King Charles and Queen Camilla concluded their four-day state visit to Kenya with a tour of East Africa’s oldest mosque and an ancient fort, raising questions about Britain’s colonial legacy.
The royal couple’s visit, marked by discussions on economic development, climate change, and security, aimed to strengthen the bond between the two nations.
In the coastal city of Mombasa, King Charles engaged with a diverse group of religious leaders, including Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and practitioners of African traditional faiths. The tour also featured a visit to Fort Jesus, a historic site built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. However, heavy rain disrupted their plans to ride an electric tuk-tuk between venues.
The royal visit to Fort Jesus was hosted by Mombasa County Governor Abdulswamad Sheriff Nassir. In his post on X app, he underlines the benefits of the visit as a potential for strengthening bilateral ties, including in tourism, trade, security, education, and health.
The Royal visit to Kenya by King Charles III and Queen Camilla hit its highest note today as they toured various religious and cultural sites that are a testament to our diversity and unique positioning in the country.
I received the Royal couple at the historic Fort Jesus built… pic.twitter.com/tjStYUD3Kv
— Abdulswamad Sheriff Nassir (@A_S_Nassir) November 3, 2023
This visit to Kenya was of particular significance as it marked king Charles’ first trip to a former British colony since he ascended to the throne in September of the previous year. The primary focus of the visit revolved around the countries’ collaborative efforts on economic development, addressing climate change, and dealing with security challenges.
During his stay, he expressed “deepest regret” for the violence endured by Kenyans during the struggle for independence. Nevertheless, he stopped short of issuing the formal apology that many victims and their descendants had been calling for.
It’s important to note that British forces were involved in significant human rights abuses during the Mau Mau revolt, which took place from 1952 to 1960. Tens of thousands of Kenyans were killed, tortured, and detained by British forces during this period. Additionally, the colonial regime had confiscated vast tracts of fertile land across Kenya during nearly seven decades of British rule.
The King’s remarks were met with mixed reactions. Kenyan President William Ruto described them as a “good first step.” However, they stood in contrast to the actions of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his visit to neighboring Tanzania earlier in the week.
President Steinmeier issued a formal apology to the victims of Germany’s colonial rule in Tanzania during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also asked for forgiveness for the brutal suppression of the 1905-1907 Maji Maji rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of up to 300,000 people.
The difference in approach did not go unnoticed among the local population. Derrick Amuli, a musician in Mombasa, remarked, “Since Germany got an opportunity to ask Tanzanians for forgiveness, that is a very big step in admitting that they indeed wronged our African brothers. On the other hand, the British have not come to the realization that they need to apologize to us, because it seems as though we are forcing them to apologize. They need to apologize like the rest.”
In 2013, the UK government reached an out-of-court settlement worth 20 million pounds ($24 million) with over 5,200 survivors of abuses during the Mau Mau revolt. However, they have consistently refused to issue a formal apology and have rejected similar claims from other affected communities.
The British High Commissioner to Kenya explained that an apology by king Charles could potentially lead the UK into “difficult legal territory.” This legal dimension has been a significant obstacle in the path of offering a formal apology to the victims of colonial-era injustices.
King Charles and Queen Camilla’s visit to Kenya aimed to strengthen the ties between the two nations, with a focus on economic development, climate change, and security cooperation.
The visit also raised questions about Britain’s colonial legacy, especially regarding the Mau Mau revolt, for which King Charles expressed “deepest regret” but did not offer a formal apology. This approach contrasted with that of other nations, such as Germany, which have formally apologized for their colonial actions, leading to discussions on the need for acknowledgment and reconciliation in the context of Britain’s colonial history in Kenya.