King Charles III’s inaugural five-day tour of Kenya as the monarch of Britain has reignited discussions about the painful legacy of colonialism.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has highlighted the role of the colonial government in the extrajudicial torture and killings of approximately 90,000 Kenyans during Britain’s six-decade rule over the East African nation.
Upon his arrival in Nairobi on Tuesday, October 31st, the king faced expectations from some Kenyans for a formal apology for what he termed as “acts of violence.”
While addressing a state banquet hosted by Kenyan President William Ruto, King Charles acknowledged the brutal history.
“There were abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans as they waged…a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty. And for that, there can be no excuse,” he stated.
Accompanied by Queen Consort Camilla, the royal couple’s visit included laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens National Monument and Museum and walking through the Tunnel of Martyrs.
The king and queen consort also met Kenyan war veterans who served in World War II.
The visit has elicited varied reactions among Kenyans. Mike Kiprono, a young Nairobi resident, while talking to Aljazeera, asked, “How would a country move forward if we are to remember and dwell in past occurrences that need to have long been buried and forgotten?”
Businessperson Susan Murira expressed deep discontent, considering the visit a reopening of wounds. “His colonial brothers…wreaked havoc in our country and tried to wipe us out,” she said, questioning the absence of a comprehensive compensation plan.
The spotlight was also on the Mau Mau uprising, which was a significant anti-colonial rebellion from 1952 to 1960 in which many Kenyans faced brutal suppression by British troops.
In 2013, the British government apologized and compensated Mau Mau veterans, but many felt the compensation was insufficient.
Ahead of the visit, the KHRC sent a document to the United Kingdom’s High Commission in Nairobi, seeking an apology for colonial-era injustices.
“We are raising a number of concerns with respect to the unresolved injustices by the colonial government when they were in the country between 1895 and 1963,” stated Davis Malombe, the rights group’s executive director.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Tanzania, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier discussed cooperation on repatriation of cultural property and human remains from the colonial period.