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What King Charles, Camilla's visit triggers in most Kenyans

Britain's King Charles III and Queen Camilla at the Sheldrick elephant Orphanage in Nairobi National Park during their visit to the country on November 1, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

This has been the King's week, the longest a monarch has stayed in Kenya. Without doubt, most of the glamour of the monarchy ended with Queen Elizabeth.

While King Charles is trying, there is a panache and elegance that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip displayed that cannot be replicated. King Charles espouses an admirable casualness, but it robs him of royalty.

As they depart, there are three reflections that have occupied my mind during their weeklong visit. The first is the Queen Camilla factor. If one is searching for evidence that true love triumphs, Charles and Camilla is it.

Even those like me who adored Princess Di and blamed Charles for her untimely death, must covertly admire the way these two have nurtured their love for one another through the years, amid scandal, pain and loss. I say this not to celebrate the betrayal each of them occasioned on their spouses, but to say that above all the gloom that often surrounds marriages of the rich and famous, these two appear to complete each other, and appear unbothered by the historical gossip that accompanies their union. That is the romantic me.

My second reflection is on King Charles' "apology" for the misdeeds of his ancestors during Kenya's fight for independence. The statement made by the King at State House was not the first time he has expressed regret for that dark portion of England's past. For those unaware of the extent of that darkness, Caroline Elkin's Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of the Empire in Kenya is a must read. My own view is that the sign of true repentance is the willingness to recompense for the sins apologised for.

There can never be money enough to compensate for the losses of life, limb and property that colonialism caused Kenya and Africa in general.

Some of the self-hate, selfishness, sleaze, destructive materialism, and other national ailments we exhibit are a direct product of that long season. The imposition of a colonial government that was cannibalistic and which citizens were accordingly required to deceive and pilfer from as a patriotic duty has defined the relationship between government and citizen to date.

The destruction of identity that colonialism cost us has produced a lost and directionless African. While we have a duty to pull ourselves up from wherever we were left by our departing colonials, Africa requires reparations as a matter of right, not pity, to enable us deal with some of the more extreme manifestations of the challenges bequeathed on us.

King Charles should lobby for a Royal Commission to evaluate the best ways for Britain to truly recompense those it so severely damaged in this part of the world.

My final reflection concerns our inability to celebrate fully and properly those that have made Kenya what it is today. The King's visit brings to mind our sad and unfortunate history of the war for independence and the betrayals that took place thereafter.

Their impact remains to date. It is a fact of history that soon after independence, many of the spoils of the new government were collected by persons who had betrayed their fellow Kenyans and worked for and with the colonials. While there were some true fighters for freedom who got a piece of the spoils, many were taken by "home guards". These people had the benefit of some resources which those that had been in the war could not muster.

Many had taken their children to school as the war raged. These children could take up the jobs and opportunities available at independence. Many had connections with the departing colonials.

They were therefore able to get the head start that has enabled them stay ahead of the game years after independence. In the villages many of the freedom fighters lost their lands to the home guards.

The land law passed during the transition protected first registrations of land, even where such registration was obtained by fraud. That tragic part of our history comes alive when events like this week happen. One hopes that as we celebrate our 60th birthday, we will attempt to undo some of the more extreme expressions of that betrayal.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya