Africa Reflects on Queen Elizabeth’s Mixed Legacy

As Africa reflects on the legacy of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Kenyans remember how a princess visiting the country in 1952 left a queen. Analysts note how Elizabeth helped steer the end of Britain’s empire and exploitative colonial rule. But while relations were repaired and improved under the monarch, colonialism left lasting wounds.

The queen’s accession to the throne came as African colonies clamored for independence and she had to supervise the elimination of the British colonial empire.

Macharia Munene, professor of history at the United States International University Africa in Nairobi, said the queen’s reign saw a transition from empire to commonwealth.

“She was able to adjust to the reality of the imperial decline,” Munene said, “and then transform that imperial decline to a good thing, something common that people can be part of, that is the Commonwealth.”

To some Africans, British colonial rule is synonymous with exploitation. They blame the queen, the representative of British interests, for atrocities during that period.

That includes Gitu wa Kahengeri, the secretary general of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, who was detained during the fight for independence in Kenya.

“I personally will not forget that I was incarcerated for seven years,” he said. “I cannot forget I was put together with my father. I cannot forget I left my children for seven years without food, without education. That, I will never forget.”

But with territorial colonialism now decades gone, memories of British rule in Africa are fading, and people’s views of the queen have changed.

“She was many things to many people,” Munene said. “To the colonial subjects at the time of colonialism, she was the symbol of the evil that was colonialism. With independence, she was able to transform herself to a likeable person. And as a person, she was likeable.”

Queen Elizabeth was widely admired and seen as a role model by many on the continent. Among them is Benedict Yartey from Ghana.

“The legacy she has left will keep her name deeply rooted in the hearts of generations to come,” Yartey said.

Sophia Emmanuelle from South Africa was sympathetic about the queen’s death.

“For me, it’s just sad,” she said. “I can’t really say I take it personally, but I mean it’s sad for people around the world and especially for England.”

Tunde Kamali of Nigeria took a philosophical view of the queen’s death.

“I have never known any other ruler that lasted that long,” Kamali said. “So, for this now to have happened, it only means that every man has an end.”

Analysts say Queen Elizabeth’s biggest legacy is the creation of the Commonwealth. And with the death of the queen, the future of that legacy now lies with King Charles III.

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