Queen When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, millions of people around the world became her subjects, many of them reluctantly. The death of the Queen has caused mixed feelings in the former colonies of the British Empire today.
Beyond official messages of condolence to the queen’s long life and services, there is a rage about the past in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and other colonies.
It turns to slavery, to corporal punishment in African schools, to looted artifacts preserved in British institutions, in short, to the legacy of colonialism. For many, the queen came to represent all of this during her 70-year reign.
“Many of our elders were under pressure”
Alice Mugo, a lawyer in Kenya, who learned that young Elizabeth’s father had died and she was queen, shared a photo of a faded document from 1956 on social media. It belongs to the period when the empire reacted harshly to the Mau Mau rebellion that started against the colonial rule, four years before the Queen’s accession to the throne.
In the document it says “Move permission”. The fact that others, like Mugo’s grandmother, were able to move from place to place while 100,000 Kenyans were huddled in the camp in brutal conditions was subject to the British’s permission.
“Most of our elders were under pressure,” Mugo wrote in a social media post on Thursday, hours after the queen died. “I can’t mourn”.
As a result of the elections held in Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who was preparing to step down from the presidency where he had been sitting for 10 years, ignored past problems like other African leaders and described the queen as “the most iconic figure of the 20th and 21st centuries”. Uhuru Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, was imprisoned while the queen ruled before he became the country’s first president in 1964.
“Common prosperity was never shared”
During Elizabeth’s reign, many African nations from Ghana to Zimbabwe, as well as many nations in the Caribbean Islands and the Arabian Peninsula, gained their independence.
Some historians view Elizabeth as helping her mostly peaceful transition from the empire to the Commonwealth, where she voluntarily united the 56 historically and linguistically tied nations. But to some, the queen also represents a nation that inhumanely treats the peoples she rules.
Anger comes from the people in the street. Some call for apologies for abuses such as slavery, while others pursue more concrete expectations.
Bert Samuels, member of the Jamaica National Reparations Council, criticizes the Commonwealth, which stands for “Commonwealth”. “The common wealth of these nations, this wealth belongs to England. This prosperity was never shared,” he says.
Middle East and Cyprus
There are few signs of mourning, sadness, or even interest in the death of the queen in the Middle East. Many blame Britain for colonial activities that marked the borders in the region and laid the groundwork for modern conflicts.
On Saturday, Hamas-controlled Gaza administrators called on King Charles III to “correct” the decisions taken under the British mandate that suppressed the Palestinians.
In ethnically divided Cyprus, too, many Greeks remember the four-year ‘guerrilla war’ against colonial rule in the late 1950s and the hanging of nine people by the British authorities.
Yiannis Spanos, President of EOKA (The National Organization of Cypriot Warriors), “many hold the queen responsible for the tragedies on the island”.
Now with the death of the queen there are new efforts to talk about or hide her colonial past.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, which goes much further than the situation in the colonial period and even surpasses England in economic size, is trying to change the names and symbols from the colonial period.
“In today’s world, there is a place for kings and queens, because we are the largest democratic country in the world,” says entrepreneur Dhiren Singh, 57, from New Delhi.
“Seen as the mother of the world”
Some sympathize with Elizabeth for her upbringing and the period in which she fell.
In Kenya, resident of the capital Nairobi, Max Kahindi remembers with “great pain” the Mau Mau revolt in which many elders were arrested or killed, but he believes that the queen was “a very young woman, and someone else was in charge of British affairs at that time”
Ugandan political scientist Timothy Kalyegira says there is a “spiritual connection” between the colonial experience in some African countries and the Commonwealth. With this bond, Kalyegira describes the death of the queen as “a moment of pain and nostalgia”.
The Queen’s dignified stance and age, and the centrality of English in global affairs, soften some of the criticism. Kalyegira explains this by saying, “The Queen was seen more like the mother of the world.”
“The Queen did not apologize for slavery”
In Jamaica, on the other hand, there is a different mood. Because the country announced its desire to leave the British Commonwealth and become a completely independent republic to the heirs of the throne, William and Kate, during their visit to the island.
Jamaican activist Nadeen Spencer finds that feelings towards the queen are different for older and younger Jamaicans. For her generation, the queen “was a benevolent queen and took care of us,” but the young people don’t think so.
What caught Spencer’s attention the most is that the queen never apologized for slavery”.