King Charles has spoken of Britain’s “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” committed against Kenyans during their fight for independence, but stopped short of an apology despite human rights groups demanding one.
During a banquet held in his honor in Kenya, the monarch gave a speech expressing his remorse for past wrongdoings and referring to them as the “greatest sorrow” and “deepest regret.”
While Kenya’s president, William Ruto, praised the king’s “exemplary courage” in shedding light on “uncomfortable truths”, he described the colonial reaction to African struggles as “monstrous in its cruelty”. He added that “much remains to be done in order to achieve full reparations”.
Previously, the KHRC of Kenya called on King Charles to issue a clear and unambiguous public apology.
The KHRC stated that they urge the king, acting on behalf of the British government, to publicly apologize without any conditions or reservations for the harsh and inhumane treatment suffered by citizens of Kenya. This apology should be genuine and sincere, rather than a cautious and self-protective statement of regret.
The commission reported that 90,000 Kenyans experienced execution, torture, or injury during the British administration’s efforts to suppress insurgency.
Speaking to Ruto during the banquet, the king expressed, “The actions of the past have caused immense sorrow and regret.”
“Unacceptable and inexcusable acts of violence were carried out against Kenyans as they fought for independence and sovereignty, as you stated at the United Nations. Such actions cannot be justified.”
Upon returning to Kenya, it is of great importance to me to further my understanding of the injustices that have occurred. I also hope to personally meet with those who have been severely impacted in order to grasp the full extent of the consequences on their lives and communities.
We cannot alter what has already happened. However, by acknowledging our past with sincerity and transparency, we can potentially showcase the depth of our current friendship. This, in turn, may allow us to strengthen our bond even further for the future.
During the peak of Kenya’s struggle for independence, from 1952 to 1960, approximately 1.5 million Kenyans believed to be involved in the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule were forced into concentration camps by British soldiers. These individuals endured torture, sexual assault, and other inhumane treatment.
In 1957, the attorney general of the British colony, Eric Griffith-Jones, wrote a letter to a British governor describing the mistreatment of detainees as being similar to the conditions in Nazi Germany or communist Russia. Later on, Griffith-Jones created a law that permitted beatings as long as they were kept confidential.
In 2013, the UK agreed to a settlement of £20m outside of the court with 5,228 Kenyans who were part of a class-action lawsuit regarding the mistreatment that occurred during Kenya’s emergency period from 1952 to 1960. This payment was accompanied by a formal apology from the British government and came after an 11-year effort and legal fight against the UK, originally initiated by five elderly Kenyans.
The discovery uncovered that the British had either destroyed or hidden official documents detailing the violent actions of colonial authorities. Historians stated that the documents found during the investigation put the UK government in a “shameful and disgraceful” situation.
As information about the scope of colonial atrocities has been uncovered in the last ten years, and similar acknowledgments have been made throughout the Commonwealth, demands for recognition and compensation for these past injustices have increased.
The king’s initial visit to a Commonwealth nation as ruler may provide insight into his approach towards addressing demands for recognition and remorse regarding colonial injustices.
During the initial full day of King Charles and Queen Camilla’s five-day state visit, the monarch placed a wreath at the resting place of the Unknown Warrior within Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens National Monument and Museum.
The king and queen were given a sneak peek at the Mashujaa Museum, which showcases the history of Kenya and is set to open in the coming year. This will coincide with Kenya’s 60th year of independence on December 12, 2023.
They strolled through the Tunnel of Martyrs at the museum, which tells the story of the fight for independence and honors those who lost their lives in the struggle, as well as commemorating the victims of recent terrorist attacks.