Decolonise da police: How brutality was written into the DNA of Kenya’s police service

The problem isn’t rogue elements. It’s that the Administration Police division was created under colonialism with the specific purpose of beating Africans into submission.

“Severe blunt force trauma to the head, neck and chest. Strangulation. Crushed genitals.”

These were a few of the injuries sustained by attorney Willie Kimani, his client Josphat Mwendwa, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, who were allegedly kidnapped and tortured by at least three police officers at the Syokimau Administration Police Camp before being killed and dumped in a river.

The case led to a three-day strike by lawyers and nationwide protests earlier this month, leading many to wonder if Kenya is finally at a turning point in the battle for increased accountability for police brutality.

Sadly, we are not, because the solutions being floated are simply not radical enough. We don’t need to be talking about dealing with “rogue elements in the police service”. We need to be talking about abolishing the Administration Police (AP) and decolonising the Kenya Police.

Fit for purpose

Kenya’s National Police Service is made up of three separately-administered divisions: The Kenya Police Service, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, and the Administration Police.

The first two are familiar to most countries, comprising of a regular police service and a special investigations unit (e.g. the FBI). But the last is an outdated and dangerous quirk of the British colonial system that defies logic in independent Kenya.

The AP service was formally created in 1958, the last year of the state of emergency that was declared to allow for the violent repression of Kenya’s independence movement. The Administration Police Act defined the AP service as a paramilitary unit to “deal with matters of customary law” – i.e. the black African population.

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by Nanjala Nyabola

Photo credits: Xiaojung Den

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