Queen Elizabeth’s death has elicited varying emotions in Africa. Some leaders have mourned the passing of Britain's longest-serving monarch while critics have slammed her colonial legacy. The critics, mainly from South Africa and Kenya, took the opportunity to excoriate the queen and everything she stood for.
I find it disgusting and embarrassing that these people waited for Queen Elizabeth to die to call her a ‘thief’ who presided over theft from foreign lands. There are three reasons I do not support these attacks. One, she struggled to keep and sustain the image and place of the monarch in British history. She protected and defended the royal family and was a symbol of unity for commonwealth nations.
Two, in African tradition, we do not blame the dead unless it is someone guilty of unspeakable crimes. We speak of the spirits of the dead being manifested in our African religions, languages, attitudes, and practices. The dead are to be feared since, if one does not comply with the customs, then he or she is haunted. Let the queen rest peacefully and let it be.
Third, Africa is not poor because Britain presided over colonialism and the queen carried such burdens. We are poor because we lack the pedigree to develop ourselves. Instead, Africans must be thankful to colonialism because it brought to the continent order, bureaucracy, morality, and laid foundation for development. If you doubt this, just look at how most African countries have fared after independence. Colonialism was both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most African countries.
Not long ago, I argued that the worst mistake in Kenyan history was when we got independence. Because with the exit of colonialism, entered the ugly phase of history marked with continuous vices of nepotism, corruption, dictatorship and all the post-colonial evils that have come to dominate our public sphere. Kenya has endured the bitter experience of being ruled by regimes that have shown scant respect for human rights, the rule of law, social justice, transparency, accountability and other trends of democracy.
The British laid the foundation of our cities. In the 1970s, Nairobi, Nyeri, Nakuru and Mombasa were the cleanest, reputable and well organised cities in the region. Now they are in ruins, rusty, infested with slums and prostitution and all we see is apathy, hopelessness and despondency. Colonial rule was orderly, organised, responsive, selfless and tribeless. The colonial state had a vision for development. Enter newly independent African states; gloomy, self-centred, and indeed, the worst mistake in African history.
The queen is dead. She stood up for her great nation that single-handedly conquered almost the entire world. Let's therefore stop blaming the queen or former colonial masters. We are responsible for our own mess. Redressing past wrongs is essential to establishing conditions of justice in a society.
Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University