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In Kenya this week, the British monarch will try to strengthen ties with a key partner and acknowledge past wrongs as calls grow for a reckoning for European colonialism
Britain's colonial legacy and human rights abuses hang over the four-day visit by King Charles to Kenya this week. The visit is the first by the King to an African or Commonwealth country since his coronation this year. Kenya is one of the Britain's key partners in Africa in terms of trade and defence and military cooperation (AC Vol 56 No 21, Uhuru's frequent flyer card). But the visit could prove awkward diplomatically.
The British High Commission in Nairobi said the visit would 'spotlight the strong and dynamic partnership between the UK and Kenya', adding that it would also 'acknowledge the more painful aspects' of the relationship between the two countries. Buckingham Palace officials said that the King would use the trip to 'deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered' by Kenyans during colonial rule.
A parliamentary inquiry set up to assess claims of human rights abuse by British soldiers in Kenya since independence in 1963 has begun to hold hearings (AC Dispatches 22/8/23, Nairobi inquiry on British army conduct reopens old wounds). The King will also face demands for an apology and reparations.
Ahead of the trip, the Kenya Human Rights Commission urged him to make an 'unequivocal public apology… for the brutal and inhuman treatment inflicted on Kenyan citizens' and pay reparations for colonial-era abuses. Officials in Whitehall have indicated that the King will not advance Britain's position beyond 'sincere regret'. They have weighed up the legal implications of a heartfelt apology.
New petitions have also been circulated demanding justice for Agnes Wanjiru, whose murder in 2012 close to the British army deployment in Nanyuki, in central Kenya, has never gone to trial despite a British soldier allegedly admitting to her killing.
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