not everyone mourns the queen in africa

not everyone mourns the queen in africa

not everyone mourns the queen in africa

From Kenya to Nigeria to South Africa, the death of Queen Elizabeth II sparked an avalanche of condolences from African heads of state praising a leader “extraordinary” and share memories of his frequent visits to the continent in 70 years of reign. But the monarch’s death also reignited a delicate debate about the colonial past in Anglophone Africa, including the queen’s role as head of state during British rule.

When Elizabeth was born in 1926, the British Empire (link in English) spanned six continents. During his reign, which began in 1952, most of the 56 countries that make up the Commonwealth gained independence, including many African continent nations such as Ghana, Kenya or Nigeria. His death comes at a time when European countries are under pressure to come to terms with their colonial history, atone for past crimes and return stolen African artifacts stored for years in museums in London or Paris.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta were among those who expressed condolences for the loss of a “icon”, but many Africans also spoke of the tragedies of the colonial era of his reign. As in Kenya, where the Mau Mau revolt, which took place from 1952 to 1960 against colonial rule, caused at least 10,000 victims in one of the bloodiest repressions of the British Empire. Britain agreed in 2013, more than half a century later, to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered horrific abuse during the uprising, in a deal that covered nearly 20 million pounds (23 million euros).

“The queen leaves a mixed legacy of brutal repression of Kenyans in her own country and mutually beneficial relations”, wrote The Daily Nation (link in English), Kenya’s leading newspaper, in a weekend op-ed. Elizabeth was visiting Kenya in 1952 when her father died and she became queen. “What followed was a bloody chapter in Kenyan history, with atrocities committed against a people whose only sin was clamoring for independence.”

In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, President Muhammadu Buhari honored the monarch by telling the story of his country “it will never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth II “. While some have praised the role he played until Nigeria’s independence, others have referred to her as the head of state when Britain supported the Nigerian army during the country’s civil war. Over a million people died in the Biafra war between 1967 and 1970, mainly from hunger and disease, during the post-declaration conflict by ethnic Igbo officials in the south-east of the country.

“If anyone expects me to express anything other than contempt for the monarch who led a government that supported the genocide that slaughtered and displaced half my family (…) you are dreaming”, Nigerian-American scholar Uju Anya tweeted, sparking a heated debate on social media.

Reactions are also divided in South Africa, between President Cyril Ramaphosa who deplored the death of a character “extraordinary”, and some of the young people who refuse to celebrate it. Like South Africa’s radical left party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which wrote in a statement: “We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because for us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in the history of this country and of Africa”. “During his 70-year reign, he never acknowledged the atrocities his family inflicted on the peoples invaded by Britain around the world.”the party added, referring in particular to the slave trade and colonialism.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the son of world-renowned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o and himself a writer and professor at Cornell University, also questioned the queen’s legacy in Africa.

“If the queen apologized for slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism and urged the crown to offer reparations for the millions of lives taken in her name, then maybe I … would feel bad.”wrote on Twitter. “As a Kenyan I don’t hear anything. This theater is absurd”.

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