Charles III in Kenya: There can be no excuse for colonial abuses

Britain's King Charles III and Kenya's President William Ruto attend a military welcome ceremony during his visit at the Mtongwe Naval Base in Mombasa, Kenya, November 2, 2023. Brian Inganga/Pool via REUTERS

King Charles III, during his current visit to Kenya, acknowledged that the atrocities committed against Kenyans during British colonial rule have no justification. He expressed the recognition that unjustifiable acts of violence were perpetrated against Kenyans as they fought for independence and sovereignty. While he didn’t explicitly ask for forgiveness, the monarch stated his hope to meet and acknowledge those who were deeply affected by the colonial abuses.

This official visit, occurring just before the 60th anniversary of Kenya’s independence, is King Charles III’s first as monarch in a Commonwealth country. The trip signifies the strong partnership between the United Kingdom and Kenya, intending to address the more distressing aspects of their shared history.

The King conceded that the past cannot be altered but proposed that through an honest and open approach to history, the strength of the friendship between the UK and Kenya today can be demonstrated, stating his desire to build a closer bond for the years ahead.

A particularly grave moment in the history of Kenya was the Mau Mau Rebellion, resulting in the death of over 10,000 people during its repression by British colonial forces between 1952 and 1960. While London agreed in 2013 to compensate over 5,000 Kenyan victims of abuse during the Mau Mau uprising, many individuals and organisations in Kenya, such as the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), continue to advocate for a formal, unconditional public apology and reparations from the British government for the inhumane treatment inflicted upon Kenyan citizens throughout the colonial period from 1895 to 1963.

The British king had a private meeting with the family of Dedan Kimathi, the executed leader of the Kenyan rebellion against British colonial rule. Kimathi’s family met Charles along with relatives of other notable Kenyan freedom fighters. The British media noted that the meeting provided an opportunity for the king to directly learn about the violence committed against Kenyans during their fight for independence.

Kenya is commemorating its 60th anniversary of independence this year. Its relationship with Britain has been close yet occasionally challenging after the prolonged struggle against colonial rule, known as the Mau Mau Rebellion, during which thousands of Kenyans lost their lives. The colonial authorities carried out executions and detentions without trial in their efforts to suppress the rebellion, and many Kenyans reported experiencing beatings and sexual assaults by agents of the administration.

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