Explained: Tales Of Uhuru's Motorcade and Bodyguard Tactics

This article takes a detailed look at the Presidential Escort convoy and the functions of some of the key components in a watertight motorcade formation.

Explained: Tales Of Uhuru's Motorcade and Bodyguard Tactics

When an excited man tried blocking President Uhuru Kenyatta's motorcade at Lucky Summer area in Nairobi on Wednesday, May 26, the presidential bodyguards swung into action and carted the man away from camera view, the latest in a spate of incidents on the President’s security detail.

However, no one knows what happens to the excited individuals after they are pulled away by the Presidential Security Escort Unit.

According to highly placed sources to the security detail who spoke to Viral Tea, such suspects are usually pulled to the side and questioned to determine they pose a threat to the security or not. If he is a threat, action is taken, if not, he is let go.

"I think it depends on the perceived threat/security situation," explained the source.

A man tries to block President Uhuru Kenyatta's motorcade at Lucky Summer area in Nairobi on May 26, 2021. /FILE

Afterwards, the commander in charge of the security team briefs the officers and formulates solutions to ensure that such incidences do not happen again.

The unit is trained to keep presidents, deputy presidents, first families, and even presidential candidates safe. They are always eagle-eyed for any suspicious behaviour everywhere they go.

"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 added to Viral Tea.

This article takes a detailed look at the Presidential Escort convoy and the functions of some of the key components in a watertight motorcade formation. The information was obtained from accounts of security experts and a case study of various incidents of the head of state's travels.

Kenya also relies heavily of the formation of the US president's motorcade. According to security experts, the number of cars and structures are dependent on President Kenyatta’s itinerary and level of the risk.

Before embarking on the road, the team has to determine on which routes to take and analyze their choke points, shortcuts and details such as the sun’s position as direct rays can make it harder to spot threats.

Which cars make up the presidential motorcade?

As much as the travel arrangements are meant to keep President Kenyatta safe, the presidential motorcade is a near-tradition that is similar with every individual holding the powers of the Head of State. It also makes up a travelling marvel orchestrated to be a symbol of sorts for Kenyans to admire.

Everyone involved in the making of this motorcade is required to be at their best in their role.

1. Route Car & Pilot Car

This car is usually minutes ahead of the presidential convoy and is supposed to recon the route to be used and provide insights about the road to the rest of the team.

In most cases, this car is a Mercedes Benz E-Class which bears a red plate of its front grille written “President’s Escort".

A Mercedes-Benz E-Class belonging to the President’s Escort Unit in Kenya. /THE STAR
If there are potholes or crowds along the road the officers in the car relay this to the motorcade in order to prepare any reaction in good time.

For long travels, the route car the very first one and is minutes ahead while the pilot car is the next vehicle that follows.

2. Sweepers

Sweepers are police motorcycles which tail the escort and they may also compose of officers in cars. The outriders travel in a diamond formation and clear the way so that the motorcade’s speed remains constant the whole way.

Although rare, a situation where the head of state is sipping some water and it spills over would mean that the speed is inconsistent and the driver is driving aggressively.

The flashing lights and occasional sirens are meant to clear the road of traffic so that the whole motorcade can cut through roads with ease and at a consistent speed.

3. Lead Car

The lead car is like the brains of the entire operation. Many times the leader of the president’s escort team rides in this car.

In some circumstances the lead car can be beside the president’s vehicle while another car also flanks the other side.

4. President’s Vehicle

This is the car which carries the president. In most cases President Kenyatta rides in a Toyota Landcruiser V8, Mercedes Benz S class, or Mercedes Limousine depending on the occasion.

All his cars are armoured and specially designed to keep bullets and explosives away.

President Uhuru Kenyatta waves at Kenyans during a past political rally. /FILE

Once the motorcade starts moving, the first rule is not to stop. Drivers are allowed to drive quickly but the experience has to be flawless and smooth.

5. Back-up Officers

The cars that follow have additional security officers, some who are in uniform while others wear civilian clothes.

As was witnessed during the recent security breach, officers who rushed to respond to the man who blocked the motorcade jumped out of the Toyota Landcruisers which followed Uhuru’s car.

They are basically the President's first line of reinforcements should something occur while en route.

6. Electronic Countermeasures Vehicle

This vehicle has long vertical aerials and domes which are used to jam communications and remote detonating devices.

7. Control Vehicle & Support Vehicles

The vehicles carry VIP staff, such as members of the President's cabinet who may be accompanying him and their security detail, as well as additional security personnel such as military commanders.

The motorcade also includes an amoury containing weapons, an ambulance and a vehicle for the communications unit.

Other than the Lucky Summer incident, the president's security team also had to rapidly repel a man who approached the dais in Lamu as he was addressing the area residents.

He was astounded by the man prompting him to say; "Pole sana kila mtu na mambo yake."

Yet again, in March, there was a security scare after a businessman breached protocol and drove into State House with him. The security team only realised that there was trouble after he drove past the President’s official car.

State House in Nairobi. /FILE