When police had powers to issue passports for stamps

Old Kenyan passport. [File, Standard]

There was a time when the police could grant a Kenyan a passport. Those were days when a postage stamp carried the weight of hard currency and a married woman could tag along with her husband on foreign trips even if she did not have her personal travel documents.

For as little as Sh7.50 of course paid in the form of stamps, an applicant was assured of a passport. 

This was in 1925 when postal services worked perfectly and could be trusted to deliver an application for a passport and issue it once the government was satisfied the applicant deserved the vital document.

The government notice read, “Applicants who do not reside within Nairobi and are unable to attend at the office of superintendent of the police in person may send their applications by post enclosing a remittance of the amount due.”

The passports given in this format, the government assured in a Gazette notice dated January 14, 1925, were to be sent to the postal address the applicant had given.

Even at this early age, the government did not fully trust cheques and was wary of unscrupulous people who might have been tempted to issue bogus cheques.

To ensure applicants paid the requisite fees, the applicants were supposed to send current stamps of Sh5, Sh21 and 0.50 cents denominations.  

In the eyes of the government, a married woman is deemed to be a subject of the state in which her husband is in for the time being and was therefore qualified to ride on her spouse’s visa.

Other settlers who qualified for the passport then were natural-born British subjects, wives and widows of such persons, persons naturalised in the United Kingdom, British colonies, or India.

Applicants had to produce a document verified by a declaration made by any Justice of the Peace, banker, minister of religion, doctor, lawyer or public official of the Colony or Protectorate.

They also had to produce a certificate of birth to secure the travel document whose validity varied from one to five years. The procedure then was simpler for applicants than today where although police officers have no mandate to process it, some Kenyans have to wait for years before the document is processed.

Kenyans from Northern Kenya seeking passports have to be vetted by special committees to validate their citizenship before being issued a passport.

A century later, a Kenyan does not need a visa to Britain to be granted a passport as it used to happen in the 1920s when the country became a British colony.