Experts have claimed King Charles is walking a 'tightrope' in Kenya as the King prepares to navigate celebrating the country's independence from British rule while Kenyans call for a formal apology from Great Britain.
The King and Queen landed in Nairobi this week and were warmly greeted as they attended a Ceremonial Welcome at State House on October 31, 2023. The royal couple have been invited for four days to the country by Kenyan President William Ruto to celebrate the relationship between the two countries. They will also commemorate the country's 60 years of independence from British rule.
It was announced by Buckingham Palace that the King "would acknowledge the more painful aspects of the U.K. and Kenya’s shared history." This specifically referenced the period between 1952 and 1960 when Britain suppressed the Mau Mau rebellion and atrocities were committed against many Kenyan people.
However, this 'acknowledgement' from the King may not be enough. Many people in the country are still calling for an apology from the monarchy for the Mau Mau uprising.
The Mau Mau uprising began lasted from 1952 until 1960 and was predominantly a campaign to end British rule in Kenya. During this time nearly 90,000 Kenyans were murdered, tortured, and worse in prison camps.
In 2013, the UK government paid £19.9m in costs and compensation to 5,228 Kenyans as the conclusion of a High Court action. Although 'regrets' were issued, an apology was never given.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time, "We understand the pain and the grief felt by those who were involved in the events of emergency in Kenya. The British Government recognises that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration."
He added, "The British Government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya's progress to independence. Torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn."
Speaking to the New York Times Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham said of the King, "He’s walking a tightrope." The professor explained, "He wants to say something strong enough to show that he gets it, but not so strong that it opens him to calls for more reparations."
He then added, "A lot of the tensions and challenges the king will face will be replicated in other countries.". Referencing the fact that Britain's colonial history extends far beyond Kenya.
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Some commentators have complimented the King's handling of this situation in Kenya. "Charles has already revealed that he possesses a much more nuanced understanding of the legacies of empire than was the case with his predecessor,” said royal historian Ed Owens, the author of After Elizabeth: Can the Monarchy Save Itself?
It remains unclear whether the King's acknowledgement of their difficult shared history will be sufficient to end calls for an apology.