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King Charles Under Pressure to Address Colonial-Era Atrocities in Kenya

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king charles under pressure to address colonial era atrocities in kenya
king charles under pressure to address colonial era atrocities in kenya
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Britain’s King Charles III is facing calls to apologize for colonial-era atrocities in Kenya during his upcoming visit to the country. Buckingham Palace has announced that King Charles and Queen Camilla will visit Kenya from October 31 to November 3, marking his first trip to a Commonwealth country since ascending to the throne last year. This visit will be his fourth official visit to Kenya.

Many Kenyan citizens are urging the King to use this visit as an opportunity to acknowledge and apologize for the historical wrongs committed during the colonial period. John Otieno, a 53-year-old accountant, expressed, “If he is not coming to apologize for the atrocities they did to us, then he should not come.”

Buckingham Palace, however, stated that the visit’s purpose is to celebrate the “warm relationship” between the two countries, especially as Kenya prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain in December. The Palace also mentioned that the trip aims to acknowledge the “more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history,” including the 1952-1960 Emergency, which was a reference to the violent rebellions against colonial rule.

The Palace added that “His Majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya.” This statement indicates a willingness to engage with the historical injustices.

One of the most significant events during the colonial period was the Mau Mau uprising, which saw about 10,000 people killed during Britain’s brutal suppression. In 2013, Britain agreed to compensate over 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered abuse during the revolt, with a deal worth nearly £20 million (approximately $25 million at current exchange rates).

Evelyn Wanjugu Kimathi, the daughter of the prominent resistance leader Dedan Kimathi, expressed hope that the visit would lead to a “national apology” and bring about “closure.” Kimathi, who leads a foundation dedicated to veterans of the independence war and environmental issues, also hoped that Britain would assist in locating the graves of “freedom fighters,” including her father.

Various Kenyans are looking at the royal visit as an opportunity to reset relations with Britain and focus on shared development. They wish for a future-oriented engagement rather than dwelling on the past. Some, like teacher Kamau Njoroge, emphasized that King Charles should be seen as a partner for negotiation rather than a colonial master.

Additionally, concerns were raised about alleged abuses by British soldiers at a training camp near Nanyuki, prompting Kenya’s parliament to launch an investigation. This investigation includes the high-profile killing of a young mother, Agnes Wanjiru, in 2012. Her family has initiated legal action in Kenya to compel the British government to disclose information about the status of the investigation and possible prosecution of the perpetrator.

Mwangi Macharia, chairman of the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action, which is representing the Wanjiru family, stated his intention to seek justice. He expressed the desire for King Charles to be informed about the Wanjiru case and the 2021 fire that affected a significant area used for training by British troops, causing extensive damage to the land.

Despite the diverse opinions surrounding the visit, some, like student Emma Orido, remain skeptical about its impact, believing that the King may be guarded and not fully grasp the feelings of ordinary Kenyans.