Britain's King Charles used his state visit to Kenya to speak of the “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” committed against Kenyans during their fight for independence from Britain, but stopped short of an apology.
At the banquet in his honour, King Charles spoke of the “greatest sorrow” and “deepest regret” for the “wrongdoings” of the past, a period when Britain’s colonial administration violently put down Kenya’s battle for self-rule.
His “exemplary courage” in shedding light on “uncomfortable truths” was praised by Kenyan President William Ruto, who said the colonial reaction to African struggles was “monstrous in its cruelty”.
Mr Ruto said that “much remains to be done in order to achieve full reparations”.
Kenya’s uprising, commonly known as the Mau Mau rebellion, was an armed movement that began in the early 1950s.
It was fuelled by the resentment some members of the Kikuyu tribe felt towards their British rulers, European settlers who farmed land in Kenya and a lack of political representation.
White farmers were targets of violent attacks, as were Kikuyu said to have collaborated with the authorities during the unrest known as the Emergency.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission has claimed 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the British administration’s counter-insurgency.
“It is the intimacy of our shared history that has brought our people together," King Charles, speaking after Mr Ruto, told the 350 banquet guests at the President’s official residence in the capital Nairobi.
“However, we must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship.
“The wrongdoings of the past are a cause of the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret.
“There were as they waged, as you said at the United Nations, a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty, and for that there can be no excuse.
“In coming back to Kenya, it matters greatly to me that I should deepen my own understanding of these wrongs, and that I meet some of those whose lives and communities were so grievously affected.”
The king and Queen Camilla spent the first full day of their five-day state visit acknowledging the sacrifices of Kenyans.
King Charles laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens National Monument and Museum.
The tomb recognises Kenya’s fallen heroes, military and civilian, and his floral tribute had a handwritten note which read: “In grateful remembrance – Charles R”.
The king and queen were also given a preview of the Mashujaa Museum, due to open next year, shortly after Kenya celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence on December 12.
It tells Kenya’s national story and contains a Tunnel of Martyrs, which the royal couple walked down, chronicling the independence struggle and those who fell fighting for it, as well as those killed in recent terrorist attacks.
In 2013, the British government made a statement of regret over the “torture and other forms of ill treatment” perpetrated by the colonial administration during Kenya’s Emergency period of 1952-1960.
It paid £19.9 million to about 5,200 Kenyans for human rights abuses.
The development came after a legal battle between some elderly victims and the British government.
“If colonialism was brutal and atrocious to African people, colonial reaction to African struggles for sovereignty and self-rule was monstrous in its cruelty," Mr Ruto said in his address
“It culminated in the Emergency, which intensified the worst excesses of colonial impunity and the indiscriminate victimisation of Africans.
“While there have been efforts to atone for the death, injury and suffering inflicted on Kenyan Africans by the colonial government, much remains to be done in order to achieve full reparations.”