King Charles III, in his inaugural state visit to a Commonwealth nation as monarch, arrives in Kenya to recognize the nuanced facets of the shared history between the United Kingdom and Kenya. Emphasizing his dedication to an organization pivotal to Britain’s global influence since World War II, the king’s four-day visit holds significant symbolism.
The late Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ mother, received news of her ascent to the U.K. monarchy while visiting a game reserve in Kenya in 1952 when the nation was still under British colonial rule. Charles and Queen Camilla landed in Nairobi on Monday, receiving a ceremonial welcome from Kenyan President William Ruto at State House on Tuesday, where Charles planted an African fern tree seedling in a symbolic gesture.
The royal couple proceeded to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens, paying respects with wreath-laying ceremonies. They then journeyed to the location where Kenya declared independence in 1963, marking the 60th anniversary of this pivotal event in the nation’s history.
Amid the celebratory atmosphere, historical tensions resurfaced. The Mau Mau Rebellion, a prolonged struggle against colonial rule, witnessed brutal tactics by colonial authorities, including executions and detention without trial. The British High Commission noted that Charles would meet veterans and support the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s efforts to appropriately commemorate Kenyan and African contributions to British efforts in World Wars.
However, not all reactions were positive. Salim David Nganga voiced the sentiment that the king should issue an apology for the dark history of British colonialists before setting foot in Kenya. Land disputes also took center stage, with Joel Kimutai Kimetto highlighting the lingering pain of ancestral land loss to British companies, urging leaders to address these concerns during the royal visit.
In another dimension, a planned protest and press conference related to a fire allegedly started by British soldiers in a Kenyan conservancy were canceled ahead of the king’s visit, suggesting a complex backdrop of historical grievances.
Turning attention to environmental concerns, King Charles III is scheduled to visit Nairobi National Park and meet with environmental activist Wanjira Mathai, underscoring his commitment to environmental protection. This aligns with the royal family’s longstanding ties to Africa, marked by Queen Elizabeth II’s pledge of lifelong service to Britain and the Commonwealth in 1947 and her eventual ascent to the throne in Kenya in 1952.