King Charles III affirmed in Nairobi that there could be “no excuse” for the atrocities of British colonization committed against Kenyans, without however asking for forgiveness as some demanded.
“Heinous and unjustifiable acts of violence have been committed against Kenyans while they were waging… a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty. And for that, there can be no excuse,” said the British sovereign during a state dinner on Tuesday with Kenyan President William Ruto.
“None of this can change the past, but by approaching our history with honesty and openness, perhaps we can demonstrate the strength of our friendship today and, in doing so, we can hopefully continue to build an ever closer bond for years to come,” he added.
– “Uncomfortable truths” –
“Charles’ courage and willingness” to shed light on uncomfortable truths constitute a
first step toward “progress going beyond the timid and equivocal half-measures of recent years.”
Charles III had previously symbolically visited the site of the proclamation of Kenya’s independence, on the first day of his visit to this East African country, where demands for apologies multiplied.
This four-day visit, a few weeks before the 60th anniversary of the independence of this former colony, is Charles III’s first as king to a Commonwealth country.
This trip by Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 76, underlines “the strong and dynamic partnership between the United Kingdom and Kenya,” said the British embassy. But Buckingham also said it would be an opportunity to discuss “the most painful aspects of the common history” of the two countries.
One of the deadliest episodes was the Mau Mau revolt, the repression of which by the British colonial power left more than 10,000 dead between 1952 and 1960. Thirty-two colonists were also killed.
Many Kenyan veterans’ and human rights organizations expected more from the British authorities, who have so far simply expressed “sincere regret” in 2013 for colonial violence in Kenya.
The NGO Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) on Sunday called on the king to “present an unconditional and unequivocal public apology” for the atrocities committed “during the entire colonial period” (1895-1963). KHRC also sought relief.
In 2013, after years of proceedings, London agreed to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans victims of abuse during the Mau Mau uprising. After deducting legal costs, each received around 2,600 pounds (3,000 euros).
– “Historical links” –
Without mentioning this issue, William Ruto highlighted “the historic ties between Kenya and the United Kingdom” and the “constant progress in trade and investments”, in a message on “X” (formerly Twitter).
Trade between the two countries represented approximately 1.2 billion pounds (1.375 billion euros) annually at the end of March 2023.
The royal couple is to stay for two days in Nairobi with meetings with entrepreneurs, young people, a visit to a forest and an elephant orphanage…
He will then travel to the port city of Mombasa (south), where Charles, attached to environmental issues, will notably visit a nature reserve and meet religious representatives.
He will not go to Nanyuki, the town where the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk) is based, at the heart of recurring controversies, between accusations of rape, murder and the presence of unexploded ordnance which mutilates the local populations.
After visits to Germany then to France, marking a desire for rapprochement with its European allies, this trip marks a royal orientation towards the Commonwealth.
The sovereign is beginning a “mission to save the Commonwealth” in Kenya, estimated the British daily Daily Mail.
This vestige of the British empire which brings together 56 countries, most of them former British colonies, is weakened by increasingly strong criticism of the United Kingdom’s colonial past.
Previous visits by royals to former colonies have caused a stir.