During his visit to Kenya until Friday, the British sovereign acknowledged “appalling acts of violence” committed against Kenyans during their struggle for independence. However, within civil society, many were hoping for more concrete commitments.
King Charles III, who arrived in Kenya on Monday night, addressed the issue of colonial abuses on Tuesday, stating that there could be “no excuse” for “heinous and unjustifiable acts of violence.” He explained that these past actions filled him with “profound regret.” Even before his arrival, several voices had called for apologies and reparations for human rights violations committed by British colonists.
“Our demands have not been met, and that is disappointing. Mere expressions of regret are not enough. Acknowledging what happened, and then what? Nothing,” lamented Wanjira Wanjiru, coordinator of the Mathare Center for Social Justice in a Nairobi slum. “We wanted King Charles to clearly say, ‘I apologize for what your people endured.’ That would have compelled the British to make amends for Kenyans because we want to see real change.”
Joel Kimutai Bosek prefers to focus on the next step: reparations. He represents communities in western Kenya seeking compensation for the land they claim was unlawfully seized by colonists. He appreciates the regrets expressed by the king. “Coming from the king, I believe this speech was a gesture of goodwill. He’s not just any British citizen; he’s the sovereign, the head of state. It’s highly symbolic and, to me, a step forward to help those who have suffered move toward some form of reconciliation. He has opened a new chapter,” he opined.
Even though apologies were anticipated, offering them may risk opening the door to numerous legal proceedings, both in Kenya and in other Commonwealth countries.