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King Charles says there is ‘no excuse’ for colonial violence in Kenya

  • By Sean Coughlan, Royal Correspondent, and Anne Soy, Senior Nairobi Correspondent
  • BBC News


The Queen and King with Kenyan President Ruto on the first day of the state visit

King Charles acknowledged the “heinous and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans” during their struggle for independence.

During his state visit to Kenya, the king spoke of the “wrongdoings” of the British colonial era.

He told a state banquet in Nairobi of his “deepest sorrow and regrets” and that there were “no excuses”.

But the king did not issue a formal apology – something that would have to be decided by government ministers.

In response, Kenya’s President William Ruto praised the king’s courage in addressing these “uncomfortable truths.”

The Kenyan head of state told the king that colonial rule had been “brutal and atrocious towards the African people” and that “much remained to be done to achieve full reparations”.

Ahead of the king’s state visit to Kenya, the first to a Commonwealth country since the start of his reign, there had been speculation about a symbolic royal apology.

But while the king did not apologize, his speech at Kenya’s State House was a meaningful and strong acknowledgment of the wrongs committed under colonialism.


The king saw a museum with an exhibition on “colonial oppression”

As Kenya marks the 60th anniversary of its independence, the king told his audience: “It is very important for me to deepen my own understanding of these wrongs and to meet some of those whose lives and communities have been so seriously affected. »

In Kenya, we particularly remember the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising, during which thousands of people were killed and tortured in the 1950s, before independence.

Ten years ago, the British government expressed its “regret that these abuses took place” and announced payments of almost £20 million to more than 5,000 people, as part of what it called a “reconciliation process”.

Monarchs must speak on the advice of ministers and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already rejected calls for an apology on the separate issue of slavery.

The lack of apologies during this trip could have disappointed some Kenyans like David Ngasura of the Kenyan Talai clan.

He wrote letters to the royal family demanding an apology and reparations – and in response, Buckingham Palace referred its request to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.


The King visited an urban agriculture project that reused waste land

While there are fears that an apology will be interpreted as an admission of responsibility and lead to legal action, Kenyan survivors of the colonial government’s excesses say it would contribute to healing and closure.

King Charles, who forcefully acknowledged the “most painful moments of our long and complex relationship”, told his audience that friendship between Britain and Kenya could be strengthened by “approaching our history with honesty and openness.

Part of the king’s speech in Kenya was delivered in Swahili, as he toasted ties between the countries and recalled the affection his late mother felt for the Kenyan people.


King Charles meets young Kenyan entrepreneurs in Nairobi

On this first day of the state visit, King Charles met with President Ruto, visited an urban farm and met with young Kenyan technology entrepreneurs.

The king also visited a museum dedicated to Kenya’s history and its battle for independence.

The royal family, particularly during its visits to Commonwealth countries, is increasingly facing questions about the legacy of colonialism and slavery, with calls for apologies and reparations.

Earlier this year, Buckingham Palace said it supported independent historical research aimed at examining royal links to the slave trade.

The future William IV was a staunch defender of slavery, while his cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, was a leading figure in the campaign for abolition.

Over the coming days, the state visit to Kenya will focus on how Britain and Kenya are working together, including to tackle climate change and encourage opportunities and employment for young people.

There will also be a meeting with religious leaders who will talk about creating connections between communities.

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