King Charles to acknowledge ‘painful’ colonial past on state visit to Kenya

King Charles to acknowledge ‘painful’ colonial past on state visit to Kenya
Britain's King Charles III

Nairobi, Kenya | By Michael Wandati | During a forthcoming state visit later this month, King Charles III will publicly acknowledge the “painful aspects” of Britain’s historical actions in Kenya. This visit follows an invitation from Kenya’s President, William Ruto, as the nation prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain on 12 December.

The relationship between the two countries has grown stronger in recent years, despite the violent colonial legacy of the uprising in the early 1950s, commonly referred to as “the emergency,” which took place from 1952 to 1960.

The Mau Mau armed movement was fueled by the discontent among some members of the Kikuyu tribe toward their British rulers and European settlers who were farming land in Kenya, as well as the lack of political representation. Violent attacks were directed at white farmers and some Kikuyu individuals who were believed to have collaborated with the authorities.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission reported that approximately 90,000 people were executed, tortured, or injured during the British administration’s counterinsurgency efforts. In 2013, the UK government issued a historic statement of regret for the “torture and other forms of ill-treatment” perpetrated by the colonial administration during the emergency period and provided reparations totaling £19.9 million to around 5,200 individuals.

From October 31 to November 3, King Charles III and Queen Camilla will spend four days in Kenya, marking Charles’s first visit to a Commonwealth country as King.

Chris Fitzgerald, his deputy private secretary, stated, “The king and queen’s programme will celebrate the close links between the British and Kenyan people in areas such as the creative arts, technology, enterprise, education and innovation.

“The visit will also acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history, including the emergency … His Majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya.”

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This development occurred after a legal battle involving several elderly victims and the UK government. In April, Charles expressed his support for research into the British monarchy’s historical connections with transatlantic slavery after a document surfaced revealing a predecessor’s ownership of shares in a slave-trading company.

Buckingham Palace did not directly comment on the document but expressed support for a research project, co-sponsored by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), investigating the monarchy’s involvement in the slave trade.

In June 2022, the then Prince of Wales conveyed his “personal sorrow” regarding “slavery’s enduring impact” during the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda. Prince William similarly addressed the issue in March 2022, emphasizing that slavery was “abhorrent” and “never should have happened,” aligning with his father’s sentiments about acknowledging historical wrongs.

Both royal figures recognized the dark stain that slavery left on history and expressed their shared commitment to addressing these historical injustices.