At Nairobi’s Kariokor cemetery, run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, an old war veteran was waiting in a wheelchair for his chance to meet the British queen on Wednesday morning. In a busy neighbourhood with improvised market stalls lining the streets, it’s a serene haven. During World War II, Cpl. Samwel Nthigai Mburia served for the British in a number of campaigns, deploying to Ethiopia, Egypt, and Myanmar. Elizabeth II, the mother of Charles, who was then still the queen of both Kenya and the United Kingdom, commanded him during his service. Mburia was awarded multiple medals for his service, which he discarded in the 1950s.
Kenya’s 60th Anniversary
King Charles and Queen Camilla visited the cemetery in advance of Kenya’s 60th anniversary of independence, where they lay a wreath in memory of the country’s fallen soldiers and then went to speak with veterans, among them Mburia. Mburia’s age and service history were disclosed to Charles. According to the palace, Mburia was 117 years old, and military records showed that he was born in 1906. Given his age, it’s possible that he is the world’s oldest individual. (As per Guinness World Records, 116-year-old María Branyas Morera is the oldest verified living person in the world.)
After receiving a tray full of brand-new, glittering medals, Charles gave Mburia the ones he had misplaced. The King remarked on the veteran’s age after saying, “I hope they’re all the right ones there.” “You have to be eating something, like honey and wild locusts.” With a smile, Mburia held his honours in the sunlight on his lap.
Because symbolism is crucial to royals, this exchange addressed all of the goals the King and his advisors had for the trip. The new medals symbolise a reevaluation of the relationship between two sovereign governments, whereas the previous ones symbolised the history of colonialism and warfare. Charles assembled delegates of Kenyans who had fought the British throughout their country’s independence movement that afternoon. The conference was private, and the press was not permitted to attend. However, Evelyn Kimathi was present.
The British put her father, Dedan Kimathi, to death for leading the resistance. She told us that she had told Charles that her family wanted their land returned and that she needed assistance in locating her father’s remains, which is missing.
The King cannot do much because he is a constitutional monarch, and his government is responsible for handling these requests. But he can listen, and he can ensure that Evelyn and those like her are heard at the highest levels. That is the monarchy’s power. Even when it isn’t apparent that it is having an impact, it can elevate topics and disputes. One example of Charles keeping his word that he had made at the state banquet at the beginning of the visit was this debate. He had stated, “It is very important to me that, upon returning to Kenya, I meet some of the people whose lives and communities were so severely impacted and that I broaden my own understanding of these wrongs.”
In addition, the monarch went to the Uhuru Gardens, the location of Kenya’s independence proclamation, and explored a recently opened museum that highlights Kenya’s past. The museum features a “Tunnel of Martyrs,” where British-signed execution warrants serve as a sobering reminder of historical atrocities.
Even though he is a symbolic character, he is not a political one. It’s possible that the “Listening King” is making the UK seem more considerate.