The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has warned officers of the elite presidential guard Executive Protection Service (EPS) to stop wearing different kinds of uniforms to prevent being infiltrated by terrorists amidst emerging terror threats in West Africa.
“To the EPS Director, I have a little advice. Liberia is no exception to terrorist attack, the mere fact that we have our own troops in Mali. Sometimes I see the EPS with different kinds of uniforms. In case of emergency who do you identify? Who is who?” Deputy Army Chief of Staff Brigadier Gen. Geraldine Janet George warned Friday, 3 August.
Brigadier George gave the warning at the Camp Sande Ware Barracks in Careysburg, Montserrado County during the graduation ceremony of 40 EPS officers from the Counter Assault Team or CAT, who had undergone an intensive training conducted by the AFL.
Very few agents of the elite EPS force are seen dressed in a uniform made of deep blue trousers and hat and sky blue shirts during some occasions.
During the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime, and up to present, the EPS formerly known as Special Security Service (SSS) have used different colors of coat suits including black, blue, grey or any other color available to the agent.
Depending on the occasion, they also wear battle dressed uniforms (BDU), army combat uniforms (ACU) or other kinds of wearing.
But the deputy Army Chief said given the various colors of uniform “If something happens, say when ship hits the fence, you’re not going to look to say where is Paul, where is Brown. You all will think that you are all a team, and that’s when terrorist enter.”
“If you have a uniform, use that uniform. If BDU is not your uniform leave the BDU. If ACU is not your uniform, leave the ACU. You cannot wear an ACU and you wear American camouflage. In case of emergency who do you count on? Who are you going to look to, to say this is not part of the EPS or this is not part of this security institution?” she adds.
Sharing with the EPS authorities and graduates her experience in Mali, Gen. George says “terrorists used UN vehicle, put symbols on it” and “drove into the camp with explosives and we lost one hundred plus persons.”
The Deputy Army Chief of Staff says these lapses are not only with the EPS, but with other security institutions that she has seen here, cautioning EPS Director Col. Trokon Roberts to take keen note because one cannot tell when something will happen.
Gen. George’s warnings came at the event minutes after House Committee Chair on Defense Rep. Jimmy Smith expressed similar observations concerning potential security lapses in the EPS, especially at occasions where the president is present.
Rep. Smith says he has been at many occasions attended by the president where he saw things he is not too happy about, noting that too often the EPS begins to mount security barricades when the occasion has already started.
He reminds the VIP service entity EPS to take absolute control of the [place] in which the president is present, and also cautions agents to avoid being argumentative while in uniforms or arrest somebody for saying something the arresting agent did not like.
In the meantime, Rep. Smith cautions officers to be aware that force can sometimes be appropriate, when it’s being use to address an equal and opposite reaction, and that reaction must be firm and should send a clear message of deterrence.
“Sometimes those actions are not ruthlessly done, but the way [you] compose yourself can serve as a deterrence,” he explains further.Rep. Smith clarified his statement saying when you speak of force, you are not just talking about physical force but also verbal command which he says is the first step of force.
In a keynote address, a prominent Liberian youth Mr. Robert Miller earlier reminded the graduating EPS officers that they have a duty to operate within the code of ethics of the elite force, urging them to abide by the rule of law.
He notes that their duty to serve and protect Liberia’s democracy will require them at some time to make the ultimate sacrifice.Mr. Miller indicates that emerging threats in Africa provide the justification and importance of the service of the EPS’ Counter Assault Team.
EPS Director Col. Trokon Roberts thanked the Army and the Ministry of Defense for always being there for the EPS. Col. Roberts told EPS Officers that they have a greater task to perform.
He says he has been with his officers in friendly, violent and rough crowds, but reminds them that their job is to respond proportionally and adequately.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah