Africans Say Goodbye to Queen Who Led Britain into Post-Colonial Era

Condolence messages on the death of Queen Elizabeth have been pouring in from Africa, where the queen made many visits during her 70-year rule.    

Elizabeth became queen while in Kenya in 1952, and her first overseas tour as monarch was in South Africa. She later helped steer Britain through the end of its colonial rule in Africa, while promoting good ties with the continent’s new countries.

The presidents of Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are among the African leaders who sent messages mourning the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died Thursday at the age of 96.  

The queen’s early years on the throne saw Britain lose its colonial empire in Africa.  

The United Kingdom at one time controlled at least 17 countries in Africa, and British rule is still associated with conflicts, forceful extraction of natural resources and land grabs.   

 

Ikemesit Effiong, a geopolitical analyst based in Lagos, Nigeria, said the queen mended her country’s post-colonial relationship with many African countries. 

“In particular, the United Kingdom have built and maintained extensive economic, political and cultural ties with much of the rest of the continent. Even though there has been more of an ambivalent attitude on the path of many African governments and for many Africans towards Europe in general since the turn of 21st century, a lot of those longstanding ties still persist,” Effiong said.

Kenya is one of the countries that Britain colonized, and then-Princess Elizabeth became queen during a visit to Kenya in 1952, when her father died while she was on safari.  

Macharia Munene, an international relations lecturer at the United States International University Africa in Kenya, said the queen’s ascension helped to accelerate self-rule in the country. 

“Then that’s the time when the country was boiling,” he said. “The Mau Mau was about to break out and the fighters kept following the events in Britain and that’s part of the reaction when the war broke out. They burned down the tree tops, hitting back at the British and then when she was being coroneted, [Kenyans] coroneted their own young girl and called her the Mau Mau Queen.”

Effiong said Queen Elizabeth took a different path than previous British leaders in dealing with Africa. 

“Queen Elizabeth was very much different in that she was the first British monarch in almost two centuries that represented disengagement,” he said, adding that she invested in a lot of monarchies’ legitimacy, such as in the Commonwealth nations associated with the cultural institutions.

The Commonwealth of Nations has 56 members, most but not all of which are former British colonies. The member states meet to strengthen relations and tackle global problems together. 

The queen visited more than 20 African countries during her rule, starting with South Africa. 

 

Munene said the queen made sure she changed the image of British rule.  

“She is the last monarch who has any connection with colonialism. As long as people talk about colonialism in Africa, there is no choice but to see her in that context as the last monarch,” he said. “She had direct colonial experience and she saw the transition from colonialism to independence, she welcomed it. She nurtured it such that the hostility that could have been there was reduced to a point where it became now embracing each other and people feeling good about the Commonwealth.” 

Speaking at the Commonwealth Summit in Rwanda this June, then-Prince Charles said he treasured the friendship Britain had built with Africa in the last 70 years, and was looking forward to deepening the relations in the years ahead. 

 

Charles, 73, takes the throne from his late mother and becomes King Charles the Third. The new king will be the head of state for the United Kingdom and 14 other countries. 

 

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