police Chief, Col. Chris Massaquoi in Monrovia.

According to the release, President Sirleaf will also constitute an Independent Panel that does not comprise any member of the security institutions involved to investigate Saturday’sincident and submit a report to her.

Further actions will be taken following the submission of the Investigative Panel’s report, the release added.

Last Saturday, Pedestrians fled, as some taxi drivers abandoned their vehicles when a stand-off between officers of the Liberian National Police or LNP and the Executive Protection Service or EPS nearly turned in to a gun battle on Saturday as both LNP and EPS officers pointed long range riffles at one another.

This was after Police Director Chris Massaquoi's vehicle, which one account says had attempted to intrude into the Presidential Convoy headed for the First United Methodist Church on Ashmun Street, collided with one of the new EPS vehicles with registration number EPS -70.

Both convoys were headed at the same destination for the funeral service of former Liberian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, late Rudolf P. VonBallmoos. Security sources say some EPS agents in the affected vehicle sustained injuries and were sent to a local hospital for treatment.

President Ellen Sirleaf has since directed that the commanding officers of both the details of the presidential motorcade and the Police Director Massaquoi be suspended with immediate effect. She announced the constitution of an Independent Panel that does not comprise any member of the security institutions involved to investigate Saturday's incident and submit a report to her. for further actions.

The incident, which took place between Center and Ashmun Streets just near the Providence Baptist Church and the old Ministry of Justice, one account said it all began in Sinkor after the Police Director's convoy, which comprised of two vehicles, including a pick-up truck and his official assigned vehicle with registration number LNP 100 attempted to force itself into the presidential convoy.

A security source told this paper that immediately an announcement was made through the convoy's communication network that a vehicle marked LNP-100 was forcing its way into the president's convoy.

The source said the Police Director's vehicle managed to pass four of the vehicles in the President's convoy and got so close to the President's vehicle before reaching Broad Street. "When the convoy got to Broad Street, you know it's a practice that one of the vehicles block the other junction to allow the President off her vehicle. It was this particular vehicle that Director Massaquoi ran into", the source narrated.

Director Massaquoi was said to have disembarked from his vehicle after it collided with the EPS-70, allegedly giving his bodyguards instructions to deal with the EPS agents within the said vehicle.

The LNP boss was at this time said to have been walking away from his damaged vehicle to the church for the funeral service.

It was during this time that things turned nasty when Director Massaquoi's men allegedly emerged from the vehicle with long range riffles, pointing at the EPS agents. The EPS agents too retaliated by pulling out their riffles pointing same at the police officers.

The pulling of guns instill fears in pedestrians and some taxi drivers, causing them to take to their heels. This is not the first stand-off between Director Massaquoi, a former EPS boss and agents of the presidential bodyguards. Sometime in 2013, agents of the EPS, preventing Director Massaquoi from coming close to the President during a tour of the Monrovia Central Prison, physically shoved him.

It is alleged that Director Massaquoi then Director of the EPS slapped a protocol officer at the Foreign Ministry who intruded into the President's convoy because he had to clearance to do so. Pundits wonder why Director Massaquoi wants to do same if he had no clearance to enter the President's convoy.

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