At 86 years old, Joseph Macharia Mwangi vividly recalls the years he spent fighting against British colonial rule in Kenya. He remembers camping with Mau Mau rebels, facing frigid rain, lions, and elephants. Mr. Mwangi was shot twice by British troops, tortured, and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Now, he and others in Kenya are demanding an apology and reparations for the injustices they suffered.
King Charles III’s state visit to Kenya comes at a time when many communities are still grappling with the pain and loss caused by British colonial rule, which lasted from 1895 to 1963. Human rights groups, elders, and activists are pressuring the king to address historical injustices, apologize, and provide reparations to those who were tortured and displaced from their lands.
The issue of abuses committed by British military personnel stationed in Kenya is also a sensitive topic. Calls for addressing the grievances and holding soldiers accountable have been met with resistance. The younger generation in Kenya, particularly those who have learned about the monarchy’s grim legacy, are disillusioned with the monarchy and its association with colonialism.
Despite Kenya being a republic, Charles’ visit is an opportunity to strengthen Britain’s relationship with the country. As a champion of environmental causes, he will also engage in activities related to sustainability and climate change during his visit.
The king will acknowledge the painful aspects of the countries’ history and seek to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered during the counterinsurgency from 1952 to 1960. However, Britain has never directly apologized for its abuses in Kenya, although it has expressed regret. A lawsuit in the past led to compensation for some victims, but many feel that there is still a lack of acknowledgment and reckoning.
The visit also brings attention to other historical abuses and injustices, such as the forcible removal of ethnic groups from their lands. There are demands for the return of a spiritual leader’s severed head, compensation for land displacement, and accountability for current abuses by British soldiers.
In light of these grievances, Charles’ visit is causing mixed reactions in Kenya. While some acknowledge his efforts on environmental issues and his personal connection to Kenyan history, others feel that more needs to be done to address the country’s painful past.