Commonwealth may change after death of Queen
Last Monday, Buckingham Palace announced the first state visit to be hosted by King Charles III, who ascended to the throne after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II last month.
From November 22 to 24, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa – whose three predecessors all visited the UK – will visit the new monarch. That the first state visit is one by a prominent member of the Commonwealth could be of pointed significance as questions arise on the future of the organisation that Charles now leads.
The new king is known to be opinionated on local and global issues, a deviation from the Queen’s stoic diplomatic takes. Before the last meeting of Commonwealth heads of state in Kigali in June, where he represented the queen, local British media reported that Charles called a deal between the UK and Rwanda – with £120 million ($135.3m) up-front payment – to send refugees on asylum there, “appalling”.
Discussion on a range of issues is expected during Ramaphosa’s visit, including trade and investment, but also possibly a new direction for the Commonwealth under Charles’s leadership.
“The visit will offer a chance to celebrate our modern-day partnerships delivering prosperity and security for both countries, as well as to set out how we can work together bilaterally and globally to strengthen those links for the future,” the palace statement read.
Indeed, the future of the Commonwealth, a political association of mostly former British colonies, has been a global debate for years, especially in the Caribbean – where the push for republicanism is increasing – and in Africa.
The queen’s death this September has reignited conversations about the multilateral institution seen as one of the legacies of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Since then, a number of Africans have been reliving the horrific experiences their kinsmen and neighbours endured under British colonial rule.
Mau Mau suffering
Evelyn Wanjiru who grew up in Nyeri, in central Kenya, was named after her grandmother who passed away at 106 in 2009. The matriarch was one of the millions who suffered pain and loss during the Mau Mau uprising between 1952 and 1960 against the British plundering of Kenyan land.
She lost an eye due to torture in concentration camps and it broke her spirit, Wanjiru said. “Any time you asked her what happened to her, she would have this sad face and you would her voice break,” the 31-year-old pastry chef told Al Jazeera.
In Zimbabwe, some older citizens blame the monarchy for botched land reforms there. In 2000, former president Robert Mugabe pursued a constitutional amendment to reallocate, without compensation, land given to white farmers during colonial times, to Black farmers.
Harare blamed London for not fulfilling a pledge to finance part of the former’s plan to purchase some of these lands. It was a deal ratified under the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979 between nationalist movements fighting for independence and authorities in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.