Most people hear the term President Bodyguards and automatically think about the men in suits and sunglasses guarding the President.
The fact is, that’s only a small faction of the team.
A former agent spoke to this writer and provided a broad perspective or a little peek behind the curtain of what it means to be part of the President Bodyguards Escort Unit.
President Bodyguards are trained to keep presidents, deputy presidents, first families, and even presidential candidates safe. But their own lives can be incredibly endangered.
The job description includes both protection and investigation. Being a GSU Company officer may seem glamorous, but they spend long hours watching crowds for suspicious behavior, constantly functioning on high alert. They, among others, carry weapons, investigate crimes, and secure locations.
These dedicated President Bodyguards occasionally struggle to find a good work/life balance, and maintaining relationships can get tricky. They take the good with the bad, though, serving tirelessly no matter which president holds office.
The contingent drawn from the GSU and Recce teams are highly qualified in VIP security, but when VIPs depart from normal procedure and start interacting with the crowd, close body protection becomes a nightmare.
“The roads, stops and visits are often planned, and to secure the locations, an advanced team is often sent ahead. Sometimes the VIPs decide to stop or go somewhere on the fly, and you have to think on the fly as well,” he explained.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been traveling the country for the past five months.
To ensure that the president’s trip is not disrupted, such trips require proper logistical preparation. His fleet of vehicles to be used for such journeys have to be transferred early.
The former President Bodyguards escort officer explained that his escort vehicles usually travel by road and under the cover any time the president travels to Mombasa by air.
A Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard, which is mostly used for ceremonies, lies inside the State House garage. This conspicuous vehicle doesn’t travel to Mombasa by road like his other SUVs. It is secretly loaded inside the SGR and transported under a cloak.
The coat of arms of his Toyota Land Cruiser is normally masked unless he is in the car. The ex-GSU officer revealed that often, other road users may assume it’s a governor or another government official, but a presidential limousine is too conspicuous to travel to Mombasa by road.
The Head of State has at his disposal more than 300 specially trained officers working in shifts to prevent fatigue, especially when he has a tightly packed schedule as witnessed in recent days.
Vehicles purchased over time by State House are not disposed of but instead kept safe for use.
Former President Bodyguards narrated to the writer of one incident where a caterer, who had been selected to serve former President Mwai Kibaki during an event at the Nyeri Golf Club, lost her personal precious glass bowl.
On that particular day, the food was cooked under the supervision of the president’s security but when she went to wash the head of state’s hands, she removed a classy bowl from her bag and right after the exercise was done, it was collected along with other utensils used by the president.
She tried to beg for her bowl but shock befell her when she was told that all utensils used by Kibaki had to be disposed of for security reasons.