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Queen Elizabeth II and Africa


The death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch elicited a wide range of reactions and emotions across Africa, with political leaders of all stripes publicly mourning her passing. Meanwhile, critics slammed her post-colonial legacy, and the younger generation was uninterested.

Buckingham Palace announced the queen’s death on the evening of September 8th.

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana was among the first African leaders to respond. Elizabeth II famously visited Ghana four years after independence in 1961, ushering in a new era of relations between the United Kingdom and its former colonies. Akufo-Addo announced on Twitter that flags would be flown at half-mast for seven days across the country.

The Commonwealth family

“In these difficult times, my thoughts and the thoughts of all Ghanaians, at home and abroad, are with Queen Elizabeth II, the British Monarch and Head of the Commonwealth, of which Ghana is a proud member, and her family,” Akufo-Addo said. “I wish her the best and the blessings of God.”

Other leaders quickly followed suit, expressing their condolences to the royal family and the British people while praising the late queen for her role in keeping the former British empire together for the past 70 years.
In Kenya, President-elect William Ruto praised the Queen’s Commonwealth leadership as “admirable.”

“The modern Commonwealth is her legacy,” echoed President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo also expressed his “heartfelt condolences to the British people and the great Commonwealth family”.

“The sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II today extends beyond Great Britain and to the entire world,” Gnassingbé wrote on Twitter, “as the late Queen was unquestionably a universal figure of her country’s influence and friendship towards peoples worldwide.”

Gabonese President Ali Bongo also tweeted, “Tonight, the Commonwealth family mourns Queen Elizabeth II.”
“The Queen was a great friend of Africa, and Africa loved her back,” Bongo wrote. “I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the British people, especially to her son, His Majesty King Charles III, and his family.”


Sharing condolences

Meanwhile, despite UK sanctions against Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa expressed his “heartfelt condolences to the royal family, the people of the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth in their bereavement over the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II.”

In Nigeria, 2023 presidential candidates Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar rushed to offer their condolences for the death of a woman known affectionately as “Mama Charlie” by some Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was slow to respond.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family, the entire United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations, over this irreplaceable loss,” Obi, the leader of Nigeria’s Labour Party, wrote on Twitter. “Hers was an impactful reign and beautiful and explored life devoted to democratic ideals, charity, selflessness and empathy. She will always be remembered by the lives, organisations, institutions and countries she positively touched during her reign.”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is running for President as the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, called the Queen’s death a “rude shock.”

“Her death marks the end of a golden era,” he tweeted. “Her reign was historic not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the Commonwealth.”

Also read:    Ghanaians react to Queen Elizabeth II’s death

Critics have their say, too

However, the outpouring of support was not without its detractors.

Nigerian-born linguist and Carnegie Mellon University professor Uju Anya denounced the Queen for her role in the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war in a post that quickly received tens of thousands of likes and significant backlash.

The British government provided arms and ammunition to the military dictatorship that crushed the Biafran rebellion at the time.

“If anyone expects me to express anything other than contempt for the monarch who oversaw a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still attempting to overcome,” Anya wrote.

Colonial and post-colonial legacies

The comments reflect the continent’s mixed feelings about the United Kingdom 60 years after its independence. While postcolonial ties persist, many blame pre-independence decisions and Western policies for Africa’s poverty and strife.

According to a recent Afrobarometer poll, only 46% of those polled believe that former colonial powers have a positive economic and political influence on the continent. This is lower than China (63%) and the US (60%) but higher than Russia (35%).

At the same time, Togo and Gabon joined the Commonwealth of Nations this year, bringing the total number of members to 56 – including 21 in Africa – and demonstrating the continued appeal of ties to Britain despite the end of its empire.

Much of Africa’s young people appear to be uninterested in the monarchy. As news of the Queen’s death spread around the world, many people in Abuja cafes were watching Arsenal defeat FC Zurich 2-1 in the Europa League.



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