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Senegal Gendarmerie Nationale

In Senegal, the Gendarmerie Nationale is a police force with military status subordinate to the Ministry of the Armed Forces for military and police missions, while the National Police is under the Ministry of the Interior. The emergency phone number of the gendarmerie is the same as that of the police: on 17 or 112. It comprises about 5000 gendarmes, non-commissioned officers and officers (often trained in France). It is headed by a High Commandant of the Gendarmerie assisted by a Second High Commandant.

In teh first decade of independence, the 1,600-member National Gendarmerie, which was controlled by the president through the minister of state for the armed forces, maintained units known as legions in each of the country's seven administrative regions. Legions were divided into smaller units called brigades - some consisting of only a few men - stationed at key positions throughout the country. They constituted a rural police force, but they also had other duties and capabilities.

Three well-trained and well-equipped rapid reaction companies were available for use in the control of riots or other forms of violence in urban areas. They also guarded the presidential palace, other government buildings, airports, harbors, and key border points. Many members were veterans of preindependence service in the French security forces and had military as well as police training and experience.

Generally neutral in their political views, the gendarmes were considered the most dependable and effective force available for defense of the government against insurgency. They were skilled in the use of infantry weapons as well as modern anti-riot techniques and were adequately equipped with weapons, vehicles, and communications gear.

The mission of the National Gendarmerie apparently also included counter-intelligence matters. This was an area of overlapping responsibilities, as the civil police also maintained records on security problems.

The history of the Senegalese gendarmerie is closely linked to that of its Red Guard which was born in the 14th century on the shores of the Mediterranean. In order to ensure its protection and the cohesion of its armies, Amurat I, Prince and Warrior Ottaman (1319-1389), creates a body of horsemen that baptizes "Spahis", which means in Trick or Persian "Cavalier of the morning". Trained and armed, the Spahis confirm their reputation as formidable warriors all over the Mediterranean and North Africa. In the 16th century, they assumed the power of the Beys of Algiers and became the guardians of the Turkish military equestrian tradition. They take good care to preserve time their signs of Ottoman recognition: turban, music and flags.

After the capitulation of the Bey of Algiers on July 5, 1830, the French authorities, in charge of the Algerian lands, gradually integrate these warriors to their battalions of scouts. They take up the concept of the Spahi horsemen in their army, and thus allow these warriors to perpetuate their art. Thus, the "native cavalry" was born officially, which will bear successively the names "Squadron Mamelouk", "Hunters of Africa" ??and then "Hunters Spahis".

The Spahis criss-cross the Sahara, and a special squadron was detached to Saint-Louis from Senegal in 1845 to settle tribal disputes along the Senegal River. The first Senegalese Spahis were born. By their efficiency and their military qualities, they reinforce more than ever the blazon of this battalion. The fame of the Spahis at its peak in military circles, conquered the general public by the writings of Julien Viaud, aka Pierre Loti. Captain of ship in post in Saint-Louis, publishes "the Romance of the Spahi" and definitely defines the reputation and the identity of the Senegalese Spahis.

On 1 January 1928, by a decree of the Governor-General, the "Gendarmerie Mobile Group" of Dakar was created. This unit, commanded by a lieutenant or second lieutenant, comprises two platoons of auxiliaries on horseback, each commanded by a chief marshal. Its establishment coincides with the dissolution, for budgetary reasons, of the squadron of Spahis Senegalese which, since 1843, covered with glory on the various theaters of operations. It allows the admission to the Gendarmerie of many of these elite cavaliers, tried warriors whose value is no longer to be demonstrated.

The Mobile Gendarmerie Group is, in particular, responsible for the personal and honorary care of the High Commissioner, Governor General of French West Africa. It inherits both the prestigious uniform of the Spahis Squadron and the purest traditions of this magnificent unity: traditions that will be proudly and faithfully guarded until today.

In 1928 they took the name of "Guard colonial", then of "Guard Senegalese" at independence, in 1960. It is also, a unit of parade and escort, where it can show its elegance and its dexterity during Fantasias and carousels. Through the Senegalese colors, the "Red Guard" continues to bring to life the legend and memory of these morning riders.

Dakar can no longer be able to imagine official ceremonies without the parade of the Squadron of the "Red Guard", a name that was enshrined in the language of the Dakar public to designate this unit of magnificent ebony riders, Uniform inherited from the spahis takes again the red burnous or the white burnous according to the circumstances. In addition to his mission of honor service, the mounted squadron is responsible for law enforcement.

The squadron was commissioned for twenty years by Gaston Merlhe, a lieutenant in 1921, promoted to a captain in 1926, and a squadron commander in 1936. When he left the squadron in 1941, he created the Gardes-Circles he organized and Commanded until 1948. He was then appointed justice of the peace in Kolda, Casamance, where he died on September 12, 1951.

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