Queen’s death revives debate over Africa’s colonial past

From Kenya to Nigeria to South Africa to Uganda, condolences and mourning rallies alongside memories of her visits to Africa during her seven decades on the throne, but Queen Elizabeth II’s death has also reignited sensitive debates about Africa’s colonial past. Africa.

His death came at a time when European countries are under pressure to correct their colonial history, atone for past crimes and return stolen African artifacts that have been kept for years in museums from London to Paris.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta were among those who offered condolences for the loss of an “icon”.

But many Africans dwelled more on the tragedies of the colonial era, including the events of the first decade of their rule.

Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963 after an eight-year insurgency that left at least 10,000 dead.

Britain agreed in 2013 to compensate 5,000 Kenyans who suffered abuse during the Mau Mau uprising, in a deal worth about 20 million pounds ($23 million).

“The Queen leaves an uneven legacy of brutal repression of Kenyans in her country and mutually beneficial relations,” Kenya’s largest newspaper, The Daily Nation, wrote in an editorial over the weekend.

Elizabeth II 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 demanding independence,” the newspaper added.

“While relations with Britain have been beneficial, these atrocities are hard to forget,” he said.

As part of recent improvements to the past, neighboring Nigeria and Benin have seen France and Britain return the first batch of thousands of artifacts looted during the colonial era.

What Nigeria calls “Benin bronzes,” metal plates and sculptures from the 16th and 18th centuries, were looted from the palace of the former Kingdom of Benin and ended up in museums in the United States and Europe.

Bukhari said the country’s history “would not be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth II.”

While some praised her role in leading Nigeria’s independence, others pointed out that she was the head of state when Britain supported the Nigerian military during the country’s civil war.

More than a million people died between 1967 and 1970, mostly from starvation and disease during the war after Igbo officials declared independence in the southeast of the country.

“If anyone expects me to express more than disdain for a monarch who oversaw government-sponsored genocide… they are dreaming,” said Ojo Anya, a US-based Nigerian professor, referring extensively to the Biafra war on Twitter. on social networks

Similar mixed reactions were expressed in South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa described the Queen as an “exceptional” figure.

But the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters movement was more dismissive, recalling decades of apartheid in which Britain, a former colony, was largely passive.

“We do not mourn Isabel’s death because for us her death reminds us of a very tragic period in this country and in the history of Africa,” the movement said in a statement.

In Uganda, some have gone so far as to remember Bunyoro’s ruler, Omukama Kabalega, who resisted British rule in the late 1890s.

He was deposed and exiled to the Seychelles and the kingdom was later incorporated into the British Empire.

“As much as the Queen has been able to keep former British colonies together, she has not adequately addressed the grievances of some countries like Uganda,” said Charles Rumushana, a former intelligence director and now a political analyst.

Last month, the Uganda Tourism Association convened a committee to lead the return of Ugandan artifacts from British and foreign museums, including 300 pieces from Bunyoro, according to parliament.

Charles Onyango-Obo, a writer and critic of the Ugandan government, said on Twitter that many long-time African leaders used Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign to justify staying in power for decades.

“Now that she is dead, they are struggling to learn how to make their case persuasive in the past tense,” he added.

Mukuma Wa Ngogi, son of famed Kenyan writer Ngogi Wa Thiong O, also a novelist and professor of English at Cornell University, also raised questions about the Queen’s legacy in Africa.

“If the Queen had apologized for slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism and urged the throne to repair the millions of lives lost in her name, maybe I would do the humane thing and feel sad,” he wrote on Twitter.

“As a Kenyan, I don’t feel anything,” he added. This play is ridiculous.”