out of vogue

Queen Elizabeth II – An opportunity for an honest conversation

By O Adebayo

Posted on September 19, 2022 11:13

 © Photo of Queen Elizabeth II taken on July 2015 (Mary McCartney/Queen Elizabeth II via AP)
Photo of Queen Elizabeth II taken on July 2015 (Mary McCartney/Queen Elizabeth II via AP)

To say I’m no royalist would be an understatement.

I’m firmly millennial in my approach to the fanfare surrounding the Queen’s passing. I’m also not afraid to say that as significant as it is that she has passed away, considering she was a monarch, I think it’s disingenuous to pretend as if I have any particularly strong reactions to her doing so.

I appreciate the fondness that was extended to the Queen, even if I don’t share the same level of empathy, I can acknowledge that it truly existed.

Many Africans genuinely revered her, not just as the head of state, but as an individual. I do not see why this fondness should necessarily continue towards King Charles.

Her death represents an end of an era and I think with it, so should the era of commonwealth romanticisation. Africans no longer need Britain and it’s time for Britain to appreciate that we have come a long way from rolling out the red carpet for British monarchs, with little to nothing to show for the extension of such grace.

Unpopular Pan-Africanism?

Should the British monarchy, and in turn, the British empire it represents, still be relevant to Africans? African leaders have had largely warm reactions to her passing, even going as far as to celebrate the Commonwealth.

This feels very far from the spirit of Pan-Africanism that drove independence from the British empire in the first place and, in many ways, reaffirms how unpopular Pan-Africanism is across the continent.

I would have said that African diasporans based in Britain are much more critical, but that is proving untrue. Many here in the UK, even with the backdrop of one of the most anti-immigrant administrations the UK has ever had, are openly lauding the Queen and celebrating in her reign.

The fact that her reign also oversaw extreme violence towards African people seems to be an inconvenient truth that few are willing to address head on, for fear of coming across as a social pariah, or otherwise simply not considering it important.

It’s certainly worth unpacking why this is the case, but I fear that no one article could address it: after all, the British monarchy and government did not extract wealth from African people on their own. They made powerful political allegiances with African elites, many of which still persist today.

[…] not only are critiques of colonialism falling on deaf ears, even Africans who are aware of how bad it was are comfortable being dismissive of it.

I think what her death truly represents is an opportunity for Africans and diasporans to have an honest conversation about what the value of postcolonialism is now.

Particularly when British African politicians like Kemi Badenoch can openly declare that they don’t care about colonialism and the only result being that they are propelled even higher through political ranks.

It suggests that not only are critiques of colonialism falling on deaf ears, even Africans who are aware of how bad it was are comfortable being dismissive of it.

Colonialism 2.0

I’m sure many of my peers will baulk at this suggestion, because of course the damage that British colonialism and by extension the monarchy, inflicted on the continent isn’t even remotely debatable. Unfortunately, despite this, I think we have to accept the reality that post colonialism has simply gone out of vogue.

However, doesn’t this then mean that with the Queen’s death we no longer need to pretend that there is any true relationship at all, beyond economical? The Commonwealth does not provide Africans or even African leadership with any particular benefits anymore. It certainly doesn’t have any geopolitical power as a political association of sorts.

It’s been six years since President Buhari asked Britain to “return stolen assets” at an event organised by the Commonwealth secretariat and we are no closer to seeing that declaration bear any fruits.

Artefacts stolen through colonial rule, such as some of the Benin Bronzes being returned, have not been a result of pressure on the British monarchy. In fact, the UK’s Royal Collection refuses to engage on this at all, an organisation run by the Royal Collection Trust, which is chaired by none other than the new British King Charles!

The idea that a relationship of any significance exists seems to only exist in the minds of people who are enamoured with the British empire, rather than anything tangible existing today. If anything, it is creating an extreme blindspot to the risk of an expansion of Global Britain, which is what I consider colonialism 2.0.

Britain is a state that is clearly on the decline.

Holding onto ideas of empire is arguably just an admission of what a far cry Britain’s political power is now, in comparison to then.

Africans who still look towards the West for support are stuck in the past. If for nothing else, the sheer dearth of support that came from Britain during the global pandemic should act as a cautionary tale.

Britain’s collusion in hoarding vaccines, lack of addressing climate change in any tangible way, anti-immigrant rhetoric and one-sided approach to trade relations are clear evidence that they also no longer care for the Commonwealth.

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