Maintenance of law and order, preservation of peace and protection of life and property are just but a few of Administration Police’s functions.
But that’s not the image many Kenyans when they sight an AP officer. Many people associate them with brutality, instilling fear in the very citizens they are supposed to protect.
AP officers gained notoriety at the height of retired President Daniel Moi’s regime as the fierce symbol of his authoritarian rule. Then, it would be safe to say cops were law unto themselves.
His authoritarian spillover to the populace manifested through the APs who wielded much power and were feared compared to their regular police colleagues. Use of AP officers to do political bidding saw the unit lose Kenyans’ confidence.
The unit will soon be history if the plans to dissolve it into the regular police as part of ongoing efforts to reform the National Police Service see the light of day.
During Moi’s tenure, most of AP officers were attached to the now scrapped Provincial Administration under the command of chiefs who mobilised them to suppress dissent against his government.
Formed in 1958, APs took over from the Tribal Police which had been established through an ordinance in 1929. AP officers were trained as a paramilitary security unit equipped to tackle any eventuality regarding law breaking or emergency.
However, the unit soon became the potent tool for Moi’s government to entrench his power especially after the botched attempts to overthrow his government in 1982.
In a bid to consolidate his grip on power, the retired Head of State mobilised the Provisional Administration to gather intelligence through chiefs and sub-chiefs with APs on their beck and call.
Soon the unit which had been instrumental in muting the Shifta War (1963–1967), a secessionist conflict in which ethnic Somalis in the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya attempted to join the Greater Somalia, had become part of Moi’s political machinery.
APs were then linked to political assassinations, disappearances, theft and killings of colleagues and civilians alike.
When President Mwai Kibaki came took over power in 2002, the AP’s role in politics continued although brute force with which it was associated begun to wane. During the 2007 General Election, there were wild claims by the Opposition and some activists that some APs had been ferried to various parts of the country to assist the then Party of National Unity (PNU) to rig the poll.
Though the claims were never verified, a number of the officers were killed, particularly in opposition strongholds , over claims that they had been sent to those areas as either electoral officials or party agents to interfere with the elections.
So important was the AP that even after the new constitutional dispensation that scrapped existence of the Provincial Administration, the government still maintained vestiges of it. Due to its attachment to the provincial administration, officers who joined the AP unit landed promotions easily unlike their counterparts in the Criminal Investigations, General Service Unit (GSU), Regular Police, Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) and the Traffic Department.
“An AP officer could earn a promotion just because of cleaning the District Commissioner’s or Chief’s shoes well. It was a widely abused unit at the time,” a senior officer who did not want to me named told the People Daily yesterday.
But soon, AP officers lost their control following the merger with their regular counterparts under the command of the Inspector General.
The two forces are creation of the Police and the Administration Police Acts, Chapters 84 and 85 of the Laws of Kenya respectively.
Pundits argued that a merger of the two is the only panacea for their incessant jostling over turf.