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

Lagos, Nigeria

The death of Queen Elizabeth II prompted an outpouring of thought and reaction on the Internet. But it wasn’t all sadness – some young Africans have instead shared photos and stories of their elders, who experienced a brutal period of British colonial history during the queen’s long reign.

One wrote on Twitter: “I can’t mourn”, post a picture from what she described as her grandmother’s “movement permit” – a colonial document that prevented freedom of travel for British-ruled Kenyans in the East African country.

else Wrote Her grandmother “was telling us how they were beaten and how their husbands were taken away 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 Queen’s legacy, who despite her widespread use was also seen as a symbol of oppression in parts of the world where the British Empire once spanned.

Kenya, which has been under British rule since 1895, was named an official colony in 1920 and remained that way until it gained independence in 1963. Among the worst atrocities that occurred under British rule during the Mau Mau uprising, which began in 1952 – The year Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne.

The colonial administration at the time carried out severe acts of torture, including castration and sexual abuse, in concentration camps where as many as 150,000 Kenyans were held. Elderly Kenyans who sued for compensation in 2011 were eventually awarded £19.9 million by a British court, to be split among more than 5,000 claims.

The then UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “The British government is aware that Kenyans have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses have occurred, and that they have marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

The memory of the Queen in Africa cannot be separated from that colonial past, Kennesaw State University’s communications professor Farouk Kairoji told CNN.

The Queen’s legacy began in colonization and is still wrapped in it. It was said that the sun never set over the British Empire. No amount of sympathy or sympathy that her death generated could erase that away.”

Queen Elizabeth II on her way to Kumasi Durba with Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana, during her tour of Ghana, November 1961.

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

In South Africa, one opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was in the clear. “We do not mourn the passing of Elizabeth, because for us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and the history of Africa,” EFF He said in a statement.

She added that “our interaction with Britain was characterized by pain … death, robbery and dehumanization of the African people.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip wave to a crowd of school children at a rally at a hippodrome in Ibadan, Nigeria, February 15, 1956.

Others pointed to Britain’s role in the Nigerian Civil War, in which weapons were secretly supplied to the government for use against the Biafranes who wanted to form a renegade republic. Between one and three million people died in that war. British musician John Lennon has returned his honorary title of MBE to the Queen in protest of Britain’s role in the war.

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

Ayodele Mudubi Obailo of Nigeria told CNN: “Her reign saw the end of the British Empire and African nations…became a republic. She doesn’t really deserve any award or a standing ovation, but it was a step in the right direction.”

Nigerian magazine publisher Daily Momodo met Queen Elizabeth on a 2003 state visit to Abuja, Nigeria.

Ovation magazine publisher Dele Momodu was full of praise, speaking of meeting her in 2003 in Abuja while covering her visit to Nigeria. He added that he fled Nigeria to the United Kingdom in 1995, during the regime of dictator Sani Abacha.

I told her that I was a refugee and that I am now a magazine publisher. She told me “Congratulations” and moved on to the other people on the line. I salute her. She worked to the end and never got tired of working for her country. She did everything she could for her country and this is a lesson in leadership.

Momodu believes that the Queen tried to “atone for” the brutality of the British Empire. “She came to Nigeria during our independence and brought back some artifacts in her reign. That is why the Commonwealth continues to thrive. I am very saddened that the world has lost a great human being.”

Adekunby Rowland, who is also from Nigeria, said: “The Queen’s death marks the end of an era. As a woman, I am intrigued by her story. This young woman was granted access to the throne like never before, and with so much grace and dignity she did everything she could to protect the country and the Commonwealth, she loved her no matter what she asked. command.”

The Queen declared once“I think I’ve seen more of Africa than anyone else.”

She made her first official foreign visit to South Africa in 1947, as a princess and would go on to visit more than 120 countries during her reign, many on the continent.

Elizabeth, then a princess, and Prince Philip exit their plane in Nairobi, Kenya, on the first leg of their Commonwealth tour in 1952.

While visiting Kenya in 1952, she learned that she had become queen. Her father, George, died while she was there with Prince Philip and she immediately ascended the throne.

With colonialism later collapsing and giving way to independence and self-government in what were British Overseas Territories, the former colonies became part of the Commonwealth of Nations with the Queen at its head and worked tirelessly to keep the group together over the years.

She forged strong bonds with African leaders, including Nelson Mandela, whom she visited twice in South Africa, and Kwame Nkrumah, who became famous for dancing with her during her visit to Ghana in 1961.

Queen Elizabeth II dances with Ghana's President Kwame Nkrumah during her visit to Accra, Ghana, in 1961.

However, there is now a growing clamor for independence and accountability over Britain’s past crimes such as slavery. In November 2021, Barbados removed the Queen from the position of head of state, 55 years after declaring independence from Britain, and other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, indicated that they intended to do the same.

Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, visited Jamaica in March, but faced protests and calls for compensation during the trip. There have also been calls for an official apology for the royal family’s connection to slavery.

“During her 70 years on the throne, your grandmother did nothing to make amends for the suffering of our ancestors that occurred during her reign and/or throughout the entire period of British trafficking, slavery, effort and colonialism,” wrote members of the protest group, the Jamaica Advocate Network.

In June, Prince Charles became the first British royal to visit Rwanda, representing the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

After his mother’s death, he now heads the Commonwealth, and will begin a new relationship with its members, about a third of whom are in Africa.

Some wonder if he would be as effective in building the organization as his mother, and above all, how important it was, given its roots in the empire.

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