King Charles and Queen Camilla are making their first visit to a Commonwealth country since becoming King and Queen in September 2022
King Charles, 74, is set to address some of the darkest times in British colonial history during the couple's tour of the African country this week. He will "acknowledge the more painful aspects of the U.K. and Kenya’s shared history," Buckingham Palace said when the visit was confirmed. The tour is the first to a Commonwealth country since he succeeded his late mother, Queen Elizabeth, as monarch in September 2022.
The monarch will use some of the time to “deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya,” the palace statement added, a reference to The Emergency or the Mau Mau rebellion, which was met with a violent and brutal British-led crackdown in the 1950s.
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) October 30, 2023
As a constitutional monarch, King Charles is tied to acting on the advice and recommendations of the U.K. government of the day. While Britain has given around $25 million in compensation and — in the words of the then-Foreign Secretary in 2013 — “recognized Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” it has not apologized.
Some experts and campaigners want King Charles to go further and say sorry formally.
Writing in the U.K. newspaper The Observer, Harvard University professor and the author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya Caroline Elkins said Sunday, “Firstly, King Charles III, you need to stop choking on those two words, 'I apologize.' Just cough them up.”
“They will probably trigger all sorts of liability issues for you and your government, but at last count, the monarchy is worth over £20 billion, so you could give several quid – some of which were stolen from or earned on the backs of colonized people – to the British taxpayer to cover this.”
Pointing out it was the place where his mother Queen Elizabeth learned she had acceded to the throne, and where her image was hung in rooms where torture took place, Elkins added there is "no better place for your first formal apology for colonial crimes than Kenya."
"Global demands for a British colonial reckoning suggest you need to abandon your paternalistic ways, apologize and offer repair for the colonial crimes committed in your family’s name. The alternative will only hasten the monarchy’s decline," Elkins said.
On Monday, Kenyans gathered on Mau Mau road, a road named after a group that fought against colonial rule, in Nairobi. They held signs, including ones that read "Bring back our artifacts" and "Kenyans denounce a brutal monarch's visit."
In recent years, King Charles has spoken of his sorrow at the horrors of slavery in the British Caribbean colonies and the trade in slaves from Africa by British ships that took place until the early 19th century. Speaking at the independence ceremony in Barbados in November 2021, Charles said the “appalling atrocity of slavery” “forever stains our history.”
On his last visit to the continent of Africa in June 2022, Charles told an audience in Kigali, Rwanda of his “personal sorrow."
"I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery's enduring impact," he said. "Many of those wrongs belong to an earlier age with different – and, in some ways, lesser – values. By working together, we are building a new and enduring friendship."
“This is an issue that His Majesty takes profoundly seriously,” the palace said in a statement to PEOPLE last week.
During the trip to Kenya, which lasts until Nov. 3, King Charles and Queen Camilla will visit Nairobi National Park to see vital conservation work being undertaken by the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is integral to Kenya’s thriving tourism industry.
As a longstanding advocate for women who have been abused, Queen Camilla will meet survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, learning how they are supported and sharing her own insights from working in this area.
In her position as patron of the equine welfare charity Brooke, the Queen will also see how the charity is working with the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals to rescue donkeys at risk and promote their welfare.
King Charles will meet faith leaders from Mombasa’s diverse community, hearing how they are working together to promote harmony amongst the city’s population, the palace said.
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