Though Queen Elizabeth II was revered by many in Africa, her death also reignited a different sort of conversation — one that touched on the legacy of the British Empire and the brutality the monarchy meted out to people in its former colonies.
In a younger generation of Africans growing up in a post-colonial world, some lamented that the queen never faced up to the grim aftermath of colonialism and empire, or issued an official apology. They said they wanted to use the moment to recall the oppression and horrors their parents and grandparents endured in the name of the Crown, and to urge for the return of crown jewels — rare massive diamonds — taken from the continent.
“You can look at the monarchy from the point of view of high tea and nice outfits and charity,” said Alice Mugo, 34, a lawyer in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “But there’s also the ugly side, and for you to ignore the ugly side is dishonest.”
Mugo said she recently found her grandmother’s “movement pass,” issued when the British colonial government in Kenya declared a state of emergency to help suppress the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebellion. The passes restricted the free movement of Kenyans.
It was while a young Elizabeth was on an official tour of Kenya, in 1952, that she learned of her father’s death and that she would become queen. The clampdown on Kenyans, which began just months after the queen ascended the throne, led to the establishment of a vast system of detention camps and the torture, rape, castration, and killing of tens of thousands of people.