Nairobi News

NewsWhat's Hot

Men in black to guard Pope during Nairobi visit

Despite the 10,000 police officers that will be deployed, Kenyans will witness a sophisticated security operation by men in specially tailored business suits.

Popes are guarded by the Swiss Guard, a 500-year-old military force formed as a mercenary unit in 1506 during the reign of Pope Julius 11.

With only between 110 and 125 officers at any given time, the Swiss Guard is the smallest army in the world and also provides security at the Vatican City State.

Within the precincts of the Vatican, the Swiss Guard wear tricolour (yellow, blue and red) uniforms and carry symbolic spears just like they did 500 years ago.

For outside duties, they don suits and are known to carry sophisticated weaponry that can match that used by the US Secret Service.


Members of the army, who comprise only Swiss men, have sworn to protect the Pope with their lives.

A key point was on May 6, 1527 when soldiers belonging to French Emperor Charles V attempted to take over St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Nearly 150 of the 189 guards lost their lives as they held a large French army for eight days, enabling Pope Clement VII to escape.

When travelling abroad, the Swiss Guard and Vatican Police work closely with local security agencies and host governments to come up with detailed site visit plans and plan how the Pope would be protected.

On Saturday, a number of them were at the University of Nairobi inspecting the dais, which has already been placed on lockdown ahead of its handing over ceremony to the government and the Church on Monday.

The Sunday Nation was required to seek approval from the Catholic Church to take pictures of the monument.


Only bachelors aged below 30, are at least five foot eight inches tall, have a college degree and have served with the Swiss military with good merits can apply to join the guard.

They must also be Catholics and have served three years in the military and commit to another three years with the rank of at least corporal.

Once selected and after training, they are sworn in by the Pope himself, an event that occurs on May 6 of every year.

Training includes crowd control, VIP protection, lethal and less than lethal weapons employment, surveillance and many other tactics.