The beginning of King Charles’s trip to Kenya was tarnished by fierce protests today as campaigners hit out at the legacy of Britain’s colonial rule.
His Majesty is set to arrive in Kenyan capital Nairobi with Queen Camilla later to start his first state visit to a Commonwealth country as King.
During his trip, the King will express his sorrow over Britain’s repression of the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s and will ‘acknowledge the more painful aspects of the United Kingdom and Kenya’s shared history’.
But in the impoverished Mathare Valley area of the city today, dozens of protesters gathered with posters and placards to make their feelings about the Royal Family clear.
One poster read ‘Kenyans denounce a brutal monarch’s visit’ and demanded that the King arrives ‘with [the] remains of Kimathi’ – a reference to the leader Mau Mau revolt.
Dedan Kimathi was executed by British troops in 1957 after being captured. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the Kenyan prison where he was hanged.
Kenyans have called for the King to intervene because they claim that only British authorities have records of the exact site of Kimathi’s burial.
The beginning of King Charles’s trip to Kenya was tarnished by fierce protests today as campaigners hit out at the legacy of Britain’s colonial rule
His Majesty is set to arrive in Kenyan capital Nairobi with Queen Camilla later this afternoon to start his first state visit to a Commonwealth country as King
Another protester held a sign that demanded the King ‘bring back our artefacts’ – an apparent reference to hundreds of historic Kenyan artefacts that are on display in the British Museum after being taken more than century ago.
On Sunday, the Kenya Human Rights Commission urged Charles to make an ‘unequivocal public apology’ and pay reparations for abuses committed by colonial authorities.
Other signs included one which read ‘return back our historical grabbed land’ and ‘down with colonization down’.
Also demanded by the protestors was the return of the remains of Kenyan tribal leader Koitalel Arap Samoei, who was assassinated in 1906 – allegedly by a British intelligence officer.
He was the leader of the Nandi people and had a role as both a spiritual figurehead and military chief.
He lead what became known as the Nandi resistance against British rule in the 1890s.
The King’s visit comes ahead of the 60th anniversary of Kenya’s independence from Britain, on December 12, 1963.
Although the two nations have enjoyed a close relationship since, the violent colonial legacy of the Mau Mau uprising remains a sore point for many.
During a period known as the ‘Emergency’ – between 1952 and 1960 – British authorities went to great lengths to repress the Mau Mau guerrilla campaign against European settlers.
Kenyan protestors are seen massed in Nairobi today to denounce the visit of King Charles
One poster read ‘Kenyans denounce a brutal monarch’s visit’ and demanded that the King arrives ‘with [the] remains of Kimathi’ – a reference to the leader Mau Mau revolt
The protestors also sang songs of liberation during the demonstration today
Furious Kenyans take part in the demonstration against the King’s visit today
Female protestors hold hand-written placards in Nairobi today as they demonstrate against the King’s visit
The protestors filled the streets of Mathare today ahead of the King’s arrival
Protestors wearing matching clothes walk through the Mathare area of Nairobi
Around 10,000 people – mainly from the Kikuyu tribe – were killed during the crackdown.
Following a years-long court battle, Britain agreed in 2013 to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered abuse during the revolt, in a deal worth nearly £20million.
William Hague, the then Foreign Secretary, said: ‘The British Government recognises that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.
‘The British Government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.
‘Torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn.’
Kenya’s human rights commission said in its statement on Sunday: ‘We call upon the King on behalf of the British government to issue an unconditional and unequivocal public apology (as opposed to the very cautious, self-preserving and protective statements of regrets) for the brutal and inhuman treatment inflicted on Kenyan citizens.’
Another lingering source of tension is the presence of British troops in Kenya.
Dedan Kimathi was executed by British troops in 1957 after being captured. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the Kenyan prison where he was hanged
During his trip, the King will express his sorrow over Britain’s repression of the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s and will ‘acknowledge the more painful aspects of the United Kingdom and Kenya’s shared history’, according to insiders. Above: British troops suppressing the uprising
British policemen hold men from the village of Kariobangi at gunpoint while their huts are searched for evidence that they participated in the Mau Mau Rebellion of 1952
Hundreds of arrested Kenyans wait to be questioned after the Mau Mau camp massacres in 1953
In August, Kenya’s parliament launched an inquiry into the activities of the British army, which has a base on the outskirts of Nanyuki, a town about 120 miles (200 kilometres) north of Nairobi.
