The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has not gone unremarked in Africa where local television and radio stations interrupted normal broadcasting in order to relay events happening in the United Kingdom.
While millions of pounds are being spent on the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth who reigned over the United Kingdom for almost 71 years and died aged 96 years old on Thursday, Sept. 8, some members of the Commonwealth realm are calling on the newly installed King Charles III to address long-discussed issues of said Commonwealth, including those who are determined to become independent of the Crown, and with reparations from decades—and in some cases centuries of charges of abuse and atrocities at the hands of the imperialistic colonizing British.
Throughout the Diaspora amidst those national leaders sending condolences to the Windsors of Britain’s royal family, are others taking the opportunity to demand justice on several levels.
“If only the death of the queen could mark a new era that entails apology for colonialism and slavery, and reparations long overdue—still I won’t hold my breath,” said Ras J. Tesfa, the author of “Living Testament for Rasta.” “For I is one of the observers and critics refusing to be emotionally manipulated by the continuous images on mainstream media—and is instead determining that analysis should not be about romanticizing the legacy of exploitation, and oppression, with deliberate misrepresentation or a lie.”
“History is a rough teacher,” stated activist Maisha Ongoza on her Facebook page. “She was more than just a ceremonial figure. Nothing happened without her blessings. All the genocidal pushback from England on countries fighting for independence was condoned by her. Including South Africa Aparthied, the Nigerian Biafra war, the Kenyan Mau Mau Revolution, India’s fight for independence, Ireland’s fight for sovereignty and many other geopolitical use of force by England. Nothing happened without her knowledge and blessings.”
While some observers quoting the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ effect, discussed this past week that economics, neo-colonial politics, and familiarity to an all-be-it historically exploitative system of power and governance keeps some nations loyal to a monarchy and a nation whose self-interest threatens their own—there are millions in the Commonwealth who want to cut the tether and figure out independence in their own way and time.
From the British atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and all over the Continent and the Caribbean; from being accused of meddling in the affairs of kingdoms; and removal of resources, stolen jewels and historic artifacts; the brutal treatment in Kenya where the Brits held a reported over 100,000 Kenyans during the Mau Mau rebellion; to the under-reported history with the Maroon revolts in Jamaica; not to mention the Raj in India, and the dispute over Hong Kong with China, Britain has so much to unpack in terms of explanations and the call for reparations, and redress.
As Barbados did just last November, other countries in the Commonwealth realm are seriously considering removing the British monarchy as head of state. England is fully aware too that in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, nationalism is always an undercurrent.
Despite the 24-hours news cycle showing current British pomp and circumstance, the calls for recompense have once again come to the surface.
Last week Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos felt the need to try and publicly chastise Nigerian-born Carnegie Mellon Professor Uju Anya over a tweet where she refused to empathize over the passing of a queen she said reigned over the massacre of Igbo civilians in Nigeria.
A petition in support of the educator has garnered a reported 4,000 signatures.
In an email sent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Dr. Anya said that she and siblings were survivors of British genocide in Nigeria. “From 1967-1970, more than 3 million civilians were massacred when the Igbo people of Nigeria tried to form the independent nation of Biafra…Those slaughtered included members of my family. I was born in the immediate aftermath of this genocide.
“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,” said no holds-barred South African activist Julius Sello Malema. The founder and head of the Economic Freedom Fighters party said he would not be mourning but addressing Britain’s colonial past under Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
As Britain has benefitted for centuries from the evil trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Malema added that the British gave the nod to Cecil John Rhodes in Zimbabwe.
“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.” The current Member of Parliament continued, “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, which were and still are utilized for the enrichment of the British royal family and those who look like them.”
As if that was not sufficient Malema noted, “It was the British royal family that benefited from the brutal mutilation of people of Kenya whose valiant resistance to British colonialism invited vile responses from Britain.” He added, “In Kenya, Britain built concentration camps and suppressed with such inhumane brutality the Mau Mau rebellion, killing Dedan Kimathi on February 18, 1957, while Elizabeth was already Queen.”
Meanwhile, across the world, many nations have been paying tribute to the 96-year-old monarch. President Joseph Biden described her as “a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Queen Elizabeth embodied a profound, sincere commitment to her duties, observed Harvard Professor Maya Jasanoff. “She was a fixture of stability, and her death in already turbulent times will send ripples of sadness around the world.”
