Camels join police in new border patrol unit

AP officers with some of the camels in training in Isiolo County. The new camel unit is expected to join border patrols on the Kenya-Somalia border. [Cyrus Ombati, Standard]

A new police unit has been unveiled to patrol remote sections of the Kenya-Somali border in efforts to combat banditry.

The pioneer camel patrol unit under the Border Patrol Unit of the Administration Police Service will be based in Isiolo County and will involve 50 camels that are currently being trained.

Sources say creation of the unit was informed by rising cases of terror attacks targeting security personnel on patrol in far-flung areas.

Police statistics show up to 70 police officers have been killed in the last two years in separate attacks by terrorists using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The officers are usually targeted while driving through harsh terrain that makes their vehicles vulnerable to attacks by bandits and terrorists.

AP officers tend to some of the camels under training in Isiolo. [Cyrus Ombati, Standard]

Cattle rustling

The camels will be used to patrol parts of North Eastern region as well as areas prone to cattle rustling.

The concept has been borrowed from India, Australia and New Zealand, where thousands of camels are deployed to police borders.

“Camels, if and when trained well, are intelligent animals that can see far and alert their riders of incoming danger. This is a good move,” said another source.

A visit to the unit's base in Isiolo showed up to 100 officers currently taking care of the first team of camels ahead of the launch of the new unit. From here they are expected to trek to the Kenya-Somalia border.

Plans are underway to have some of the trained camels participate in next year’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi.

The unit will join other animal units in the police service, including dog and horse units.

“Just like the other animals in the service, they will be taken care of well,” said the source.

A team of 100 officers is set to travel to India to observe how camels are used to patrol the Himalayas border.

Officials say the move is part of efforts by the Government to restructure the service and make it effective and responsive.

The changes will also see AP officers focus on their main role of protecting the country’s strategic installations, VIP protection and border security.

Already, the service is taking over patrols on the main Kenya-Somalia border.

Further, the Anti-Stock Theft Unit will now be run by the AP unit, joining the Rapid Deployment Unit and Rural Border Patrol Unit.

These are some of the proposed structural changes in the service that are expected to be unveiled soon and that will also see almost half of the 47,000-strong AP force adopted into the Kenya Police Service.

Meanwhile, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet have refuted claims that the AP service will be disbanded.

Effective service

Instead, the CS said, the unit would be re-organised and reformed for effective service delivery.

According to Dr Matiang'i, the proposed reforms were long overdue and would happen within the confines of the Constitution and in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Matiang'i and Boinnet said disbanding the AP would be unconstitutional as both the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service were enshrined in the Constitution.

“Nobody intends to disband the APs. The two services are provided for in the Constitution. What we are working on is a reform process strictly according to the law,” Matiang’i said.

Boinnet said the AP service was being reorganised to make it more effective.

“Our intention is to create a more robust, responsive general duty, border police and units that take care of our critical infrastructure and fight banditry,” said the IG.