November 26, 2022

Africans divided over whether to mourn or curse Queen Elizabeth II – Perspective by Simon Ateba

Queen of England
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms.
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Queen Elizabeth II, who was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, in Mayfair, London, on April 21, 1926, and came to the throne in 1952, died on Thursday at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. described her in a statement as “a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy.” Several African leaders, including the President of Africa’s most populous nation, Nigerian Muhammadu Buhari also mourned her.

But for many other Africans, including many in Nigeria, the Queen should not be mourned or celebrated because she led an empire that killed many Africans, looted the continent and destroyed cultures. I can reason in their argument. However, in a way, that’s a very myopic view.

Most people commenting are too young to understand, many are less than 60 or 70 years old, too young to understand how the world was in the previous 500 years before she came into that position of power. Many may want to read the 33 strategies of war by Robert Greene.

When she became Queen in 1952, she inherited many problems that were created long before she was even born. She was only 25 years old, about to turn 26. The second world war had just ended seven years earlier in 1945, the first world war had also ended about 33 years earlier. Europe was in such a mess. Millions of people had been killed and Germany had lost the world and all its colonies in Africa.

In fact, British, French, Portuguese and other colonies had been in Africa for hundreds of years, so far back that the name Cameroon where I was born was even given to an entire country by a Portuguese sailor and trader who called The Wouri River, one of the main rivers there, “Rio dosCamarões” or “the River of shrimps.” From Camarões came the name Cameroun in French or Cameroon in English that we still use today. That was long before England even got there.

It was a crazy world! Hundreds of years ago, Spain was one of the main powers in Europe. Spain would invade England, England would fight back, France would go to war against England, France would invade Russia, France will even invade Egypt, millions of people will be killed. In fact, people used to go to stadium to watch fights by gladiators killing one another. And as they cut their heads off, they celebrated! In Africa itself, one kingdom would invade another kingdom and take all the people into slavery.

So when Queen Elizabeth comes into power in 1952, she inherits a world where the United States was on the rise and was calling for the end of slavery and colonialism around the world, even as it was facing its own problems at home, anti colonial movements were on the rise and were also calling for the total independence of African nations and elsewhere.

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In the end, Africans fought hard and the Queen succumbed and the English empire collapsed. Just 8 years after she became Queen, virtually all African nations had become independent.

But remember, she was a young Queen, she was female, and that’s important because a Queen is not judged the same way as a King. A Queen has to prove that she can hold power. There are many books on that.

Since the 1960s, virtually all African nations have become independent, ties with the United Kingdom have improved under her leadership. Exploitation has not completely ended, but significant improvements have been made.

Yes, it is not perfect and was not when she came into power, but understanding where the world was, and the fact that she was also there to protect British interests, would give us a broader view of her legacy in Africa. It is my opinion that she was the least of the evils that preceded her in a world that was quickly changing.

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