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