UK King Charles trip to Kenya chance to renew ties, officials say

Queen Consort Camilla (L) listens as King Charles III speaks during a meeting of the Accession Council inside St James’s Palace in London, UK on September 10, 2022. Photo/AFP

By The East African

The upcoming trip to Kenya by the UK King Charles III could offer both sides a chance to renew their ties by focusing on the challenges ahead, officials of both countries said ahead of the visit next week.

King Charles III starts a maiden state visit to a Commonwealth country from Tuesday and will be expected to stay in Kenya until Friday next week. Charles has visited Kenya three times before, but this will be his first since he became King after the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

And the trip has been preceded with the history of both countries dating to colonial days when the British crushed the Maumau rebellion in the 1950s. Diplomats from both sides said the visit is an important occasion for the future relations.

“Navigating for the future has to be the basis of relations between Kenya and the UK. That’s why the King’s visit emphasises the main challenges of today and tomorrow. It’s about preparing leadership for tomorrow’s challenges,” said Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s High Commissioner to London.

Esipisu on Wednesday led a group of Kenyans to the Buckingham Palace for a reception with King Charles III and Queen Camilla, part of preliminary events ahead of the trip.

“It demonstrates Kenya’s strong relations and partnership with the UK, shows Kenya as a country of influence with the UK and demonstrates a keen interest to continue on the path of close collaboration,” Esipisu told The EastAfrican on Saturday.

As a monarch, he may do little more than engage in symbolic or cultural events. But as the head of state of the UK, he still carries political responsibility meaning that his events and speeches will be carefully assessed.

A preliminary itinerary showed he will participate in events to discuss climate change and conservation, innovation, youth and women.

The visit is at the invitation of President William Ruto and comes as Kenya prepares to celebrate 60 years of independence.

A statement from the High Commission office in Nairobi detailing her itinerary says the King and Queen will visit Nairobi City County, Mombasa County and surrounding areas.

“Their Majesties’ programme will reflect the ways in which Kenya and the United Kingdom are working together, notably to boost mutual prosperity, tackle climate change, promote youth opportunity and employment, advance sustainable development and create a more stable and secure region,” a statement from the British High Commission in Kenya reads in part.

The King will also attend an event to celebrate the life and work of the Nobel Laureate the late Professor Wangari Maathai, together with Wangari’s daughter, Wanjira Mathai.

“The visit will also acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history, including the Emergency (1952-1960). His Majesty will take time during the visit to deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya,” the statement read.

They will formally open a new museum dedicated to Kenya’s history, incidentally, built at the venue where the British Union Jack was lowered, and the Kenyan flag hoisted 60 years ago. They will also lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens, as well as visiting the site of the declaration of Kenya’s independence in 1963.

He will also find time to visit the United Nations Office at Nairobi, to learn more about the work of UN Habitat and the UN Environment Programme. Unon is the only UN Headquarters in the Commonwealth.

But perhaps the immediate challenge is how he responds to criticism that British troops in Kenya have committed crimes in the past and made away with them including rape, murder and environmental degradation including leaving behind unexploded ordinances.

One unresolved case is that of Agnes Wanjiru, a sex worker in Nanyuki said to have been killed by a British soldier and her body dumped in the septic tank. Her killer has never been brought to book. The family had earlier sought an audience with King Charles, but the meeting is unlikely.