‘I can’t mourn’: former colonies in conflict over the queen


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

In addition to official condolences praising the Queen’s longevity and service, there is some bitterness about the past in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. There has been talk of the legacies of colonialism, from slavery to corporal punishment in African schools to looted artifacts kept in British institutions. To many, the Queen came to represent all of that during her seven decades on the throne.

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

‘Relocation permit’, it says in the document. While more than 100,000 TBEN were locked up in appalling conditions, others, such as Mugo’s grandmother, were forced to ask for British permission to move from place to place.

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

Huge portraits of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah are on display in Accra, Nov. 9, 1961, as the city prepares for the British monarch’s arrival on a state visit to Ghana. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Accra by plane from London later that day. (TBEN photo, file)

Anger came from ordinary people. Some asked for apologies for past abuses such as slavery, others for something tangible.

“This commonwealth of nations, that wealth belongs to England. That wealth is never shared,” said Bert Samuels, a member of the National Council on Repairs in Jamaica.

Elizabeth’s government saw the hard-won independence of African nations from Ghana to Zimbabwe, along with a series of Caribbean islands and nations along the edge of the Arabian Peninsula.

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

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

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

Now, with her passing, there are new attempts to tackle, or hide, the colonial past.

India is renewing its efforts under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove colonial names and symbols. The country has come a long way and has even overtaken the British economy.

“I don’t think there is 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 some sympathy for Elizabeth and the circumstances under which she was born and then pushed into her.

“We cannot blame the queen for all the suffering we have had during that time,” Kahindi said.

Timothy Kalyegira, a political analyst in Uganda, said there is an ongoing “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 central role of the English language in global affairs, are powerful enough to temper some criticism, Kalyegira added: “She is seen more as the mother of the world.”

Mixed views were also found in the Caribbean, where some countries deposed the British monarch as head of state.

“You have a contradictory consciousness,” said Maziki Thame, senior lecturer in development studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, whose prime minister announced this year during the visit of Prince William, who is now heir to the throne, and Kate that the island intended to be completely independent. to become.

The younger generation of royals seems to have a greater sensitivity to the implications of colonialism, Thame said. During the visit, William expressed his “deep grief” over slavery.

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

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

The Bharat Express News journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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