King Charles's Kenya visit and role of monarchies in digital age


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

“The British know what they did to the Kenyan people. We are here to undo the work King Charles III did during his visit.” Those are the words of controversial South African politician Julius Malema when he landed in Kenya shortly after King Charles and Queen Camilla's visit to the country.

Malema's statement came hot on the heels of hashtags like #notmyking and #queening, which dominated social media in Kenya during the royal visit. The question many are asking following the apparent indifference by many Kenyans to the king’s and queen’s visit is: Is monarchy still relevant in this day and age?

Historically, kingdoms were deeply rooted in family dynasties, with communities forming around geographic regions, where the ruler, whether a king, queen, or another authoritative figure, was the focal point of authority. However, the decentralised nature of power and information in our modern world challenges these traditional models of governance.

The names and titles associated with monarchs hold a rich historical significance, embodying tradition, heritage, and continuity. Kings and queens were once considered representatives of higher beings, responsible for maintaining moral order. While the “divine” right of kings may no longer be prevalent, these titles remain as symbols of bygone eras.

Do we still require these symbols of authority, or have they become obsolete in a world that values individualism, democracy, and digital connectivity? Do people still acknowledge and respect traditional authorities or if the very concept of kings and queens has lost its lustre?

These questions are important, especially considering that governance structures among countries have also changed substantially. The structures of national governments and their budgets, once the bedrock of statecraft, are now under scrutiny.

Citizens demand transparency, accountability, and results, challenging the core of these institutions. The debate over the cost of governance is heated, with many pondering the efficiency of traditional forms of government, particularly in a world where digital innovations and technology reshape the landscape.

While the idea of governing without rules or a societal structure may seem alluring, it is far from practical. Human society has evolved in a way that necessitates governance for maintaining order, protecting rights, and fostering the common good. Rules and regulations are indispensable for societal cohesion, whether they are implemented by traditional governments or adapted to the digital age.

In this digital age, the world is transcending borders at an unprecedented pace. Digital advancements have blurred the lines of nationality, fostering a global society that goes beyond geographical constraints. While this transformation challenges traditional governance concepts, it simultaneously opens doors to international cooperation and problem-solving.

The relevance of traditional kingdoms and governance structures emains a subject of ongoing debate. The names, titles, and symbols tied to these systems hold historical significance, but their practicality is increasingly questioned in an era characterised by individualism, digital technology, and shifting values.

Ms Nyaanga is a Rome-based governance, risk, and compliance expert