Queen Elizabeth II’s Legacy in Africa: What Africans have to Say

Queen Elizabeth II (Source: ForeignBrief.com)

Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8th, 2022. The world mourns the monarch who reigned over the United Kingdom for over 70 years, thus winning the merit of having the longest reign of any British monarch, and the supposedly longest recorded reign of any female head of state in history. During her lifetime, she was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states and 15 at the time of her death.

British Empire in 1921 (Source: Wikipedia)

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign started in 1952, at the tail end of the ‘colonization’ era, leading into the independence or decolonization of former British colonies, and then the new era of neo-colonization. The 1960s and 1970s saw an acceleration in the decolonization of Africa and the Caribbeans. More than 20 countries gained independence from Britain as part of a planned transition to ‘self’-government. Newspapers would give the polished version, but it is clear that under her reign, major events rocked nations and particularly the third-world, as we, ‘not the West’ used to be called. She started her reign while in Kenya (i.e. learnt of the passing of her father while in visit of Kenya, and that she was to become queen). She inherited a vast empire spanning the African continent upon becoming Queen, her reign saw all 14 African British colonies gain their independence, starting with Ghana in 1957. And yet the Queen managed to maintain warm relations with them, partly through the creation of the successor organisation to the empire, the Commonwealth. One could argue that the relationship between the British monarchy and post-colonial Africa was a complicated one. 

In a prison camp during the Mau Mau rebellion (Source:The Guardian)
In a prison camp in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion (Source:The Guardian)

Who can forget the Mau-Mau massacre in Kenya by British forces (The British Government apologizes for Mau Mau atrocities)? Or then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)? or Sudan? or the wars of independence in different parts of Africa?

The president of Kenya where her journey as Queen started, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, mourned her passing in a statement, describing her as “a towering icon of selfless service to humanity and a key figurehead of not only the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations where Kenya is a distinguished member but the entire world“.

The traitor Mnangagwa, even though the Queen granted knighthood to President Robert Mugabe to later revoke it, and the relations between Zimbabwe and Great Britain were bad for many years, was quick to tweet that his “deepest condolences” were with the Royal Family and “the people of the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth“. Zimbabwe held some services.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has, on behalf of the government and people of South Africa, expressed his profound and sincere condolences to King Charles III on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, saying, “Her Majesty was an extraordinary and world-renowned public figure who lived a remarkable life.  Her life and legacy will be fondly remembered by many around the world. The Queen’s commitment and dedication during her 70 years on the throne remains a noble and virtuous example to the entire world.”

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

The leader of Nigeria, the biggest of Britain’s former colonies in Africa, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote a long tribute to her on Twitter, saying The story of modern Nigeria will never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth ll, a towering global personality and an outstanding leader. She dedicated her life to making her nation, the Commonwealth and the entire world a better place.”

However, the younger generation of African leaders, and leaders around the world are saying they cannot mourn the passing of the Queen of England.

Uju Anya, a linguistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University on Thursday described the late queen as the monarch of a “thieving raping genocidal empire” in a series of tweets. “I heard the chief monarch of thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating,” Anya said. Referring to Great Britain’s conquest of Nigeria in the 19th and 20th century, she added, “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

Julius Malema, Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (Source: TheSouthAfrican.com)

Julius Malema, of the South African Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s third-biggest political party, criticized the queen, who ascended to the throne in 1952, for reigning for 70 years as a head of an institution “built up, sustained, and living off a brutal legacy of dehumanization of millions of people across the world.

Malema added “We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history,” …

Britain, under the leadership of the royal family, took over control of this territory that would become South Africa in 1795 from Batavian control, and took permanent control of the territory in 1806.

From that moment onwards, native people of this land have never known peace, nor have they ever enjoyed the fruits of the riches of this land, riches which were and still are utilized for the enrichment of the British royal family and those who look like them.” … the royal family’s leadership “has been one of pain and suffering, of death and dispossession, and of dehumanization of African people“.

During her [Elizabeth II’s] 70-year reign as Queen, she never once acknowledged the atrocities that her family inflicted on native people that Britain invaded across the world. She willingly benefited from the wealth that was attained from the exploitation and murder of millions of people across the world.

The British Royal family stands on the shoulders of millions of slaves who were shipped away from the continent to serve the interests of racist white capital accumulation, at the center of which lies the British royal family. If there is really life and justice after death, may Elizabeth and her ancestors get what they deserve,” the statement concluded.

The atmosphere I would say then is nuanced in Africa, some, particularly the heads of states mourn, while the younger generations cannot be bothered to mourn the life of a monarch whose reign caused a lot of pain, suffering, and dehumanization to millions.

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