Queen Elizabeth’s Death Ignites Debate Over Africa’s Colonial Past. Queen Elizabeth received an outpouring of formal condolences, sadness, and recollections of her frequent journeys to Africa during her seven decades as monarch, from Kenya and Nigeria to South Africa and Uganda.
But the departure of the British king also reopened a delicate discussion about Africa’s colonial past.
Her passing occurred at a time when European nations are under pressure to confront their colonial history, make amends for past wrongdoings, and return stolen African artifacts that have been kept for years in London and Parisian museums.
Among those offering condolences for the demise of a “icon” were Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
Queen Elizabeth’s Death Ignites Debate Over Africa’s Colonial Past. However, a lot of Africans focused more on the horrors from colonial times, including things that happened during her first ten years in power.
In 1963, Kenya declared its independence from Britain following an eight-year insurgency that claimed at least 10,000 lives.
In an agreement worth roughly 20 million pounds ($23 million), Britain consented in 2013 to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had been mistreated during the Mau Mau uprising.
The Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest newspaper, stated in a weekend editorial that “The Queen leaves a mixed legacy of the violent subjugation of Kenyans in their own nation and mutually beneficial partnerships.”
In 1952, Elizabeth was traveling in Kenya when her father passed away, making her the next monarch.
The crimes committed against a people whose sole transgression was to want independence marked the beginning of a dark chapter in Kenya’s history.
Despite the benefits of the relationship with Britain, it is difficult to forget past horrors.
War in Biafra, treasures
The first of thousands of artifacts looted during colonial times have returned from Britain and France as part of recent efforts to restore the past in Nigeria and neighboring Benin.
The so-called Benin Bronzes of Nigeria, which are metal sculptures and plaques from the 16th to 18th centuries that were stolen from the palace of the former Benin Kingdom, are now shown in museums all across the US and Europe.
The history of Nigeria, according to Buhari, “can never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth II.”
Others noted that she served as head of state when Britain assisted the Nigerian army during the country’s civil war, while some commended her participation in the events leading up to Nigeria’s independence.
Between 1967 and 1970, more than one million people lost their lives in the violence that ensued after ethnic Igbo officers proclaimed independence in the southeast, most of them from malnutrition and disease.
Professor Uju Anya, a Nigerian-born American, once wrote on Twitter in relation to the Biafra war: “If anyone wants me to show anything other than disgust for the king who supervised a government sponsored genocide…you can keep wishing upon a star.”
In South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to her as a “amazing” figure, similar conflicted feelings were also spoken.
However, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) organization was dismissive, bringing to mind the decades of apartheid, during which Britain, the former colonizer, was frequently inactive.
The EFF said in a statement that it did not mourn Elizabeth’s passing since it served as a reminder of a particularly awful time in both this nation’s and Africa’s history.
Some in Uganda remembered Omukama Kabalega, the leader of the Bunyoro Kingdom who resisted British rule in the late 1890s.
The kingdom was eventually included into the British empire when he was overthrown and banished to the Seychelles.
According to Charles Rwomushana, a former intelligence director who is now a political analyst, “as much as the queen was able to retain cohesion of the former British colonies, she had not handled effectively the injustices meted out on some states, notably Uganda.”
According to the parliament, the Uganda Tourism Association requested a committee last month to oversee the return of Ugandan artifacts from British and other international institutions, including some 300 from Bunyoro.
Author and Ugandan government critic Charles Onyango-Obbo claimed on Twitter that many long-reigning African dictators utilized Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign to defend their own decades in power.
They are attempting to learn how to present their case successfully in the past tense now that she has departed.
The legacy of the Queen in Africa has also been questioned by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the son of Kenya’s well-known author Ngugi wa Thiong’o and a novelist as well as an associate professor of English at Cornell University.
He stated on Twitter, “Perhaps I would do the human thing and feel awful if the queen had apologized for slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism and asked the monarchy to offer reparations for the millions of lives taken in her/their names.