The Red Guard

The Red Guard of Senegal was born in the 14th century on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. To ensure its protection as well as the cohesion of its armies, Amurât the First, Ottoman prince and warrior from 1319 to 1389, founded a cavalry corps that he named “Spahis,” meaning “the Morning Riders” in Persian.
Trained and armed, Spahis confirmed their reputation of fearsome warriors all around the Mediterranean Sea and in North Africa.

In the 15th century, they asserted their control over the Beys from Algiers and became guardians of the Turkish military equestrian tradition. They emphasized the preservation of their Ottoman signs of recognition: the turban, music, and flags.

After the surrender of the Bey from Algiers on July 5, 1830, 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.

That’s how the “Indigenous Cavalry” was officially founded, that would successively bear the name of “Mameluke Squadron,” “African Hunters,” and then “Spahis Hunters”.

Spahis rode all around the Sahara, and a special squadron was designated to Saint-Louis of Senegal in 1845 to resolve disputes 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 for “Presidential Guard” better known as the Red Guard of the Presidency.

It is also a parade and escort unit that can boast its elegance and dexterity during festivities and carousels. Through the Senegalese colors, 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.)

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.)

GEP comprises two squadrons ensuring the safety of the President of the Republic, his family members, and their home nationally and outside the national territory.

Escort and Service Squadron Group (G.E.E.S.)

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 fanfare corps.

The complete squadron for parades and escorts now has a force of 120 riders (160 initially). A band of 35 musicians appears behind the standard-bearers mounted on gray horses whose tails are painted in red with henna; then, the officer commanding the squadron; and finally, 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 of 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 Regions Territorial Brigades. Starting two years ago, riders of the Red Guard resumed performances of fantasias and horse games typical of the Arab tradition.

The Motorcycle Squadron

The Motorcycle Squadron ensures, in addition to its traffic police and convoy escort missions, 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, incorporating a modern touch.

Whereas today Commissioned Officers, Non Commissioned Officers, and Guards wear the same outfit, in the aftermath of Independence and until 1965, senior staff of the unit used to wear a white outfit with a cap; then, from 1965 to 1968 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 has been intertwined since 1998.

The Squadron has 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 that His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, newly elected President of Senegal, paid to the country.
Macky Sall
President of the Republic
of Senegal
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