A cloud of colonialism hangs over Queen Elizabeth's legacy in Africa

A cloud of colonialism hangs over Queen Elizabeth’s legacy in Africa

“I can’t cry,” one tweeted. post a picture what she said was her grandmother’s ‘movement pass’ – a colonial document that prevented Kenyans from traveling freely under British rule in the East African country.
Another one wrote that her grandmother “used to tell us how they were beaten and how their husbands were taken from them and left to take care of their children”, during the colonial era. “May we never forget them. They are our heroes,” she added.

Their refusal to mourn highlights the complexity of the legacy of the Queen, who, despite her widespread popularity, was also seen as a symbol of oppression in parts of the world where the British Empire once stretched.

Kenya, which had been under British rule since 1895, was made an official colony in 1920 and remained so until gaining independence in 1963, when Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne.

The colonial administration at the time committed extreme acts of torture, including castration and sexual assault, in detention camps where as many as 150,000 Kenyans were held. Elderly Kenyans who sued for compensation in 2011 were eventually awarded £19.9million by a UK court, to be split among more than 5,000 claimants.
The then British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place, and that they tainted Kenya’s progress towards independence.

The Queen’s memory in Africa cannot be separated from that colonial past, communications professor Farooq Kperogi at Kennesaw State University told CNN.

“The Queen’s legacy began in colonialism and is still shrouded in it. It was once said that the sun did not set on the British Empire. No compassion or sympathy her death generated can erase that” , he told CNN. .

“Tragic time”

While many African leaders have mourned his passing – including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who described his reign as “unique and wonderful” – other prominent voices in regional politics have not.

In South Africa, an opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was unequivocal. “We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because for us her death reminds us of a very tragic time in this country and in the history of Africa,” EFF said. said in a press release.

“Our interaction with Britain has been marked by pain, … death and dispossession, and the dehumanization of the African people,” he added.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip wave to a crowd of schoolchildren during a rally at a racetrack in Ibadan, Nigeria, February 15, 1956.

Others recalled Britain’s role in the Nigerian Civil War, where arms were secretly supplied to the government for use against Biafrans who wanted to form a breakaway republic. Between 1 million and 3 million people died in this war. British musician John Lennon returned his MBE, an honorary title, to the Queen in protest at Britain’s role in the war.

Yet many on the continent remember the Queen as a stabilizing force who brought about positive change during her reign.

Ayodele Modupe Obayelu of Nigeria told CNN: “Her reign saw the end of the British Empire and the African countries…became a Republic. She doesn’t really deserve an award or a standing ovation for that, but it was a step in the right direction.”

Nigerian magazine publisher Dele Momodu met Queen Elizabeth during a 2003 state visit to Abuja, Nigeria.

And media editor Dele Momodu is full of praise, recounting meeting her in 2003 in Abuja while covering her visit to Nigeria. He added that he fled Nigeria for the UK in 1995, under the regime of dictator Sani Abacha.

“I told her I was a refugee and now a magazine editor. She said ‘congratulations’ and moved on to other people online. I salute her. She worked until the end and never got tired of working for her country. She did her best for her country and that’s a lesson in leadership,” he told CNN.

Momodu believes the Queen tried to “redeem” the brutality of the British Empire. “She came to Nigeria during our independence and some of the artifacts were returned during her reign. This is why the Commonwealth continues to thrive. I am very sad that the world has lost a great human being.”

Adekunbi Rowland, also from Nigeria, said: “The passing of the Queen represents the end of an era. As a woman, I am intrigued by her story. This young woman had an unprecedented accession to the throne, and with great grace and dignity. everything in her power to protect the country and the Commonwealth she loved, no matter what.”

queen of the commonwealth

The Queen once declared“I think I’ve seen more of Africa than almost anyone.”
She made her first official foreign visit to South Africa in 1947, as a princess, and subsequently visited more than 120 countries during her reign, including many on the continent.
Then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip step off their plane in Nairobi, Kenya, on the first leg of their Commonwealth tour in 1952.

It was during a visit to Kenya in 1952 that she learned that she had become queen. Her father George died while she was there with Prince Phillip and she immediately ascended the throne.

As colonialism later crumbled and gave way to independence and self-government in what had been the British Overseas Territories, the former colonies became part of a group of nations in the Commonwealth with the Queen at its helm and she has worked tirelessly to keep the group together over the years. .

She forged strong ties with African leaders, including Nelson Mandela, whom she visited twice in South Africa, and Kwame Nkrumah, with whom she was photographed dancing during her visit to Ghana in 1961.

Queen Elizabeth II dances with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, during his visit to Accra, Ghana in 1961.
However, there is now a growing demand for independence and accountability for Britain’s past crimes such as slavery. In November 2021, Barbados deposed the Queen as head of state, 55 years after declaring independence from Britain, and other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, indicated they had the intend to do the same.
Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, traveled to Jamaica in March but faced protests and calls for redress during the trip. There have also been calls for a formal apology for the Royal Family’s links to slavery.
“During her 70 years on the throne, your grandmother did nothing to redress and atone for the sufferings of our ancestors that took place during her reign and/or during the entire period of the British slave trade in Africans, ‘slavery, indentured labor and colonization,’ wrote members of a protest group, the Advocates Network Jamaica.

In June, Prince Charles became the first member of the British Royal Family to visit Rwanda, where he represented the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

After the death of his mother, he now leads the Commonwealth, and will embark on a new relationship with its members, about a third of whom are in Africa.

Some wonder if he’ll be as effective at building the organization as his mother, and more importantly, how relevant she still is, given her roots in the Empire.


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