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King Charles begins Kenya visit steeped in 'painful' colonial history

By Duncan Miriri

Britain’s King Charles begins a four-day state visit to Kenya on Tuesday, his first to a former colony, during which he plans to acknowledge “painful aspects” of a shared history that included almost seven decades of colonial rule.

Accompanied by Queen Camilla, Charles arrived in the East African country overnight and will be received by Kenyan President William Ruto in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday morning.

Buckingham Palace says the visit is a reflection of the two countries’ close cooperation on economic development, climate change and security issues.

Charles plans to meet entrepreneurs from Kenya’s bustling tech scene and tour wildlife facilities. He and Camilla will also travel to the southeast port city of Mombassa.

Many Kenyans, however, are most focused on what Charles will say about colonial-era abuses, including torture, killings and widespread expropriation of land, much of which still belongs to British nationals and companies.

The most notorious period of British rule came near the end, during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau revolt in central Kenya.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has estimated 90,000 Kenyans were killed or maimed and 160,000 detained during the uprising.

The UK government has previously expressed regret for abuses during this period, known by Kenyans as “the emergency”, and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of almost 20 million pounds in 2013.

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Charles and Camilla will tour a new national history museum, visit the site where independence was declared in 1963 and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

“His Majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

REPARATIONS

Charles’ visit comes at a time when some former colonies are re-evaluating their ties to the monarchy and demanding that Britian do more to reckon with its colonial past.

In 2021, Barbados ditched Queen Elizabeth as head of state to become a republic, and Jamaica has signaled it may do the same.

Charles, then still the heir to the throne, surprised many at last year’s summit of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of countries that evolved from the British Empire, by acknowledging slavery’s role in the organisation’s roots.

Many citizens of former British colonies want Charles to go further by directly apologising and endorsing reparations.

In Kenya, those include leaders from the Nandi people, whose leader Koitalel Arap Samoie led a decade-long rebellion until he was assassinated by a British colonel in 1905. In the ensuing years, the British confiscated most of their land and cattle.

Samoie’s great-grandson Kipchoge araap Chomu credited the British with contributions to Kenya like education and public health systems but said historical injustices must be remedied.

“We have to demand public apology from the government of the British because of the atrocities they meted on us,” he told Reuters. “After apologies, we also expect a reparation.”

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