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Factbox: A look Uhuru's presidential security

EXPLAINERS
By Betty Njeru | May 28th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta has an elaborate security detail. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s security has come under sharp scrutiny in the past two weeks.

On Wednesday, while en route from officiating the Neema slaughterhouse in Nairobi’s Lucky Summer estate, a man was bang in the middle of the road, blocking the presidential motorcade.

His drama was momentary, as Uhuru’s security detail, though caught flat-footed, shoved him to the roadside.

A breach of presidential security was also noticed last week. A man was stopped barely a metre from the presidential dais as Uhuru commissioned the Lamu Port in Lamu on May 20.

A video posted by KTN News showed Uhuru suddenly startled, but went on to make a joke off it and carried on with the business of the day.

The official line is that the two incidents do not amount to a security breach; that the men were only “excited individuals”.

“The individual is a citizen who was only excited to see the motorcade of His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta. We wish to allay any fears that the President’s security was under threat,” Government spokesperson, Cyrus Oguna, said in a statement on Thursday about the Lucky Summer incident.

The two incidents, though recent, are not exclusive, raising questions about the alertness of the president’s security.

Fact box: The Presidential security detail

In Kenya, the Presidential Escort Unit (PEU), a division under the Kenya Police Service, is tasked with providing protection to the president, his or her deputy, and the first families.

The Unit was established to support functions of the Kenya Police Service in accordance with Section 24 of the National Police Service Act, 2011, which include, provide security and protection to the president, the first family, retired presidents, the deputy president, visiting Heads of State and Governments and any other VIPs as may be directed by the Inspector-General of Police.

It has at least 200 officers drawn from Recce and the General Service Unit (GSU), who undergo intense and thorough firearm and protection training.

On the other hand, a presidential motorcade consists of a wide fleet of vehicles. The exact formation changes depending on the mission and the assets at hand.

It has riders who are highly trained in war and combat. Whenever the president is visiting, the riders not only clear traffic but also offer protection. They also dictate how fast or slow the motorcade will move. 

The president also enjoys part-security from his Aide-de-Camp (ADC), an officer in the armed forces who acts as a personal assistant to a Head of State or member of a royal family.

The ADC’s main role is to escort the president out of State House into a waiting car, open his door, and salutation. He or she works closely with the Presidential Escort Unit Commander, who is a senior assistant commissioner of police. Though security is not their main role, they step up when the need arises.

Before the president steps out for official functions, the Presidential Escort Unit will have already planned out the route well ahead of time, scouted for chokepoints, shortcuts, and other details.

Scot Walker, a former US Federal Agent in an interview with Wired, an online publication said: “Once the motorcade is moving, the first rule is do not stop. Drive quickly but smoothly.”

Though fascinating to watch, the next time you see the presidential motorcade cruising through your estate, make no attempts to stop it.

It is, however, less likely that the president’s convoy would, in the near future, be stopped by “excited” persons again, as police now vow to be more alert.

“To avert such an occurrence in the future, we, in the senior management of the police service, will be asking leaders to sensitise their constituents ahead of visits by VVIPs such as the president. We’ll also ask police officers deployed to areas where the president is visiting to be more vigilant,” Nairobi regional police boss, Augustine Nthumbi, told The Standard.

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