Rebecca English, Daily Mail, October 31, 2023
The King tonight told the Kenyan people of his ‘greatest sorrow and deepest regret’ at Britain’s ‘abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence’ during the Colonial era.
In a keynote speech that went far further than many expected amid calls for an apology over government abuses under his late mother’s reign, King Charles said there was ‘no excuse’ for British ’wrongdoings’ in the East African nation, particularly against the Mau Mau rebellion.
Speaking at a state banquet in Nairobi, he told the Kenyan President and 350 guests: ‘It is the intimacy of our shared history that has brought our people together. However, we must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship.
‘The wrongdoings of the past are a cause of the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret. There were abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans as they waged, as you said at the United Nations, a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty – and for that, there can be no excuse.’
Charles continued: ‘In coming back to Kenya, it matters greatly to me that I should deepen my own understanding of these wrongs, and that I meet some of those whose lives and communities were so grievously affected.
‘None of this can change the past. But by addressing our history with honesty and openness we can, perhaps, demonstrate the strength of our friendship today. And, in so doing, we can, I hope, continue to build an ever-closer bond for the years ahead.’
The King stopped short of a direct apology, which carries greater legal culpability, because it is not British government policy to do so.
His words came as President Ruto made an even more strongly-worded address – and hinted at further demands for reparations.
He said Britain and Kenya could not ‘live in denial of history’ and highlighted the ‘displacement, dispossession and disenfranchisement of native Africans, paving the way for a brutal colonialism’.
The president described British attempts to put down the Kenyan people’s fight for independence as ‘monstrous in its cruelty’ and made clear that he felt the £20 million so far paid out by Britain in compensation to victims of torture and repression as inadequate.
‘While there have been efforts to atone for the death, injury and suffering inflicted on Kenyan Africans by the colonial government, much remains to be done in order to achieve full reparations,’ he said.
But he praised the King for his ‘visionary leadership’ on the issue, saying: ‘Your exemplary courage and readiness to shed light on uncomfortable truths that reside in the darker regions of our shared experience are….commendable.
‘This is a highly encouraging first step, under your leadership, to deliver progress beyond tentative and equivocal half measures of past years.
‘We are therefore confident that, under your visionary leadership, the Kenya-United Kingdom relations will continue to prosper for the benefit of our two countries and peoples. ‘
The King endeared himself to his audience by using several phrases of Swahili and his pronunciation was described as ‘impeccable’.
He highlighted the ‘special meaning’ Kenya has for his family, not least his late mother, not least because it is where she found out she was Queen.
But he also sweetly mentioned the Prince and Princess of Wales, saying: ‘It was here, in sight of Mount Kenya, that my son, The Prince of Wales, proposed to his wife, now my beloved daughter-in-law.’
He concluded on a positive note, saying in Swahili: ‘ Umoja ninguvu’, Unity is Strength.
Mwangi Macharia, the head of the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action, a human rights group, said Britain should follow the example set by Germany, which has apologised for its abuses in Namibia, and agreed to fund projects worth over a billion euros.
Nandi King Koitalel Arap Samoei led a decade-long rebellion until he was killed by a British colonel in 1905. In the ensuing years, the British confiscated most of his people’s land and cattle.
Samoei’s great-grandson Kipchoge araap Chomu credited the British with contributions to Kenya like education and public health systems but said historical injustices must be remedied.
‘We have to demand public apology from the government of the British,’ he told Reuters. ‘After apologies, we also expect a reparation.’