King Charles’ go to to Kenya this week is the British monarch’s first to a Commonwealth nation since his coronation in September 2022. The go to comes in the course of the nation’s sixtieth anniversary of independence from Britain.
By selecting Kenya, the British authorities and monarchy search to focus on the significance they attribute to the east African nation. It additionally exhibits different Commonwealth members that it’s potential for a republic to have a optimistic relationship with Britain. Some Commonwealth states like Jamaica are considering eradicating the king as head of state.
King Charles’ go to is supposed to rejoice the nice and cozy relationship between the 2 international locations. It can even acknowledge the extra painful facets of the UK and Kenya’s shared historical past.
The relationship with Kenya stays certainly one of Britain’s extra optimistic post-colonial relationships. However, there have been requires Britain to apologise and make reparations for its brutal suppression of freedom fighters. People in Kenya, Britain and different former colonies shall be watching intently to see what the king has to say.
I’m a historian who has studied and written concerning the political relationship between Britain and Kenya within the many years after independence. In my view, the connection has taken a optimistic tilt since independence for 3 causes. These are: the alternatives of Kenya’s first impartial president; diplomatic, financial and ideological alignments; and navy ties.
Kenya and Britain’s historical past
Kenya grew to become a British colony within the late nineteenth century. A small minority of white British settlers held virtually the entire political and financial energy. The British authorities deliberate to make Kenya a “multi-racial” state. The small white European and Asian populations of 55,700 and 176,600 folks, respectively, would have equal or extra energy than the black majority of 8.3 million. Only in 1960 did the British authorities settle for that Kenya ought to have majority rule and independence.
Independence celebrations in 1963 had been preceded by a tough interval of negotiation and violence. A state of emergency was declared in 1952 in response to the Mau Mau rebellion. This was an armed riot amongst certainly one of Kenya’s main tribes, the Kikuyu, preventing for land and freedom.
The emergency lasted till 1960. Over this era, hundreds of Kenyans had been killed, and tens of hundreds had been detained in camps with out trial. The camps grew to become websites of violence and abuse.
With this previous, an in depth post-colonial relationship between Kenya and Britain can seem shocking. It was anticipated that Kenya would flip away from Britain and in direction of different worldwide companions, such because the US or the Soviet Union.
Instead, the connection has largely been shut and pleasant, with commerce advantages, alignment on vital points and robust navy ties.
Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, had been imprisoned by Britain as a frontrunner of the Mau Mau. But as soon as he took management, he opted to work primarily with Britain.
Kenyatta noticed the advantages he might get from this relationship. These included monetary and navy backing in the course of the Cold War, and private backing. In 1965, Britain made plans to guard Kenyatta if a coup was tried.
British officers had been shocked however happy by Kenyatta’s place. They had many pursuits in Kenya, starting from commerce to diplomacy. One key curiosity was Kenya’s white European and Asian populations who held British passports. To assist obtain their safety, the British authorities financed the acquisition of their land, which might then be bought to Kenyans. Before independence, many in Kenya had hoped for land redistribution. Instead, European settlers obtained monetary advantages.
For many years after independence, Britain was Kenya’s main financial associate. Currently, Britain is the most important European investor in Kenya and Kenya’s second-largest export vacation spot. There are greater than 200 British companies working in Kenya.
The British and Kenyan governments have broadly aligned on worldwide diplomatic points just like the Cold War, and later the “struggle on terror”. There had been some exceptions, and the Kenyan authorities did criticise British insurance policies in direction of white rule in Rhodesia and apartheid in South Africa. But in personal the connection remained cordial.
Military ties have been particularly shut. Britain stays a coaching associate. The royal go to contains assembly Kenyan marines skilled by British marines.
Britain has additionally bought arms to Kenya and offered help to arrange a navy and air pressure after independence.
After independence, many African international locations expelled their British navy commanders to exchange them with Africans. Kenya below Jomo Kenyatta selected to maintain British commanders. The Kenyan military was led by a British officer till 1966, the navy till 1972 and the air pressure till 1973.
Most necessary for Britain is that its navy is allowed to coach in Kenya. This permits them to practise in numerous and tough terrains.
Closeness regardless of challenges
The relationship between the 2 nations since independence has not all the time been clean, nonetheless.
In 1967-68, Kenya elevated insurance policies that discriminated towards Kenyan Asians. The 1967 Immigration Act and 1968 Trade Licensing Act, as an illustration, meant non-citizens (together with many Asians) wanted work permits. This led to the immigration to Britain of 13,600 east African Asians in 1967.
The British authorities then handed laws to restrict their proper to enter the UK regardless of their holding British passports.
After Ugandan president Idi Amin expelled the Asian inhabitants in 1972 – about 40,000 Asian Ugandans moved to the UK – Britain provided assist to Kenya to make sure it didn’t observe an analogous coverage.
In 1982, after the Kenya Air Force tried a coup, many in Kenya’s elite grew to become suspicious of Britain’s goals within the nation.
Since independence, some in Kenya have questioned why British troops nonetheless prepare within the nation. The killing in 2012 of a Kenyan girl, Agnes Wanjiru, seemingly by British troopers, exacerbated these grumblings.
The concern of the Mau Mau has additionally been a supply of latest stress.
Kenya has repeatedly requested for archive recordsdata associated to the Mau Mau, which the British authorities denied having. These recordsdata had been solely acknowledged and launched after 2011.
In 2013, the British authorities lastly acknowledged that the federal government had recognized about and been complicit in torture and violence in the course of the emergency, and victims can be paid compensation of £19.9 million. The then international secretary William Hague acknowledged:
The British authorities sincerely regrets that these abuses came about.
Despite moments of stress, the 2 governments have all the time sought to dispel difficulties. The king’s go to, as an illustration, is on the invitation of Kenya’s president William Ruto. Ruto made his first abroad go to as president to the UK for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in September 2022.
Over six many years, the challenges which have arisen haven’t been sufficient to derail the connection.
Poppy Cullen doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.