King Charles and Queen Camilla arrive in Kenya for four-day state visit

Royals embark on programme of activities amid focus on British colonial-era abuse

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King Charles III and Queen Camilla have arrived in Kenya for his first visit as monarch to a former British colony, where he plans to acknowledge "painful aspects" of a shared history that featured almost seven decades of colonial rule.

The couple, who arrived in the East African country overnight, were received by President William Ruto in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday morning.

The king plans to meet entrepreneurs from Kenya's bustling tech scene and tour wildlife sites. The couple will also travel to the south-eastern port city of Mombasa.

Many Kenyans, however, are most focused on what King Charles will say about colonial-era abuse, including torture, killings and widespread expropriation of land, much of which still belongs to British citizens and companies.

The most contentious period of British rule of the country came during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau revolt in central Kenya.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has estimated 90,000 of its citizens were killed or maimed and 160,000 detained during the uprising.

The UK government has previously expressed regret for abuse during this period, known by Kenyans as "the emergency", and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of almost £20 million ($24.3 million) in 2013.

The royal couple will tour a new national history museum, visit the site where independence was declared in 1963 and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

"His majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

The visit comes as other former colonies are re-evaluating their ties to the monarchy and demanding that Britain does more to reckon with its colonial past.

In 2021, Barbados ditched Queen Elizabeth as head of state to become a republic, and Jamaica has signalled it may do the same.

King Charles, then heir to the throne, surprised many at last year's summit of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of countries that evolved from the British Empire, by acknowledging the role of slavery role in the organisation's roots.

Many citizens of former British colonies want the king to go further by directly apologising and endorsing reparations.

In Kenya, those include the Nandi people, whose leader Koitalel Arap Samoie led a decade-long rebellion until he was assassinated by a British colonel in 1905. In the ensuing years, the British confiscated most of their land and cattle.

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Samoie's great-grandson Kipchoge Araap Chomu credited the British with contributions in education and public health but said historical injustice must be remedied.

"We have to demand public apology from the government of the British because of the atrocities they meted on us," he said. "After apologies, we also expect a reparation."

Updated: October 31, 2023, 3:31 PM