Sep. 12, 2022 (GIN) – The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has not gone unremarked in Africa where local television and radio stations interrupted normal broadcasting in order to relay events happening in the United Kingdom.
Across the world, nations are paying tribute to the 96 year old monarch. President Biden described her as “a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Queen Elizabeth embodied a profound, sincere commitment to her duties, observed Harvard Professor Maya Jasanoff. “She was a fixture of stability, and her death in already turbulent times will send ripples of sadness around the world.”
But we should not romanticize her era, Jasanoff cautioned. “For the queen was also an image: the face of a nation that, during the course of her reign, witnessed the dissolution of nearly the entire British Empire into some 50 independent states and significantly reduced global influence.”
Britain “lost an empire, and (has) not yet found a role” – commented American statesman Dean Acheson. The deep and painful traumas and confusions that the loss of empire produced helped many years later to produce Brexit, and enduring and dangerous British fantasies about playing the role of a great power on the world stage.
Others showed little sympathy for the fallen empire and demanded amends for colonial-era crimes. Carnegie Mellon professor Uju Anya had the sharpest criticism of the queen. The Nigerian-born professor wrote, “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”
“I guess it depends what you think a good job of being queen is,” opined Birmingham City University Professor Kehinde Andrews of British African Caribbean heritage. “So, if a good job of being queen is to represent white supremacy and to represent that link to colonialism, then, yeah, I think she’s done a very good job.”
“Let us remember,” added University of Cambridge professor Priya Gopal, “that when she became queen at Treetops (Hotel) in Kenya, Britain had just commenced a brutal, vicious insurgency that carried on for several years. In recent years, we have had Kenyans who were tortured by the British raise lawsuits, successfully in some cases, around the vicious violence of the British state at that point.
“I do wonder whether we actually live in a deeply different world,” she continued. “We live in a world where formally the British crown is no longer an imperial crown, but Elizabeth II was, in a sense, obsessed with the Commonwealth, made sure that Charles III would also be head of the Commonwealth.”
Gopal said she found herself appreciating the circumstances in which Elizabeth passed – good medical care, in a secure shelter in a place she loved. But how many British retirees would have the same easeful passing this winter? She answered her own question. “I think many will be in insecure housing, without heat, potentially without food, and certainly without access to good medical care.”
Amid the strait-laced protocols of the position, the Queen enjoyed one rare privilege – a relationship on a first name basis with Nelson Mandela. The Queen did support the sanctions which led to the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
The exchanges between these two great figures were warm, recalls this statement of the Mandela Foundation. “They spoke frequently on the phone, calling each other by their respective first names as a sign of mutual respect and affection,” said the statement, issued the day after the British monarch died at 96.
“In the years following his release from prison, he cultivated a close bond with the Queen,” the text said. “He received her in South Africa and visited her in England, not shying away from exploring Buckingham Palace.”
He also gave the Queen the nickname “Motlalepula” – “come with the rain” – after a state visit in 1995, when Elizabeth arrived with torrential rain, “the like of which had not been seen for a long time”. It is now a song by the world renowned artist Hugh Masekela.
The Mandela foundation “joins the multitude around the world in saying +hamba kahle+ (go in peace) to the Queen”.