As people around the world mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, her death has incited academics and writers to debate her role in “continued colonialism” in Africa.
Britain’s longest-reigning monarch passed away at the age of 96 on Thursday, September 8, 2022, and while tributes are being paid far and wide, it has brought up troubling aspects of British history involving the Queen.
While the debate rages on Twitter, many people are voicing their opinions on Queen Elizabeth II’s perceived “longstanding relationship” with Africa, which some claim is a way of “rebranding colonialism.
Those bringing up discussions of colonialism and Britain’s past actions in African nations were initially criticized, but others, including author Jemele Hill, argue that now is exactly the time to discuss the topic.
“Journalists are tasked with putting legacies into full context, so it is entirely appropriate to examine the queen and her role in the devastating impact of continued colonialism,” Hill wrote on Twitter, inciting debate from that statement alone.
Though the timing of the colonialism debate upset many, Washington Post writer Eugene Scott asked earnestly, “When is the appropriate time to talk about the negative impact of colonialism?”
Political scientist and author David Moscrop inadvertently offered up an answer to this question, stating that now is exactly the time to discuss colonialism, “its impact, and the future of the monarchy,” in the wake of the royal passing.
The monarchy as an institution, whatever else it is and whatever virtues you may believe it has, is a source and symbol of past and present colonialism.” Moscrop continued, “as a news event this has implications for how we govern ourselves now and in the future. So it’s not too soon to have these conversations.”
Whilst the debate of timing raged, others stated their blunt opinions on colonialism and the British monarchy’s role in it.
“People wish me dead because I mourn not the death of the queen but the dead victims of colonialism,” Afro-German comedian and author Jasmina Kuhnke wrote on Twitter, “This must be the famous German humor that everyone is talking about.”
Nigerian training consultant Dr Dípò Awójídé stated that the past actions of British colonialism didn’t lie with the monarchy, and called for their own country to “take responsibility.” He said, “Colonialism and neocolonialism are both repugnant. But Nigerians caused the civil war. Nigerians fought the civil war, with the help of trainers or mercenaries on both sides.”
Nigerian international development expert Dr. Joe Abah also refused to blame the British solely for the repercussions of colonialism in his country. “Colonialism was bad but, as Wangari Maathai said, after 62 years since Nigeria’s independence, you can’t blame Colonialism for the lack of investment in Education, lack of Power or the mindless looting of public funds.” He also called for Africans to move past colonialism.
The British Empire still ruled many African countries in the 20th century, only fully granting independence to African nations (except Rhodesia) by 1968. Other Western European nations including France, Belgium and Germany also colonized Africa.
Queen Elizabeth II was sovereign to a number of African countries during her reign, though she did not hold that title over any African nations at the time of her death.
Weighing in on the debate, YouTuber James Welsh added, “The British saying how now isn’t the time to talk about Colonialism…like they have every intention to at a later date.”
Journalist Ben Norton raised a controversial moment from the monarchy’s past, with a British tabloid front page featuring the Queen, then aged about 7, and the Queen mother giving a Nazi salute in 1933. “People really need to stop whitewashing the British royal family. They oversaw genocidal colonialism around the world, killing millions. They loved fascism. As a child, Queen Elizabeth was taught to Nazi salute,” Norton wrote. His comment section was filled with people criticizing him for the timing of his tweet and his call to “abolish the monarchy.”
Continuing the debate on colonialism, other verified Twitter users such as writers and academics suggested that the rule of colonialism and the decisions made were down to the British government, not the ruling monarchy.