But we should not romanticize her era, Jasanoff cautioned. “For the queen was also an image: the face of a nation that, during the course of her reign, witnessed the dissolution of nearly the entire British Empire into some 50 independent states and significantly reduced global influence.”
Britain “lost an empire, and [has] not yet found a role,” commented American statesman Dean Acheson. The deep and painful traumas and confusions that the loss of empire produced helped many years later to produce Brexit, and enduring and dangerous British fantasies about playing the role of a great power on the world stage.
Others showed little sympathy for the fallen empire and demanded amends for colonial-era crimes. Dr. Anya had the sharpest criticism of the queen. The Nigerian-born professor wrote, “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.”
“I guess it depends what you think a good job of being queen is,” opined Birmingham City University Professor Kehinde Andrews of British African Caribbean heritage. “So, if a good job of being queen is to represent white supremacy and to represent that link to colonialism, then, yeah, I think she’s done a very good job.”
“Let us remember,” added University of Cambridge professor Priya Gopal, “that when she became queen at Treetops [Hotel] in Kenya, Britain had just commenced a brutal, vicious insurgency that carried on for several years. In recent years, we have had Kenyans who were tortured by the British raise lawsuits, successfully in some cases, around the vicious violence of the British state at that point.
“I do wonder whether we actually live in a deeply different world,” she continued. “We live in a world where formally the British crown is no longer an imperial crown, but Elizabeth II was, in a sense, obsessed with the Commonwealth, made sure that Charles III would also be head of the Commonwealth.
“I think, as Maya just suggested, much of that order has not changed.”
Gopal said she found herself appreciating the circumstances in which Elizabeth passed—good medical care, in a secure shelter in a place she loved. But how many British retirees would have the same easeful passing this winter? She answered her own question. “I think many will be in insecure housing, without heat, potentially without food, and certainly without access to good medical care.”
Painfully ironic perhaps, given Britain’s support of the South African Apartheid regime, amid the strait-laced protocols of the position, the Queen enjoyed one rare privilege—a relationship on a first name basis with late President Nelson Mandela.
The exchanges between these two world-renown figures were warm, recalls this statement of the Mandela Foundation.
“They spoke frequently on the phone, calling each other by their respective first names as a sign of mutual respect and affection,” said the statement, issued the day after the British monarch died.
“In the years following his release from prison, he cultivated a close bond with the Queen,” the text said. “He received her in South Africa and visited her in England, not shying away from exploring Buckingham Palace.”
He also gave the Queen the nickname “Motlalepula”—“come with the rain”—after a state visit in 1995, when Elizabeth arrived with torrential rain, “the like of which had not been seen for a long time.” It became a song by the world renowned artist Hugh Masekela.
The Mandela Foundation “joins the multitude around the world in saying +hamba kahle+ (go in peace) to the Queen.”
However, mutually polite or not, chances are her successor son Charles will find himself immediately navigating a host of the 14 Commonwealth nations seriously contemplating releasing themselves from the grip Britain has held over them for centuries/decades.
“In responses from our readers, they have said they are not lowering flags outside of their establishments, and they will not be watching the memorial services,” writer and author Debert Cook told the Amsterdam News. The U.S.-based, living and working Ghana publisher of African American Golfer’s Digest added, “Instead, they cite the ill monetary gains of her country from stolen African jewels and relics to natural resources, slavery, and other atrocities.”
“The Queen’s passing should represent the end of the African Oppression Era,” said Ogugua Iwelu, the African cultural architect with the Afromonic Group. “Africans globally must unite.”“For the Edo people in diaspora and those back home, the passing of the Queen in the year where the largest number of artifacts looted from Benin Kingdom during the British invasion of 1897 is repatriated is significant,” said cultural activist Richard Iyasere a.k.a. DaddyRich. “We do not pretend to mourn her passing, neither do we rejoice over her demise. Indeed, for over eight decades, there have been calls for the return of artifacts looted by the British, it was only in 2022 that the largest amount of the artifact looted was formally returned back to Benin. It is significant that the deceased Queen never made an official statement regarding the return of the artifact nor did she comment on the unprecedented brutality and injustice of the actions of the British soldiers during the invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897. However, what is certain is that her death in the same year that the largest number of artifacts was returned back to Nigeria, and to the Benin Monarch who holds the artifacts in trust for the Edo people is significant, and this is no coincidence.”