King Charles III and Queen Camilla have arrived the State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on a State visit.
It is the 74-year-old British head of state’s first visit to an African and Commonwealth nation since ascending the throne in September last year on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The king and Queen Camilla touched down in the capital, Nairobi, late Monday and were given a ceremonial welcome Tuesday by Kenyan President William Ruto at the State House. Charles later planted an African fern tree seedling in its lawn.
Upon arriving at State House, the royal couple were officially received by President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto.
The King arrived at State House aboard Land Rover Discovery; a British vehicle brand that is used by the British High Commissioner in Nairobi.
Queen Carmilla arrived at State House wearing a white crepe silk dress by Anna Valentine with a diamond oyster brooch that was initially owned by the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Shortly after arrival, the United Kingdom (UK) and the Kenya National Anthem were sung and flags of both countries were raised.
The King was given a 21-gun salute; a gesture recognized by most countries as the highest honor rendered.
King Charles later inspected a guard of Honour at the State House Nairobi, after which the royal guests were escorted by President Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto to a small tree-planting ceremony before posting for a photo session at the steps of the State House.
The four entered the State House for a private meeting before heading to Uhuru Gardens for a memorial function.
They visited the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at gardens named Uhuru, which is Swahili for freedom. The king and Ruto laid wreaths, and proceeded to the site of the declaration of Kenya’s independence in December 1963, replacing the Union Jack with the Kenyan flag..
Kenya is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its independence this year. The country and Britain have enjoyed a close and sometimes challenging relationship after the prolonged struggle against colonial rule, sometimes known as the Mau Mau Rebellion, in which thousands of Kenyans died.
Colonial authorities resorted to executions and detention without trial as they tried to put down the insurrection, and thousands of Kenyans said they were beaten and sexually assaulted by agents of the administration.
The British High Commission said Charles would “meet veterans and give his blessing to efforts by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to ensure Kenyans and Africans who supported British efforts in the World Wars are properly commemorated.”
Kenya has a special ties to the royal family and Charles has previously made three official visits.
It is the country where Elizabeth learned in 1952 of the death of her father, King George VI, marking the start of her historic 70-year reign.
During their stay in Nairobi, the royal couple will also meet young Kenyans, and attend a state banquet.
The king also plans to visit Nairobi National Park and meet with environmental activist Wanjira Mathai, the daughter of late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, as he reiterated his commitment to environmental protection.
They would then travel to the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, with a stop at a marine nature reserve and a meeting with religious leaders on the agenda.
Their programme focuses on efforts to tackle climate change, with Charles long a fervent supporter of action to protect the environment, as well as support for creative arts, technology and the empowerment of young people.
But Buckingham Palace said Charles will take time to “deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered” by Kenyans during colonial rule.
On Sunday, the Kenya Human Rights Commission urged him to make an “unequivocal public apology… for the brutal and inhuman treatment inflicted on Kenyan citizens”, and pay reparations for colonial-era abuses.
Britain agreed in 2013 to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered abuse during the Mau Mau revolt, in a deal worth nearly 20 million pounds ($25 million at today’s rates).
Then foreign secretary William Hague said Britain “sincerely regrets” the abuses but stopped short of a full apology.
Source: The Standard with inputs from AP, NIM & France 24