Reckoning with Colonial Past in Africa

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has focused global attention on the British royal family and renewed criticism of the monarchy both inside the U.K. and abroad, especially among peoples colonized by Britain. “There’s a degree of psychosis that you can go to another people’s land, colonize them, and then expect them to honor you at the same time,” says Kenyan American author Mukoma Wa Ngugi, who teaches literature at Cornell University and whose own family was deeply impacted by the bloody British suppression of the Mau Mau revolution. He says that with Queen Elizabeth’s death, there needs to be a “dismantling” of the Commonwealth and a real reckoning with colonial abuses. We also speak with Harvard historian Caroline Elkins, a leading scholar of British colonialism, who says that while it’s unclear how much Queen Elizabeth personally knew about concentration camps, torture and other abuses in Kenya during her early reign, the monarchy must reckon with that legacy. “Serious crimes happened on the queen’s imperial watch. In fact, her picture hung in every detention camp in Kenya as detainees were beaten in order to exact their loyalty to the British crown,” says Elkins.

what I’ve been thinking about over the last few days is how my family got affected — right? — got affected by British colonialism. Right? And so, yeah, in my tweet, I mentioned about my uncle, who was deaf. He couldn’t hear the soldiers, you know, the British soldiers, so they shot him. And also, my other uncle, who was in the Mau Mau, you know, in the Kenya Land and Freedom Army.

But what’s become interesting to me now is the intimacy of colonialism, right? Because I was talking with my father the other day, and he told me the story about how we also had a home guard, a loyalist, in our family, his brother — one of his brothers was a loyalist, the other one was in the Mau Mau — and how at some point they went to my grandmother’s

— source | Sep 12, 2022

Nullius in verba


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