Queen Elizabeth II of England acceded to the throne in 1952. This had made her the heir to millions of subjects around the world, many against their will. At a time when many nations are paying her tributes, in the former colonies of the British Empire, her death is generating feelings of anger and frustration. Unfortunate events experienced during his reign are hard to forget.
In Kenya, the past with the British Empire is far from being forgotten. For a long time, this East African country was under the control of the government and became independent in 1963. This, after years of violent struggle between a liberation movement and colonial troops.
Queen Elizabeth II accused of condoning certain injustices
Mathenge Wa Iregi, a 90-year-old man, says that as a freedom fighter, he could not mourn the queen. Sitting on his small farm at the bottom of Mount Kenya, he remembers the days of the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s, when he and his mates fought the British.
He explains that he would have honored the Queen’s memory if she had “stopped the British from coming to Kenya to fight the Mau Mau. For him, the Mau Mau uprising was legitimate because the British had taken over their land.
1952, year of the outbreak of the “Mau Mau” rebellion
In 1952 when the Mau Mau rebellion had just begun, Britain’s response was swift and severe.
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister at the time, declared a state of emergency in the country and sent British soldiers to assist colonial administrators in capturing the fighters and sending them to detention camps. Many freedom fighters were imprisoned and tortured by the British.
A former freedom fighter, Mathenge spent three years in prison in terrible conditions, claiming to have had “a very bad life” in prison.
During his time in prison, he was forced to spend the cold winter months, naked in his cell, with little means to keep warm. “Many other people got sick or died,” he said.
The British crown acknowledges its responsibility and apologizes
Several decades passed after this sad event and it was not until 2013 that the British government apologized for the torture of thousands of Kenyans during the uprising. Millions of pounds are being paid out in an out-of-court settlement.
Despite these compensations to repair the harm done to the Kenyan people, Queen Elizabeth II of England remains for Mathenge, the symbol of a nation that has often mistreated the peoples she has subjected.