'He has no choice': King Charles to address 'horror' of Mau Mau uprising on Kenya state visit

There have been demands for King Charles III to issue an apology for Kenya's final years as a British colony, ITV News' Royal Editor Chris Ship reports

A new era for King Charles begins today after he landed in Kenya last night for his first official visit to the Commonwealth as Monarch.

An RAF plane carrying the King and Queen landed in Nairobi on Monday and the state visit will begin on Tuesday.

The King is here at the request of the British government as Kenya prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain.

But as he arrived, there have been demands for Charles III to issue an apology for what happened in Kenya in its final years as a British colony.

A Kenyan reads the Daily Nation newspaper with a portrait of Britain's King Charles III and the headline 'The Dark Past' in Nairobi. Credit: AP

The struggle to oust Britain from Kenya in the 1950s – known as the Mau Mau uprising – was met with a brutal and violent response from the British-controlled administration, which saw concentration-style camps constructed and torture inflicted on independence fighters.

The UK called the period of violence “The Emergency” and Buckingham Palace says the King will “acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history”.

Those who have studied that “painful history” and helped bring to light the torture and mistreatment of many Kenyans, will be watching this week’s visit carefully.

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Academic and author, Caroline Elkins, said in the ITV News Royal Rota podcast, that King Charles "is in a tough position in so far as he has no choice but to acknowledge this has happened".

She added: "There are going to be limitations to what he is going to be able to say around an apology."

Ms Elkins was instrumental in bringing a court case against the British government after which the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, admitted “torture and ill treatment” did take place in the prison camps and villages where colonial authorities forcibly relocated many Mau Mau sympathisers.

It’s not clear what King Charles will say about the abuses of human rights but he does have a speech at a State Banquet in Nairobi with President Ruto of Kenya where he could address the issue.

A formal apology, is unlikely however, as it carries more significant legal consequences than an expression of “regret” or of “sorrow”.

The King is very unlikely, therefore, to go further than the British government has done already.

Why have there be calls for the King to apologise? ITV News' Yasmin Bodalbhai explains

The building of “protected villages”, as the colonial administration called them, were more akin to concentration camps with wire fences and watch towers.

Residents were not allowed to leave the camps and the most hardline Mau Mau fighters were regularly beaten and tortured.

Kenya finally achieved independence from Britain in 1963 and the country is ready to mark the 60th anniversary.

King Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, was famously in Kenya on a safari at the Treetops resort when she was given the news that her own father, George VI, had died and she was now Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with guard-guide Dick Prickett at Treetops Hotel, Aberdare National Park, Kenya. Credit: PA

It means the torture of Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising happened during her reign.

King Charles and Queen Camilla will spend four days in the capital Nairobi and on the East African coast in Mombasa.

The Foreign Office is keen that the visit will strengthen economic and cultural ties between the two countries and deepen their joint efforts to combat climate change.

Senior diplomats say Kenya is an “anchor of stability” in the region.

The King and Queen will also visit a safari where wildlife experts are helping to protect elephants.

But they will not visit the Treetops resort where Charles’ mother arrived as Princess Elizabeth and departed as Queen Elizabeth II.

Once again, a major royal tour will have to address head on some of the more shameful moments of British history.

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