Saturday, January 9, will go down in history as the day that witnessed violent fight between two government security details guarding the president, while funeral of the late Ambassador Rudolph von Ballmoos was taking place.
The situation, described by many eyewitnesses as ‘unfortunate’, took place between 10:30 and 11 a.m. at the corner of Broad and Center Streets, Monrovia.
It is not clear what exactly caused the scuffle between the LNP and EPS officers, but an Executive Mansion press release described the incident as merely a ‘tussle’ between ‘Command officers of both Details’, which led to the destruction of vehicles, one of which belongs to Police Director Chris Massaquoi.
The combatants involved officers of the Executive Protective Service (EPS) and those of the Liberia National Police (LNP).
As command officers engaged each other outside on Broad Street, blocking traffic and creating havoc and fear in the public, the family and sympathizers of the late Ambassador Rudolf P. von Ballmoos paid their last respects to their fallen relative nearby, at the First United Methodist Church on Ashmun Street.
Shocked, eye-witnesses who gathered around each other, “If this is happening before UNMIL drawdown is complete, what might happen if they are gone when we are left in the mercy of Liberian security officers?”
Another said, “Can’t we disagree and agree on a simple issue to honor the memory of our dead?” Though there were many questions, the issue as to whether Liberian security officers could work together was central to many Liberians’ concern.
The Executive Mansion press release said
President Sirleaf has directed that the Command officers of both the Details of the Presidential Motorcade and the Details of Inspector General of the Liberia National Police be suspended with immediate effect.
The release noted: “President Sirleaf issued the directive on Saturday, January 9, following 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.”
President Sirleaf also said an Independent Panel would be constituted that would not comprise any member of the security institutions involved to investigate Saturday’s incident and submit a report to the President.
It added: “Further actions will be taken following the submission of the Investigative Panel’s Report.”
Delivering the funeral discourse, Rev. Dr. Erlene P. Thompson, Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church, reminded Liberians, including security officers and those in leadership, to serve humanity with commitment to each other.
Meanwhile, the late Ambassador Rudolf P. von Ballmoos was buried at the Kaizer Memorial Cemetery in Brewerville, outside of Monrovia.