Queen Elizabeth II
**FILE** Queen Elizabeth II (Joel Rouse/Ministry of Defence via Wikimedia Commons)

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has prompted an outpouring of reflection and reaction online. But not all writers expressed feelings of grief. Some young Africans instead are sharing images and stories of their own elders, who endured a brutal period of British colonial history during the Queen’s long reign, CNN reported on September 10 in an article written by Stephanie Busari.

“I cannot mourn,” one wrote on Twitter, posting an image of what she said was her grandmother’s “movement pass” – a colonial document which prevented free travel for Kenyans under British rule in the east African country.

Another wrote that her grandmother “used to narrate to us how they were beaten and how their husbands were taken away from them and left to look after their kids,” during colonial times. “May we never forget them. They are our heroes,” she added.

Their refusal to mourn highlights the complexity of the legacy of the Queen, who despite widespread popularity was also seen as a symbol of oppression in parts of the world where the British Empire once extended.

Kenya, which had been under British rule since 1895, was named an official colony in 1920 and remained that way until it won independence in 1963. Among the worst atrocities under British rule occurred during the Mau Mau uprising, which started in 1952 – the year Queen Elizabeth took the throne.

The colonial administration at the time carried out extreme acts of torture, including castration and sexual assault, in detainment camps where as many as 150,000 Kenyans were held. Elderly Kenyans who sued for compensation in 2011 were ultimately awarded £19.9 million by a British court, to be split between more than 5,000 claimants.

The UK Foreign Secretary at the time, William Hague, said: “The British Government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

Africa’s memory of the Queen cannot be separated from that colonial past, professor of communication Farooq Kperogi at Kennesaw State University told CNN.

“The Queen’s legacy started in colonialism and is still wrapped in it. It used to be said that the sun did not set over the British empire. No amount of compassion or sympathy that her death has generated can wipe that away,” he told CNN.

While many African leaders have mourned her passing – including Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who described her reign as “unique and wonderful” – other prominent voices in regional politics have not.

In South Africa, one opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was unequivocal. “We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history,” the EFF said in a statement.

“Our interaction with Britain has been one of pain . . . death and dispossession and of the dehumanization of the African people,” it added.

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