Britain’s colonial legacy draws debate in former colonies ahead of coronation
The Saturday coronation of King Charles III has ignited debate in some of Britain’s former colonies in Africa.
Some have expressed excitement while others say it is a sad day that reminds them of Britain’s colonial legacy.
“For us, as South Africans, obviously this is not something to marvel about or to be excited or happy about. It’s actually sadness because right now the country is reeling from much of the colonial legacy of the British era.” Kealeboga Maphunye, a professor of African politics at the University of South Africa (UNISA) told Anadolu.
He said from 1910 and beyond, the British collaborated with Afrikaners to loot the resources of South Africa through its colonial legacy.
“So, on that scope alone, many South Africans, and even Africans across the continent, will not be happy,” said Maphunye. “One would perhaps be excited about the coronation if King Charles III were to make a significant imprint (announcement) on Saturday or after the coronation about the issue of Britain paying reparations for its colonial legacy of looting of mineral resources from former colonies.”
He said: “As we speak, I’m told the monarch will be carrying the stuff (the royal scepter) which has one of our diamonds from South Africa.”
South African activists have been demanding that the UK return the world’s largest diamond, the Great Star of Africa, which is kept with other jewels in the Tower of London.
They claim that the gem — the world’s largest cut colorless diamond, which is mounted on a royal scepter, is a cultural artifact that was seized by British colonial troops.
The gemstone discovered in South Africa in 1905 weighs 530 carats. It is set in the royal scepter that Charles will hold at his coronation.
Maphunye said although Africans will be excited about the pomp of ceremony, many will be disappointed about the fact that once again there is a monarch and yet the most outstanding issue between Britain and its former colonies is that the colonial legacy has not been effectively addressed.
“We would not only need reparations but also an apology about the adverse effects of this colonial legacy on the African continent,” said Maphunye.
Johannesburg businessman Mohammed Ali believes the African continent is poor because of the effects of colonialism.
“They refer to us today as third world countries because most countries on the continent are poor due to the mineral resources colonialists looted. They are rich because of us and should now return what they looted,” he said.
Several African heads of state, mainly from Commonwealth countries, are in London for the coronation.
In Kenya, some expressed resentment when asked how they felt about the coronation. Others were looking forward to celebrations.
“It’s hard to feel excited about the coronation when you think about what the British did to our country. They stole our land, our resources, and our dignity. Why should we celebrate their king?” said Francis Ndirangu, a 52-year-old businessman in the capital, Nairobi.
Esther Wanjiku, a 29-year-old activist, shares the sentiment. “The British monarchy represents all of the pain and suffering that our people endured under their rule. It’s a shame that we still have to deal with the legacy of colonialism in our country.”
Naomi Wambui, a 36-year-old teacher is looking forward to the coronation. ”I will definitely watch the coronation. It’s not every day that a new king is crowned. This is history in the making,” she said.
Wycliffe Omenda, a 41-year-old university history lecturer said he sees the coronation as an opportunity to witness history and celebrate tradition.
Nigerian college teacher and expert on African values, Segun Adeoye, told Anadolu that Britain’s history of colonialism robbed Africans of their culture which he said is regrettable.
Adeoye said the colonists foisted British culture on Nigerians and made them assume their African culture was inferior.
Victor Izekor, a retired journalist said he is unhappy with the invasion of Benin Kingdom, his homeland in southern Nigeria, by British forces in 1897 and carting away artifacts.
“They love their British tradition but they came to destroy ours; quite sad,” he said.
-Nothing wrong with celebrating
Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a professor at Uganda’s Makerere University, told Anadolu there is nothing wrong with Ugandans celebrating with the British for the coronation.
“That is a mere celebration, then why don’t Ugandans join them in their celebrations? There is nothing wrong with the African leaders going to attend the ceremony. Many African countries are members of the commonwealth so they have some attachment with the UK,” he said.
Peter Adiga a businessman in the capital, Kampala, said although the British are blamed by some Ugandans for colonizing them, they found them when they were reportedly backward and they brought civilization and development.
Harold Acema, a Ugandan-based retired diplomat and political analyst, said Charles’ commitment to climate change and the environment is commendable.
“I hope he will continue to play a key role in international efforts to address problems of the environment, climate change and global warming,” he said.
As titular Head of the Commonwealth, they expect him to carry on with the legacy of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, he said.
Noting that many in Africa will watch the coronation on television, he said: “The British monarch is relevant for African countries as Head of the Commonwealth.”
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