The Red Guard
The Red Guard of Senegal was born in the 14th century on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. To ensure his protection as well as the cohesion of his armies, Amurât the First, Ottoman prince and warrior (1319-1389), founded a cavalry corps which he named “Spahis,” meaning “the Morning Riders” in Persian.
In the 15th century, they asserted their control over the Beys of Algiers and became guardians of the Turkish military equestrian tradition. They took special care to preserve their Ottoman signs of distinction: theirturban, music, and flags.
After the Bey of Algiers capitulated on July 5, 1830, hte French authorities, which were in charge of Algerian territories, progressively integrated those warriors into their scouting battalions. They took over the Spahis cavalry concept and adapted it into their army, thus allowing those warriors to perpetuate their martial art.
It was with this that the “Indigenous Cavalry” was officially founded, going on to be known as the “Mameluke Squadron,” “Hunters of Africa,” and then “Spahis Hunters”.
The Spahis rode the Sahara far and wide, and a special squadron was sent to Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1845 to resolve the conflicts between tribes living along Senegal’s river. Thus, the first Senegalese Spahis were born. Thanks to their efficiency and military qualities, they enhanced more than ever, the prestige of this battalion.
In 1928, they took the name of “Colonial Guard,” then in 1960, when independence was proclaimed, they changed their name to the “Presidential Guard” better known as the Red Guard of the Presidency.
The Red Guard is also a parade and escort unit that stands out for its elegance and dexterity during festivities and carousels. Through the Senegalese colours, the “Red Guard” continues to feed the legend and memory of the Morning Riders.
As a specially trained division of the National Gendarmerie, the Security Legion, part of the Mobile Gendarmerie, is in charge of the Head of State’s security and ceremonial service.
It comprises three squadron groups:
The Presidential Guard Squadron Group (G.E.G.P.)
The GEGP is divided into an “on-foot squadron” wearing the Red Guards’ uniform and guarding the Presidential Palace, and a squadron of gendarmes on foot in charge of the various security services around the Palace.
The Protection Squadron Group (G.E.P.)
The GEP comprises two squadrons ensuring the safety of the President of the Republic, his family members, and their homes, whether on or off national soil.
Escort and Service Squadron Group (G.E.E.S.)
The GEES includes the Red Guard Mounted Squadron, a Motorcycle Squadron, and a Non-Combat Squadron.
The Mounted Squadron
Commonly known as the Red Guard, The Mounted Squadron is a parade unit providing escorts to the President of the Republic and VIPs during their official visits in Senegal.
It has a cavalry band. The complete squadron for parades and escorts now has a force of 120 riders (160 initially). Behind the band of 35 musicians stand the standard-bearers mounted on grey horses with tails painted red with henna; then, the officer commanding the squadron; and lastly, three platoons, the first on bay horses, the second on gray horses, and third also on bay horses.
This squadron, heir of the Senegalese Spahis and the mounted squadron of the Colonial Gendarmerie, also conducts peacekeeping missions during sports, political, or cultural events as well as police services. Notably, it includes a Rapid Intervention Platoon comprising 24 mounted guards led by a Platoon Commander and equipped with vehicles to transport horses on beaches and touristic sites, as well as suburbs and hot spots. In addition, mounted gendarmes are periodically seconded for reinforcement of security forces to certain Territorial Brigades in the Regions. Starting two years ago, riders of the Red Guard resumed performances of fantasias and horse games in the Arab tradition.
The Motorcycle Squadron
The Motorcycle Squadron, in addition to its traffic police and convoy escort missions, is responsible for the safety and escort of the Head of State, the Prime Minister, and foreign VIPs during their official visits in Senegal.
The Red Guard’s uniform is the most famous image of this renowned unit. It is inspired by the Senegalese Spahis’ and Gendarmes’ outfit, adapted for the modern day.
While today Commissioned Officers, Non Commissioned Officers, and Guards wear the same outfit, following Independence and until 1965, senior staff of the unit used to wear a white uniform with a cap, followed, from 1965 to 1968, by a gray outfit with a cap. Nowadays, the gray outfit is worn by the Prime Minister’s Motorcycle Escort.
The Red Guard does not forget it is the guardian of the tradition of squadrons that proved their worth on many battlefields from Sub-Saharan Africa to Morocco for the glory of France. Thus, the Red Guard has maintained special ties with French cavalry.
In particular, with the Republican Guard with which it was twinned in 1998.
The Squadron had not crossed the country's borders since 1955 when it joined the festivities of the Fêtes de la Gendarmerie in Paris and the July 14th parade.
In 1997, at the request of “Guérand Hermès,” the Squadron performed on the race tracks of Chantilly during the Prix de Diane-Hermès. In June 2001, the Squadron returned to France during the state visit which His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, newly elected President of Senegal, paid to the country.