‘I can’t mourn’: Former colonies quarreled over queen

'I can't mourn': Former colonies quarreled over queen
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September 11, 2022 GMT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – When Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952, she inherited millions of subjects around the world, many of them reluctantly. Today, in the former colonies of the British Empire, her death brings complicated feelings, including anger.

Aside from official condolences praising the Queen’s longevity and service, there is a certain bitterness about the past in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and elsewhere. We are talking about the legacy of colonialism, from slavery to corporal punishment in African schools and looting Artifacts held in British institutions. For many, the Queen represented all of this during her seven decades on the throne.

In Kenya, where a young Elizabeth learned decades ago of her father’s death and her enormous new role as queen, a lawyer named Alice Mugo shared online a photo of a fading document from 1956. It was issued four years into the queen’s reign, and well into Britain’s harsh response to the Mau Mau rebellion against colonial rule.

“Permission to move,” the document reads. While over 100,000 Kenyans were herded into camps in appalling conditions, others, like Mugo’s grandmother, had to seek British permission to move from place to place.

“Most of our grandparents were oppressed,” Mugo tweeted in the hours after the Queen’s death on Thursday. “I cannot mourn.”

But Kenya’s outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father, Jomo Kenyatta, was imprisoned during the Queen’s reign before becoming the country’s first president in 1964, overlooked past troubles, as did other African leaders. “The most iconic figure of the 20th and 21st centuries,” Uhuru Kenyatta called her.

Anger came from ordinary people. Some called for apologies for past abuses like slavery, others for something more tangible.

“This Commonwealth of Nations, this wealth belongs to England. That wealth is never shared,” said Bert Samuels, a member of Jamaica’s National Council on Reparations.

Elizabeth’s reign saw the hard-won independence of African countries from Ghana to Zimbabwe, along with a number of Caribbean islands and nations bordering the Arabian Peninsula.

Some historians see her as a monarch who helped oversee the largely peaceful transition from empire to empire Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 56 nations with historical and linguistic ties. But she was also the symbol of a nation that often rode ruthlessly over those she had subjugated.

There was little sign of public mourning, or even interest, in her death in the Middle East, where many Britons still blame colonial actions that drew much of the region’s borders and laid the groundwork for many of its modern-day conflicts. On Saturday, Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip demanded King Charles III. to “correct” British mandate decisions that they said oppressed Palestinians.

In ethnically divided Cyprus, many Greek Cypriots recalled the four-year guerrilla campaign waged against colonial rule in the late 1950s and the Queen’s seeming indifference to the plight of nine people executed by hanging by British authorities.

Yiannis Spanos, president of the Association of National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, said the Queen was “held by many as responsible” for the tragedies on the island.

Now, after her death, there are new efforts to come to terms with or to hide the colonial past.

India is renewing efforts under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove colonial names and symbols. The country has long since evolved, even overtaking the UK economy in size.

“I don’t think we have room for kings and queens in today’s world because we are the largest democratic country in the world,” said Dhiren Singh, a 57-year-old entrepreneur in New Delhi.

There was a certain sympathy for Elizabeth and the circumstances into which she was born and then thrust into her.

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi, resident Max Kahindi recalled the Mau Mau rebellion “with much bitterness” and how some elders were arrested or killed. But he said the Queen was “a very young lady” at the time and he believes someone else was probably running British affairs.

“We cannot blame the Queen for all the suffering we were going through at that particular time,” Kahindi said.

Timothy Kalyegira, a Ugandan political analyst, said there was an enduring “spiritual connection” in some African countries, from the colonial experience to the Commonwealth. “It’s a moment of pain, a moment of nostalgia,” he said.

The Queen’s dignified personality and age, and the centrality of the English language in global affairs, are strong enough to mitigate some criticism, Kalyegira added: “She is seen more as the mother of the world.”

There were also mixed opinions in the Caribbean, where some countries are located Deposition of the British monarch as their head of state.

“They have a contradictory consciousness,” said Maziki Thame, a senior lecturer in development studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, whose prime minister announced meanwhile this year’s visit by Prince William, who is now heir apparent, and Kate that the island intends to become fully independent.

The younger generation of royals appear to be more sensitive to the impact of colonialism, Thame said – during the visit, William expressed his “deep sadness” at slavery.

Nadeen Spence, an activist, said the esteem for Elizabeth among older Jamaicans is not surprising given that she has been presented by the British as “that benevolent queen who has always looked out for us”, but young people are not impressed by the royal family .

“The only thing that struck me about the Queen’s death is that she died and never apologized for slavery,” Spence said. “She should have apologized.”


Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.


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