GSU has been in existence since the late 1940s and has been on the forefront of some of Kenya’s internal conflicts mostly notably the Shifta War of 1963-1969 and the 1982 attempted Coup.
Serving under the National Police Service its objectives and roles are highlighted as;
- Dealing with situations that affect international security of the country across the republic.
- Being a reserve force that has expertise and is effective in dealing with civil disorders and special operations.
- Its lack of permanent static duties redirects it at being an operation force that can be called upon to curb situations that the regular police meet challenges.
The General Service Unit was initially created as a unit with 50 men armed with Bren guns and armored vehicles and was then called the Regular Police Reserve/ Emergency Company in 1948. The force was involved in a number of uprisings including the MAUMAU before it was renamed to the present day GSU in September of 1953.
The newly titled GSU consisted of 47 European officers and 1058 African officers and was divided into 5 regional companies consisting of several 39-man platoons. There were further reorganizations that saw the GSU come under one commander, Mr. S.G Thomson.
The first external mission by the GSU was the civil unrest in Zanzibar in 1962 before heading back to the country to curb the Shifta War by the secessionists. The GSU were used in the 1990s to deal with the political unrest and protest in Central province especially the Saba Saba day on July 7th, 1990.
GSU has a remarkable score sheet as they are hardly ever unsuccessful in to mention but a few instances is the seeking out of a perpetrators of a mass killing in northern Kenya in 2005, restoring peace between the warring Gabra and Borana communities in Northern Kenya as well as the most recent in 2015 their special Company RECCE Company ending the Garissa terrorist attack in record time.
Presently, The GSU has approximately 5,000 paramilitary troops from which 2,000 are Israeli trained and hardcore RECCE Company. All members of the General Service Unit are trained at GSU-specific Training School in Embakasi and its Field Training Camp in Magadi. The training takes 10 months with additional 5 months for promotions. Like any other security force, GSU sends its personnel to train in Britain at the Britannia Royal Naval College and Sandhurst.
The General Service Unit is commonly referred to as the ‘Toa Fujo Uone’ police as they are commonly seen in unrests and demonstrations as the anti-riot police.