King Charles III gives a speech at a State Banquet hosted by President Ruto at State House, along with distinguished guests from Kenya and the United Kingdom on October 31, 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya.

King Charles III gives a speech at a State Banquet hosted by President Ruto at State House, along with distinguished guests from Kenya and the United Kingdom on October 31, 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage.

King Charles Acknowledges Wrongdoings During Kenya Visit

Amid calls for the British monarch to apologize for its colonial past, King Charles III urges for honesty and healing, as Kenya nears 60th anniversary of independence.

King Charles III, on his state visit to Kenya, acknowledged the "abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans" during their struggle for independence. During a state banquet in Nairobi on Tuesday evening, the king addressed the "wrongdoings" of Britain's colonial era, expressing his "greatest sorrow and regret" and emphasizing that there could be "no excuse."

While Charles did not deliver a formal apology, as this would need to be decided by government ministers, his remarks received praise from Kenya's President William Ruto. President Ruto commended the king's courage in addressing these "uncomfortable truths," and emphasized that much remains to be done to achieve full reparations for the impacts of colonial rule.

The king's state visit to Kenya marked a significant moment, as it is his first to a Commonwealth and an African country since the beginning of his reign. It also coincides with Kenya's upcoming 60th anniversary of independence in December.

In a strongly-worded speech at the state banquet hosted by President Ruto, Charles candidly addressed the "most painful moments" of the complex historical relationship between the two nations. He stressed the importance of deepening his own understanding of past wrongs, and connecting with those whose lives and communities were grievously affected.

Charles added, "None of this can change the past. But by addressing our history with honesty and openness, we can, perhaps, demonstrate the strength of our friendship today. And, in so doing, we can, I hope, continue to build an ever-closer bond for the years ahead."

Buckingham Palace had announced earlier this year that Charles intended to "deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered" by Kenyans during colonial rule. The king expressed his hope to meet those affected by colonial abuses, and to continue building a stronger bond between the two nations. The Kenya Human Rights Commission had urged him to make an "unequivocal public apology," and provide reparations for colonial-era atrocities.

In 2013, Britain agreed to compensate over 5,000 Kenyans who suffered abuse during the Mau Mau rebellion, reaching a deal worth nearly £20 million. The Mau Mau rebellion was one of the bloodiest insurgencies of the British empire, resulting in the deaths of at least 10,000 people, primarily from the Kikuyu tribe.

However, the absence of a formal apology on this trip has disappointed some Kenyans, like David Ngasura of the Kenyan Talai clan, who had sought an apology and reparations from the royal family. Concerns about legal liability have been raised, but survivors of colonial abuse argue that an apology would facilitate healing and closure.

Charles, who, in his banquet speech, delivered a robust acknowledgment of the historical complexities in the relationship, highlighted that addressing history with honesty and openness could strengthen the friendship between Britain and Kenya.

The significance of this visit is not lost on the British royal family, as it is Charles's fourth visit to Kenya, and the country holds special memories, including being the location where the Prince of Wales proposed to Kate Middleton. Moreover, it was the place where his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, visited as a princess and left as a queen following her father's passing in 1952.