- As King Charles III embarks on his maiden tour to Kenya and Africa, the monarch confronts mounting demands for reparations for British atrocities.
- However, the King states that there were “no excuses” for the “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” inflicted upon Kenyans.
- However, his words did not include the reparations that many voices in Kenya were urging for.
In the hushed corridors of history, where the whispers of the past echo through time, there comes a moment when a monarch must confront the spectres of his lineage and reckon with the shadows that dance upon the pages of his family’s legacy.
As King Charles III embarked on his maiden tour to Kenya and Africa, a voyage cloaked in the promise of a brighter future, he found himself standing at the precipice of a poignant encounter.
Here, amidst the vibrant landscapes and the cultures of a continent that had long borne the scars of colonial oppression, King Charles came face to face with the ghosts of the atrocities committed by the British, particularly during the early reign of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
During his first public address as the British monarch, delivered at a banquet in State House, Nairobi, King Charles acknowledged the grievous historical injustices, mainly colonial atrocities committed against the Kenyan people in their quest for independence from British rule.
King Charles III: ‘No excuses’ for violence
The King stated that there were “no excuses” for the “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” inflicted upon Kenyans. However, his words did not include the reparations that many voices in Kenya were urging for.
Charles noted he felt “the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret” for the wrongdoings of the past. However, King Charles tactfully refrained from using language that could initiate a broader discourse on reparations.
His host, President William Ruto, said Britain’s response to Kenya’s quest for self-rule was “monstrous in its cruelty.”
“While there have been efforts to atone for the death, injury and suffering inflicted on Kenyan Africans by the colonial government, much remains to be done in order to achieve full reparations,” Dr Ruto said.
Politician and human rights activist Koigi Wamwere told the AP that the King should issue a formal apology and offer reparations, adding that “Britain must make amends to the fullest extent possible.”
As Kenya prepares to mark 60 years since independence, the nation appears to be a wise choice for King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s first Commonwealth voyage. Britain’s relationship with Kenya shows warmth and affinity toward the UK. Such a relationship is not replicated in many other former colonies. Therefore, Kenya was a relatively secure destination for the royal visit.
The visit by King Charles III and Queen Camilla showcases the immense accomplishments achieved by Kenya and the United Kingdom during six decades of strong, dynamic and fruitful bilateral relations, noted President William Ruto on X.
King Charles III has faced demands to discuss the history of British control in East Africa. People want him to acknowledge the harsh actions of the British government in Kenya when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was in charge.
Mau Mau war in Kenya
The Mau Mau War, which occurred in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, was a pivotal revolt in the struggle for Kenya’s independence from the British. Mau Mau uprising had roots in deep-seated grievances held by Kenyan communities oppressed by British colonial rule. The British imposed their legal and administrative systems, confiscated land, and restricted political freedoms. This caused resentment and frustration among the Kenyan population, ultimately resulting in the Mau Mau rebellion.
In this struggle, thousands died, while a significant number of individuals were subjected to suffering. Furthermore, the British implemented a policy of forced villagization, relocating rural Kenyan populations into overcrowded villages lacking adequate resources. The harsh conditions in these villages contributed to the deaths of many Kenyan civilians due to disease, malnutrition, and violence. One of the most notorious detention camps was the Hola Camp. In this camp, forces killed 11 detainees in 1959, leading to international condemnation.
The Kenyan Emergency, as referred to by the British, revealed the extent of brutality inflicted by British forces. Historians and researchers documented widespread human rights abuses, including torture, collective punishment, and excessive force. The Hola Massacre and the Lari Massacre, in which British troops were implicated, serve as grim reminders of the suffering inflicted upon Kenyan civilians. This included Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of former President Barack Obama. His family shared that he was beaten by the British, who even used metal rods to “squeeze his testicles.”
“It matters greatly to me that I should deepen my understanding of these wrongs,” noted King Charles III.
Repatriation of Samoei’s skull from UK
Even before Charles arrived, leaders of the Koitalel Arap Samoei’s Talai clan insisted on the repatriation of his skull, clothing, and ornaments from the United Kingdom. Additionally, they sought compensation for the losses, including the loss of over 35,000 acres of land taken from their community during the colonial resistance.
The Nandi Resistance, which Samoei led, was pivotal in opposing the British efforts to build a railway network in Kenya between 1890 and 1905.
Back in 2013, Britain officially expressed its “deep remorse” for the human rights violations of the Mau Mau era. Moreover, a British court awarded compensation to over 5,000 Kenyan individuals, totalling around $24 million, in recognition of their suffering.
“We must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship. The wrongdoings of the past are the cause of the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret,” said King Charles III during a State Dinner.
Throughout his four-day trip, Charles will divide his time between Nairobi, the capital city, and the coastal city of Mombasa. The British royal couple visited Uhuru Gardens, a newly established museum focusing on Kenya’s history, during their first day. Following his previous official visits, Charles will participate in events highlighting his commitment to environmental causes. They include meetings with activist Wanjira Mathai, the daughter of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai.
The four-day visit carries profound symbolism. Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, knew of her ascension to the throne of the United Kingdom while on a visit to Kenya, when it was a British colony, in 1952.
Kenya-UK education partnership
Kenya’s education sector was one of the significant beneficiaries following the royal visit by King Charles III. The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, announced that his country would donate £4.4 million ($5.33 million or Sh800 million). The funds will bolster Kenya’s education sector, supporting the newly introduced presidential task force reforms.
“I am pleased to announce a new UK programme aimed at advancing our desire for stronger partnerships. We will invest £4.4 million ($5.33 million or Sh800 million) to support education reforms, including the presidential task force on reforms,” stated Cleverly.
On September 29, 2022, President William Ruto appointed the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER). The President tasked them with submitting a report that covered all the Terms of Reference and was titled “Transforming Education, Training, and Research for Sustainable Development in Kenya.”