Highlights of Charles and Camilla’s state visit include their visit to Nairobi National Park to learn about Kenya Wildlife Service’s conservation work.
Chris Fitzgerald, deputy private secretary to the King, said when his visit was first announced a few weeks ago: ‘During the visit, their majesties will meet President Ruto and the first lady as well as other members of the Kenyan government, UN staff, CEOs, faith leaders, young people, future leaders and Kenyan marines training with UK Royal Marines.’
He added: ‘The King and Queen’s programme will celebrate the close links between the British and Kenyan people in areas such as the creative arts, technology, enterprise, education and innovation.
‘The visit will also acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history, including the Emergency (1952-1960).
‘His Majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya.’
On X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Buckingham Palace’s account said today: ‘The King and Queen (Camilla) are on their way to Kenya for a four-day visit which will take in the best of the country, from its young tech entrepreneurs and creatives to its beautiful forests and coastline.’
The King and Queen will also watch Kenyan marines, trained by the Royal Marines, stage a mock covert beach landing when they visit Mtongwe naval base in Mombasa.
Kenya has a unique association with the British royal family as it is the country where Queen Elizabeth II was told of the death of her father, King George VI, and acceded to the throne.
The then princess was making an official visit with the Duke of Edinburgh to Kenya, and was staying at the Treetops hotel, a lodge deep in the Aberdare National Park, when the King died on February 6, 1952.
The late Queen made a state visit to Kenya in November 1983.
The King’s visit to Kenya is part of his mission to shore up the Commonwealth amid calls for other nations in the grouping to become republics.
Jamaica’s prime minister confirmed plans in July for his country to become a republic.
The move would follow in the footsteps of Barbados, which gave up the British monarchy in 2021.
Britain’s Kenya shame: The Mau Mau Uprising
The Mau Mau was a secret society confined almost entirely to the Kikuyu tribe who inhabited parts of the Central Highlands.
The Mau Mau uprising was a military conflict which took place in British Kenya between 1952 and 1960.
Kikuyu hostility first emerged after the First World War and developed into a political movement that was first proscribed for subversive activities in 1940.
They had suffered badly from the introduction of British colonialism in the late 19th Century and had lost grazing grounds and homesteads to white farmers, many from the British upper classes.
The Mau Mau was a secret society confined almost entirely to the Kikuyu tribe who inhabited parts of Kenya’s central highlands. Above: A Rifle Brigade patrol flanked by two former Mau Mau. The tall figure seen in the middle is Sergeant Oulton of the Kenya Regiment
Independence was not widely supported by other Africans, many of whom retained loyalty to the colonial authorities. So extremists formed the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), which became known as the Mau Mau.
As tension increased in 1952, the State of Emergency was declared in 20 October and the 1st Lancashire Battalion was sent from Egypt.
Britain dealt with the Mau Mau by seeking to confine them to the Prohibited Areas around Mount Kenya.
Various war crimes took place on both sides including the Chuka Massacre where members of King’s African Rifles B Company killed unarmed people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters. The people executed belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard — a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight the guerrillas.
British interrogation techniques also involved torture while Mau Mau militants carried out the Lari massacre where they herded Kikuyu men, women and children into huts and set fire to them.
Home Guard and a police officer escort four captured Mau Mau
According to David Anderson in Histories of the Hanged (2005), Mau Mau attacks were mostly well organised and planned – contrary to British propaganda.
He wrote: ‘the insurgents’ lack of heavy weaponry and the heavily entrenched police and Home Guard positions meant that Mau Mau attacks were restricted to nighttime and where loyalist positions were weak.
‘When attacks did commence they were fast and brutal, as insurgents were easily able to identify loyalists because they were often local to those communities themselves.
‘The Lari massacre was by comparison rather outstanding and in contrast to regular Mau Mau strikes which more often than not targeted only loyalists without such massive civilian casualties.
‘Even the attack upon Lari, in the view of the rebel commanders was strategic and specific.’